Vanilla Bean Sugar Coated Chocolate Cream Filled Doughnuts. Yes.

Okay, enough with the kale and edamame.  Let’s get serious about doughnuts here.

These doughnuts are the perfect winter afternoon project. They take a few hours and involve things like extremely hot oil, fancy-pants vanilla beans and eggs that need to be heated to thick but not scrambled.  But you can do it.  If I can do it, you definitely can.  I was notorious, in chemistry class, for following all the directions for an experiment to the letter and still screwing it up, but I managed to make these tasty little confections with resounding success.  They are perfect chased with a cup of strong coffee and shared with friends.

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Heres what you need:

For the doughnuts

2 ½ tsp. active dry yeast

2 tbsp. warm water

3 ¼-3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out dough

1 cup milk, room temperature

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

3 large egg yolks

3 tbsp. sugar

1 ½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. cinnamon

For the vanilla sugar

1 1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, scraped

2 pinches salt

For the chocolate pastry cream

4 egg yolks

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 tbsp. cornstarch

3 tbsp. cocoa powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup whole milk

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small chunks

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

~ 6 cups of vegetable oil for deep frying (or 3-4” in the pan/pot you intend to use)

NOTE:  you will also need a candy or deep frying thermometer and an icing bag fitted with a medium round tip

To make the doughnuts and vanilla sugar

This is my kitchen preparing for the task.

This is my kitchen preparing for the task.

Stir the yeast and warm water together in a bowl until dissolved, and let the yeast stand (or “proof”) for five minutes until it looks foamy.

Set up your stand mixer with a dough hook and mix together the yeast mixture, the flour, milk, butter, egg yolks, sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Beat at low speed until a soft dough forms.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for another 3 minutes.  The dough will be soft and sticky – if it’s too sticky to handle, add up to a ½ cup more flour.  Then, scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl to ensure all the dough is incorporated, dust the dough lightly with flour and cover with plastic wrap and then a tea towel.  Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk.  (Now is a good time to make your chocolate pastry cream and vanilla sugar).

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Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and use a floured rolling pin to roll it out until it is about a ½ inch thick.  Use a 3” cookie cutter (I just use a glass) to cut as many doughnuts out as you can.  (note:  if you decide to re-roll and use the scraps, the doughnuts made from these pieces will be tougher.  And funny looking.   Save them for yourself!).  Place the doughnuts on a lightly floured baking sheet and let them rise until they’re slightly puffy – about 30 minutes.

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Embracing the funny-looking-ness of re-rolled doughnuts in the name of less waste!

While the doughnuts rise, make the vanilla sugar by combining the sugar, vanilla bean scrapings and salt in a bowl and using your fingers to incorporate the vanilla into the sugar.

Heat 3-4” of oil in a heavy pot until it registers 350 F on a candy or deep frying thermometer.  Fry the doughnuts, two at a time, turning over with a slotted spoon when they’re puffed and golden brown on each side (usually this takes ~1 minute per side).  Before removing the doughnuts, quickly submerge them in oil and then transfer immediately to the vanilla sugar mixture.  Toss in sugar and set aside on a paper towel to cool.  (NOTE:  ensure that the oil in the frying pan returns to 350 F before you put the next batch of doughnuts in).

To make the chocolate pastry cream

In a medium pan, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt.

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Slowly whisk in the milk.  Place the pan over medium heat and stir, almost constantly, so that the milk doesn’t burn and the eggs don’t scramble.  Just before the mixture comes to a boil, it will begin to thicken quite a bit.  At this time, remove it from the heat and continue whisking it until it’s smooth and about the consistency of pudding.  Add the chocolate chunks, butter and vanilla extract and stir until they are melted in.

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Transfer the hot cream to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap so the plastic touches the surface of the cream.  Chill for ~2 hours.

To fill the doughnuts with pastry cream

Handle the doughnuts carefully, as they will already be covered in sugar.  With the end of a slender-handled spoon (or similar instrument), create a hole in the side of each doughnut.  Fill a small icing bag fitted with a medium round tip with the chocolate cream and twist the bag to seal, ensuring that there are no air bubbles (this will require you to squeeze some pastry cream out to ensure a consistent flow.  This is best done directly onto one’s index finger so as to simultaneously test the quality and flavour of the cream ;o).  Insert the tip into the hole in each doughnut and squeeze pastry cream into the doughnut until it feels full (if you fill it too much, chocolate will ooze out a little bit.  Worse things have happened).

Note:  It’s best to serve these doughnuts on the same day you make them – on the second day the vanilla sugar will dissolve into the doughnut.  They’ll still taste good, but they’ll look a little less lovely.

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Recipe from Joy the Baker

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