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Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Ferry Building's Italian Doughnut Stand

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Le Bonta Italiane's Lucca-style cannoli. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Le Bonta Italiane's Lucca-style cannoli.

What started out as a Saturday-morning trick to lure in farmers' market shoppers has become an almost daily occurrence: Five days a week, Village Market, the Ferry Building grocer, now sets up card tables outside its store to sell Italian doughnuts. During the week, the bombolini, frate, and cannoli come from Le Bontà Italiane, a fledgling bakery -- OK, one guy from Lucca who works out of a commercial kitchen in San Francisco.

His frate, airy, ring-shaped doughnuts lightly scented with lemon zest and dusted in granulated sugar, reminded SFoodie of the homemade German doughnuts we grew up eating. The Lucca-style cannoli -- available at the stand all five days it runs -- are nothing like the crisp, ricotta-filled Sicilian pastries that East Coast expats whine about missing here: Each of the puffy tubes, formed by spiral-wrapping dough around a cylindrical mold before frying, are covered in sugar and then filled with lemon or chocolate-flavored pastry cream. They're a cross between a cream horn and a bismarck, and not a little dangerous to eat while walking -- the cream tends to erupt out of the cannoli the moment you bite in.

Pistachio-cream-filled bombolini. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Pistachio-cream-filled bombolini.

On Saturdays and Sundays, Luis Villavelazquez of Les Éléments sells bombolini both at his own farmers' market stand and outside Village Market (the two stands have different flavors). Villavelazquez picked up the basic recipe for his Italian doughnuts when he was the pastry chef at Arlequin and Absinthe, but when he set off on his own, he re-engineered the bombolini to suit his tastes, switching out the flours, using brown sugar and malt sugar, making different flavors and jams and pastry creams to fill the doughnuts with.

Villavelazquez's bombolini are extravagant -- puffy without being fragile, pleasantly gritty with granulated sugar, and filled with astonishingly delicate pastry creams. The pistachio cream filling was almost more floral than nutty; we had to stop in the middle of a hall thronged with people to make sure we caught the delicate flavor of the almonds in his chocolate-almond filling, but then it lingered after we'd brushed the last of the sugar off our fingers and lips.

Village Market's doughnut stand is out Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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