vanilla cream-filled sugar donuts

A few years ago my sister-in-law sent me Joanne Chang's cookbook flour, a collection of recipes from her very popular bakery in Boston, Mass. It is full of pictures of food that just scream, MAKE ME!! For example: 

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Here's a close up so you can see what I mean:

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Drooooooooooool. 

Just look at that crusty sugar and that crispy dough and that velvety cream. 

Ok, ok, yes, I know I'm pregnant so that might explain the obsession. (Did you all know...? I'm 24 weeks along with my FOURTH. More on that later.) Still these have been tempting me for almost two years now so it's not all preggo cravings. But I've always had some vague reluctance to make anything fried. In my mind it's too messy and too much work. Anytime I actually do fry anything, though, I realize it's not really all that bad. And so yummy. So finally this weekend I worked myself up to making these donuts.  

Guess what. They weren't that much work and they were SO yummy. 

I hesitated posting about them because they just seem so special-occasion to me, not very useful or anything. Donuts almost seem like the definition of superfluous. And how many people will read this post and add donuts to their weekly menu? After all, it took me two years to attempt them. Then I thought, well, that's precisely the reason I should post about them! Because homemade donuts are an incredibly rewarding endeavor and a delicious treat that you should try at least once, and here I am to dispel any of your fears or hesitations about making them!

This recipe really is quite simple and straightforward. There are a couple steps where you have to know what you're looking for and I'll do my best to describe them to you. You might want to read through the recipe one time just to get a good idea of process and timing - for example, you'll need to get started the day before - but beyond that, just follow the recipe and you're going to end up with some donuts that you can really brag about. 

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vanilla cream-filled sugar donuts

makes 9 4-inch filled donuts

Ingredients

[Dough]

  • 2/3 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 (17.5 oz) cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 7 Tbsp (3.5 oz) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces

[Pastry cream]

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cake flour (I used all purpose)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 6 Tbsp heavy whipping cream

[Sugar coating]

  • 1 cup sugar

[Frying]

  • vegetable or canola oil or Crisco shortening, 3" deep in wide pot

Instructions

[Dough]

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of an electric mixer and let sit a minute or so until yeast dissolves. Add flour, sugar, salt, and eggs, and mix on low speed with dough hook until dough comes together, a couple minutes. Begin adding butter a couple pieces at a time, mixing at medium low speed, until butter is fully incorporated and dough is soft. (The dough will be very soft, but resist the urge to add more flour. Only add as much extra to make it cohesive. More flour = more bready so hold back. Remember, you'll be working with the dough straight from the fridge so it will be easy to handle!) Remove from bowl, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to 15. 

[Pastry cream]

Meanwhile, make pastry cream. In one small bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt; in a slightly larger bowl, whisk egg yolks together thoroughly. Add dry ingredients to yolks and whisk until thick and pasty.  

In a saucepan over medium heat, heat milk until it is steaming and bubbles are forming around the edge, but not yet boiling. Slowly add milk to egg mixture, whisking constantly. 

Return mixture to saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture thickens and begins to boil. This should take about 3 minutes. Let boil for just a few seconds. You want to boil it long enough for thickness and stability but not too long or it will break. It should be thick, smooth, and glossy. Remove from heat and pour through a fine sieve into a heat-proof bowl. Whisk in vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto surface of the pastry cream. Let chill thoroughly, at least a few hours. 

[To make the donuts]

Lightly flour a baking sheet. Unwrap cold, refrigerated dough. On a well floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12" square and about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3 to 4 inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out nine circles and place on baking sheet. (Save scraps for more donuts or for donut holes! I put mine in the freezer for another Sunday.) Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let sit 2-3 hours until doubled in height and pillowy. 

When ready to fry, heat enough oil in a heavy bottomed pot to be three inches deep. Heat over medium high heat until 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and pour the one cup sugar for coating in a small bowl. 

Working two to three at a time (don't crowd them!), fry donuts first on one side for 2 - 3 minutes or until golden brown, then on the other side for another 2-3 minutes. If your donuts are browning too fast, adjust the heat. When both sides are golden brown, remove carefully with a slotted spoon onto the paper towels. As soon as the donut is cool enough to handle, toss in sugar to coat and let cool on a wire rack. 

When all the donuts have been fried and coated, let cool completely for 30 or more minutes before filling. 

[Finish pastry cream and fill donuts]

Whip whipping cream in mixer with whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into pastry cream. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a round tip.  Poke a good sized hole in the donut and squeeze in pastry cream.

EAT. 

 (Full disclosure: we did not wait until the donuts were completely cool. We ate those babies warm and they were delicious. BUT, the cream did get a little soupy. Sorry not sorry.)

Storing leftovers: There aren't many tips for storing leftover donuts because they're really best the day they're made. However, nine decadent donuts was four too many for my family of five. because of the cream I had to refrigerate them, but i didn't want them to get too soggy so I wrapped them in foil instead of airtight plastic. Of course they're not as good the next day or even a few hours later but they're still a rich soft dough filled with a velvety smooth pastry cream so no complaints here. 

Source: flour cookbook by Joanne Chang

 A little overboard with the coating sugar....? Nahhhhh.

A little overboard with the coating sugar....? Nahhhhh.

 He likes it, hey mikey!

He likes it, hey mikey!