Doughnuts are the type of pastry that seem daunting, but are in fact fairly easy to make. They do take time, however; this is a recipe that is easiest when started the night before, because the separate components need time to rest in the refrigerator.
Brioche is a buttery, slightly sweet yeast dough that yields a delicate crumb — the missing link between bread and cake. Perfect for doughnuts!
Infusing pastry cream with black tea gives it a wonderful contrast to the creamy sweetness, and calls to mind English-style tea. I have used several of Seven Cups’ black teas in this recipe, my favorites being Dian Hong Gong Fu and Premium Qimen. The former gives a stronger, somewhat floral taste, while the latter has a faintly smokey flavor that calls to mind Earl Grey tea.
The recipe below uses weight measurements. For anyone who bakes on a regular basis, I highly recommend buying a kitchen scale. They are a more accurate form of measure, as an ingredient’s density can affect its volume but not its weight, and they help minimize dishes (I loathe washing a plethora of measuring cups). I invested $30 in my Escali scale; seven years of bumbling accidental abuse later, it’s still loyally accurate.
For this recipe, I would also recommend having a reliable candy thermometer (available at most grocery stores), round cookie or biscuit cutters, and a piping bag and piping tip (available at Michael’s craft stores or in restaurant supply stores).
The most important thing you can do when making doughnuts (or when trying any new recipe, really) is to set up ahead of time. Make sure that you read through and understand all of the directions before beginning, and it will end up saving you time later. Especially when you are frying the doughnuts, having a streamlined system is crucial. I find it easiest to work from left to right (raw dough to frying oil to drying tray to sugar), as I am right-handed.
- 1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 525 grams all-purpose flour
- 75 grams sugar
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- zest from 2 oranges
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 175 grams milk, at room temperature
- 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into about 8 pieces
- In a stand mixer (or large bowl), combine yeast, flour, sugar, salt, and orange zest.
- On low speed, using a dough hook (or wooden spoon), mix in milk and eggs until the dough comes together into a ball of dough. Mix or knead for another 2 or 3 minutes, to develop elasticity.
- Begin to add in the butter, one or two chunks at a time, until completely incorporated.
- Continue to mix for 5 or 6 minutes. The dough should be soft and somewhat tacky, and spring back gently when you tug a piece with your fingers.
- Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6-18 hours.
Black Tea Pastry Cream
- 310 grams milk
- 15 grams loose-leaf black tea
- 100 grams sugar
- 30 grams cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 4 egg yolks
- Place the milk and tea leaves in a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized saucepan. Bring the milk just to a simmer over medium heat, then turn off the burner and cover the saucepan. Let steep for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk together sugar and cake flour. Add the egg yolks. It will initially feel too thick to whisk; keep whisking, and if the mixture gets stuck in the wires of your whisk, tap it loose. The mixture will eventually form a thick, homogenous paste.
- Strain the milk into a measuring cup (or other pouring vessel) and press as much extra milk out of the leaves as you can using a spoon or spatula. Discard the leaves.
- Whisk a small amount of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture at a time, until completely combined. Return to the saucepan.
- Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thick. The mixture will be frothy and bubbly at first, but these will disappear when it thickens. Be attentive and whisk vigorously, because once it begins to thicken, it happens very quickly and can catch you off-guard. Once thick and slowly bubbling, immediately strain into a bowl. Do not overcook, or it will become grainy. You will need to use a spatula to press the pastry cream through the sieve.
- Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream, to prevent a skin forming. Refrigerate overnight.
- Brioche dough
- Pastry cream
- Canola or other suitable frying oil (peanut, grapeseed, etc.)
- 200 grams sugar
- 90 grams heavy whipping cream
- Roll out the brioche dough on a lightly floured surface. If using a large cutter (3-4″) roll to about 1/2″ thickness. If using a smaller cutter (1-2″) roll to 1/4″ thickness. Cut out doughnuts, rerolling dough as needed without incorporating too much flour, until it has been used up. Place doughnuts on a greased and floured baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 2-4 hours, until poofy and soft to the touch.
- Line a baking sheet with paper towels, to hold the fried doughnuts and absorb some of the oil.
- Pour the oil into a large, heavy saucepan to a depth of at least 3″, making sure to leave at least 3″ of space between the oil and the top of the saucepan. Clip a thermometer to the side of the pan, and heat the oil to 350° F. Once up to temperature, it helps to reduce the heat to just enough to maintain the temperature; too hot, and your doughnuts will burn on the outside while the inside is still raw.
- Fry the doughnuts for 2-3 minutes on each side, flipping with a metal slotted spoon. Remove to the prepared tray and let rest a few seconds, until cool enough to handle.
- Toss the doughnuts with the sugar, to coat, then return to the tray to cool completely. This may take 30-45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, beat the whipping cream just to stiff peaks. Fold 1/3 of it into the pastry cream, to lighten it, then fold the rest in. Place the cream mixture into a piping bag fitted with a small circular tip. Alternately, place into a zip-top plastic bag, seal, and snip the very end of one of the corners off.
- Once the doughnuts are completely cool, poke a hole in the side and fill with a small amount of the pastry cream. Alternatively, simply fill some bowls with the pastry cream for dipping. Serve immediately — the fresher the better, though they will keep at room temperature for several hours, or in the refrigerator for about a day.