I have very clear and happy memories of when I was a small boy, sitting on the side of the kitchen table, watching my mother and grandmother making bugnes. I loved the whole process, from the initial discussion over who was going to do what, to the actual moment when they started cutting, rolling and then baking the dough. By late afternoon, when all the work was done, the whole family would regroup and chat about their day over some freshly baked bugnes and a glass or two of rosé. Making those biscuits embodied everything that I love about baking. It was the catalyst that brought everyone together, naturally and effortlessly.
For this recipe, I always use the traditional method that my grandmother taught me. The little extra bit of love and care given to the dough by mixing the ingredients by hand somehow always makes these biscuits taste even better.
- Yield: 50 to 60
- 5 eggs
- 1 tablespoon natural vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 3 tablespoons rum
- 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 3½ oz (100 g) maize cornflour (cornstarch)
- 1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 finely grated lemon zest
- 9 oz (250 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, chopped
- vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- pure icing (confectioners’) sugar, for dusting
- Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs, vanilla and rum in a small bowl. Put the flour, cornflour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a mound on your work surface and make a well in the centre. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients by pushing the butter and flour mixture together with the palm of your hand until all the butter is fully incorporated into the dry ingredients. This process, called sablage, is designed to keep the dough short by insulating the gluten in the flour with the fat (this prevents it from toughening up once the eggs are added).
- Add the egg mixture, a little at a time, and incorporate the flour until the dough comes together. (Alternatively, you can follow the same process using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.) Flatten the dough into a disc, then cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface until about 2 mm (1/16 in) thick. You can use a pasta machine to roll it out, if you prefer. Using a paring knife, cut the dough into rectangles about 5 cm (2 in) wide and 12 cm (4½ in) long, then make a 3 cm (1¼ in) cut lengthways through the middle and fold one end of the rectangle through the incision. Place on baking trays lined with baking paper, cover with a cloth and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or large, heavy-based saucepan to 190°C (375°F). Working in batches, cook the bugnes for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden. Remove and drain on paper towel. When cool, dust with icing sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 7 days.