Our new Donut Boot Camp course has inspired me to make fresh donuts at home. This is a project I would typically save for the weekend, but with my family and I going out of town this weekend, combined with my blog deadline, I set out to make homemade donuts on a Tuesday night. I know this sounds crazy, but my kids didn't think so! Not only did I make it happen, but my kids and I had a lot of fun in the process as well.
I knew I needed to set myself up for as much success as possible, so I got to thinking about all of the different types of donuts out there, and which of those would be the most approachable for an after-dinner project. Classic yeast-raised donuts and cake donuts were out of the question due to time constraints, so after spending some time thinking about other options, the ever-so-delicious French Cruller became the winner. Why? Because French Crullers are made using Pâte à Choux. This tried and true dough comes together quickly, doesn't need any resting/rising time, and you probably already have everything you need in your kitchen to make it.
What is Pâte à Choux? It's a classic French pastry dough consisting of nothing more than butter, water, sometimes milk, sugar, salt, flour and eggs. It gets its rise during the frying or baking process from steam rather than a leavening agent such as yeast or baking powder. It's one of the most versatile doughs around. You use this very same dough to make Profiteroles, Cream Puffs, Eclairs, Gougères, Churros, Parisian Gnocchi and even Croquembouche (a pyramid of custard-filled profiteroles draped in caramel and wrapped in spun sugar). The best part about this dough? It takes all of 15 minutes to prepare!
The recipe for the French Crullers is below, but here are a few helpful tips for you:
- Before making the dough, I started heating my oil in a French oven. This way the oil would be close to ready by the time the dough was done. This helped streamline the process.
- Prior to filling the piping bag, place it in a plastic container. This makes filling the bag much easier.
- I piped rings of the dough on 3-inch by 3-inch squares of parchment paper. You get a much more consistent product, and it's so much safer than trying to pipe the batter directly into the hot oil (This didn't stop my husband from trying, though). My 10-year old son carefully lifted the parchment squares one by one, and gently laid them, cruller side down, into the hot oil. The parchment almost immediately released from the dough, making it really easy to remove using tongs.
- We fried the dough until golden brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side. We then transferred them to a cooling rack set over a sheet tray to cool. Once cool, Jake dipped the tops into a vanilla glaze. Ideally you’d let the glaze set for a bit, but we dove right in. It was, after all, a school night and teeth needed to get brushed.
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe.
Yield: 10-12 donuts
Active time: 1 hour
Start to finish: 1 hour
Oil for frying
For the dough:
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon water
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 whole eggs
1 egg white, lightly beaten
For the glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oil in a large French oven to 375°.
2. In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a rolling boil.
3. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined and throughout moistened.
4. Return the pan to the heat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring vigorously the entire time. After 2 to 3 minutes, a thick film should have formed on the bottom of the pan, and the dough should feel smooth.
5. Transfer the dough into a large mixing bowl, and use an electric hand mixer to beat on medium speed for one minute to cool the dough slightly. Add the whole eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before the next one is added.
6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg white. Beat on medium speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
7. Cut out twelve 3-inch by 3-inch squares of parchment paper, and lay out on your work surface.
8. Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip. Tip: Only fill your piping bag half full.
9. Holding the pastry bag vertically over one of the parchment squares, pipe an even circle of dough, just making the ends meet and connect. Repeat with the remaining dough and parchment squares.
10. Gently place each parchment square into the hot oil, dough side down. Use tongs to remove the paper. Fry the donuts 4 at a time until deep golden brown. Hint: The donuts will expand and crack a bit as the center gets hot just like baked pate a choux; make sure the "cracked" areas are also deep golden brown to ensure doneness.
11. Use a slotted spoon to remove the donuts from the oil, and drain on a cooling rack set over a sheet tray.
12. While the donuts are cooling, make the glaze. In a medium-size bowl, measure all of the glaze ingredients and whisk to combine adding enough milk to create a runny glaze that’s still thick enough to adhere to the tops of the donuts.
13. Dip each top in the glaze and set aside until the glaze is dry.
All in all, the whole process took about 1 hour, which isn't bad considering you're making donuts from scratch. It's a fun, approachable and crowd-pleasing recipe that's user friendly for all ages. It's so user friendly, we’ve included it in our all-new Teen Boot Camp course this summer. If you want your kids making fresh donuts for you (who doesn't), then sign them up for one of our four sessions this summer!