I remember, very distinctly, a time when I believed in Santa Claus.
It was exciting! A thrill a holiday! I don’t think I was gullible… I just happened to believe in the things that my parents told me were true: Santa Claus is real, life is not fair, and eating broccoli makes you beautiful.
We had a Santa Claus nightlight my sister and I kept in our bedroom window during the holiday season. I figured it was like our Batman Bat Signal, but for Christmas presents not crime-stopping. It all made perfect sense.
I don’t remember when I stopped believing in Santa Claus. I think it was when I realized that all of our Christmas presents smelled like my mom’s clothes closet, and that broccoli was not, in fact, making me more beautiful.
Now that I’m an adult, Santa Claus has easily fallen by the wayside (thought I still love the nightlight)… but there are solid things I believe: I believe in God. I believe in doughnuts… and I believe in the merits of broccoli (I guess….).
Let’s go let’s go doughnut town we go!
Have you ever made homemade yeast doughnuts? Have I convinced you? Can I try to convince you now? It’s a bit of time… it’s a bit of effort… it’s worth every single moment.
Yeast doughnuts come together with a dough hook. We’re mixing together warm water and yeast, flour, sugar, salt, and some good fats from butter, egg yolks, and whole milk.
There’s something I should tell you about this doughnut dough: it’s soft and sticky and that’s ok.
Part of the tenderness of these doughnuts comes from the softness of the dough. It’s not the sort of dough that you can knead with your hands. It’s too sticky. When it comes together in the mixing bowl, the dough may stick to the bottom of the bowl. Add an additional 1/2 cup of flour if the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl as well.
When resting the dough, I added a touch of flour to the bottom of the bowl, added the dough, and topped it with a bit more flour. Cover with plastic wrap and rise away.
While the doughnut dough is resting and rising, I make the Chocolate Cream. Ooooh man. SO GOOD!
This cream is like a cooked pudding thickened by both egg yolks and cornstarch.
It’s cooked over a low flame with some near constant whisking. This isn’t the sort of thing you can multi-task. The result of concentration is the most luscious, creamy chocolate.
Now… should your glossy chocolate cream have just a few lumps… that just means you’re human (like me)… and we can just use a strainer if we’re feeling fancy.
The doughnut batter will still be soft and just slightly sticky after it’s rising. That’s great!
The dough is gently kneaded on a lightly floured surface and cut into pretty little circles.
Can we just fry these dang things already!?
These little doughnut globes are fried until golden brown and then instantly coated in a vanilla-scented sugar.
See? I told you.
I used the back of a slender spoon to create a hole in the side of each doughnut. This is where the pastry bag filled with chocolate cream is going to be inserted.
Wait… there’s no pictures of the pastry bag or tip insertion (stop laughing) here? You’re right. Are you trying to tell me I need a tripod? You would be correct.
Dreams. These doughnuts are a dream come true. I’ve never been a fan of cream-filled doughnuts… turns out I just wasn’t eating the right cream-filled doughnuts. The chocolate cream is dark and unapologetic. The doughnuts are soft but sturdy. The vanilla sugar is fragrant, crunchy, and I added just a few pinches of salt for extra goodness. These doughnuts are once, twice, three times a lady. And if you have any poop jokes…. well you just stop it. Three times a lady! Three times!
Chocolate Cream Vanilla Sugar Doughnuts
makes about 10 3-inch doughnuts
doughnut dough adapted from Gourmet pastry cream from Epicurious
For the Doughnuts:
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons warm water (105–115°F)
3 1/4 – 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for sprinkling and rolling out dough
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Vanilla Sugar:
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped
two pinches salt
For the Chocolate Pastry Cream:
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About 6 cups vegetable oil for deep frying, you’ll need about 3 to 4-inches deep for frying
To Make the Doughnuts and Vanilla Sugar:
Stir together yeast and warm water in a small bowl until yeast is dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
In the bowl of an upright stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together yeast mixture, flour, milk, butter, yolks, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Beat at low speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat 3 minutes more. The dough will be soft and sticky. If you’s too sticky to handle, add up to 1/2 cup more flour. Note: the doughnut dough should be soft and somewhat sticky so don’t add too much flour.
Scrape dough down side of bowl (all around) into center, then sprinkle lightly with flour (to keep a crust from forming). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Alternatively, let dough rise in bowl in refrigerator 8 to 12 hours.) This is a great time to make the Chocolate Pastry Cream (instructions below).
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round (1/2 inch thick). Cut out as many rounds as possible with 3-inch cutter and transfer doughnuts to a lightly floured large baking sheet. Cover doughnuts with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes (45 minutes if dough was cold when cutting out doughnuts). Do not reroll scraps (they’ll make for tough doughnuts). While the cut doughnuts rise, make the Vanilla Sugar. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, vanilla bean scrapings, and salt. Use your fingers to make sure the vanilla bean scrapings are evenly disbursed throughout the sugar. Set aside.
Heat 2 1/2 inches oil in a deep 4-quart heavy pot until it registers 350°F on thermometer. Fry doughnuts, 2 at a time, turning occasionally with a wire or mesh skimmer or a slotted spoon, until puffed and golden brown, just over 2 minutes per batch (about 1 minute per side). Before removing the cooked doughnuts from the oil, quickly submerge them in the hot oil then immediately remove and place in the Vanilla Sugar mixture. Toss in the sugar and them allow to cool on a paper towel lined baking sheet.
Return oil to 350°F between batches before frying each pair of doughnuts.
To Make the Chocolate Pastry Cream:
In a medium saute pan, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. The mixture will be fairly thick. Slowly whisk in the milk. Place pan over medium low heat and slowly heat. Stir near constantly so that the milk does not burn and the eggs do not cook. When mixture just comes to a boil it will quickly begin to thicken. Remove from heat and continue whisking until thick and smooth. The mixture will be the consistency of cold pudding. Add chocolate chunks, butter, and vanilla extract to the warm chocolate mixture and stir until all is melted and well incorporated. Transfer hot pastry cream to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap so the plastic wrap touches the surface of the cream. Chill for about 2 hours.
To Fill the Doughnuts:
Doughnuts will already be coated in Vanilla Sugar before they’re filled with Chocolate Pastry Cream. Try to handle the doughnuts carefully, as to not knock off all of the sugar coating. Using the slender handle end of a spoon, create a hole in the side of each doughnut. This is where our pastry tip will go.
Fill a small pastry bag, fitted with a medium round tip, with Chocolate Pastry Cream. Twist to seal the bag. Carefully lift a doughnut and insert just the tip of the pastry tip into the doughnut. Squeeze pastry bag until doughnut feels just full. Imagine that you’re filling each doughnut with about 2 tablespoons of Chocolate Pastry Cream. Add too much pastry cream and you’ll know it. The cream will ooze out a bit. It takes just a bit of practice finding the right amount.
Fill each doughnut. Serve immediately or cover doughnuts for later serving. These doughnuts are best served the day they are made. They should be refrigerated after about an hour at room temperature, just to be safe.