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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Time to Make the Doughnuts

A confession:  I do not like doughnuts.

Part of it is that I generally don't like sweet breakfast pastries (though a good muffin is welcome), and part of it is that a ring of dough fried in oil just isn't appealing to me.

There are several major Hannukah traditions:  lighting the menorah, or candelabra, for eight nights, playing dreidel games and frying foods in oil to commemorate how long the oil lights burned when the Jews reconsecrated the temple.  For more about the story of Hannukah and its traditions, please see this link

Latkes, or potato pancakes, are the most traditional food fried in oil, followed closely by doughnuts filled with jam. 

This year, I was lucky enough to receive a gorgeous new wire skimmer from my parents just in time to make treats to take to our friend Vicki's annual Christmas Eve open house.  Earlier last week, I heard a wonderful story on the public radio show Here and Now about a Persian chef's take on traditional Hannukah foods, including doughnuts filled with pastry cream instead of jam.

Pastry cream?  Hmm, maybe doughnuts didn't sound so bad.

These are not your standard yeast doughnuts.  The dough didn't rise very much, and though the doughnuts largely stayed flat, they were delicious when stuffed with pastry cream.

Persian Cream-Filled Doughnuts
Adapted from Chef Reyna Simnegar

1/2 cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
¼ cup water
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. amaretto liqueur
4¼ cups all-purpose flour
4 cups canola oil

For the pastry cream:
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 egg yolks
5 tsp. cornstarch

Powdered sugar for garnish

Combine the sugar,  half-cup of water and yeast in a small bowl.  Cover and set aside while the yeast activates.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, salt, quarter-cup of water, eggs and amaretto.  When those ingredients are just mixed, add two cups of the flour and mix again.

Add the yeast and remaining flour and mix to combine.  The dough will be pliable and not too sticky.

Dump the dough on a piece of parchment paper and roll out to an even, one-inch thickness.  Set the dough aside for at least an hour in a warm place to rise, covering it with a dish towel or plastic wrap.

When you are ready to make the doughnuts, cut the dough in two-inch circles using a glass or a biscuit cutter.  Re-roll the dough scraps and cut out as many doughnuts as possible.

While you are cutting the doughnuts, heat the four cups of oil in a large saucepan.  The oil is ready when it registers 350 degrees on a thermometer.

Drop the circles of dough into the hot oil, being careful  not to crowd the doughnuts.  Flip with a wire skimmer or a slotted spoon so the doughnuts brown on both sides.  This process goes very quickly--be careful your oil stays an even temperature and keep an eye on them.  Each batch will take less than two minutes.

Place the cooked doughnuts on a paper towel-covered baking rack or in a colander to drain.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

Allow the doughnuts to cool completely.  While they are cooling, make the pastry cream by combining all five of the ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently.

Cook the cream for an additional minute, continuing to whisk it.  Then remove the cream from the heat and cool at room temperature, whisking periodically.

To fill the doughnuts, use a pastry bag with a long tip.  Insert the tip into one end of the doughnut and carve a small hole before inserting the cream.  I stopped filling the doughnuts when the sides of them bulged and looked as if they were about to crack.

Serve on a platter and dust with a liberal amount of powdered sugar.

Makes approximately twenty-four doughnuts.  There was leftover pastry cream, which I served the following day with a pistachio-almond cake.


  1. Well I knew there had to be something out there that would break your dislike when it comes to donuts and here it is. I can see why you have changed your mind. The description as well as the looks of these has got me wanting to make them right now. These are unusual but no doubt delicious. Thanks for stepping out of the box to make and post this delicious recipe!

  2. Even the yeast in these wouldn't scare me. I'm not a big fan of jelly/jam filled anything. These would convince me to try to make at home. (Wait till you try my St. Joseph Day doughnuts!)

  3. Yummers! I could eat one or twenty. Great job. I have yet to make doughnuts but they are on the list.

  4. I've never made homemade donuts, but this makes me really want to! That Persian cream filling sounds heavenly!

  5. Wow, those look outstanding! I'm more likely to eat a dessert doughnut than a breakfast one :)

  6. I'm not a big donut fan, but I am always willing to try something if its made from scratch. And filled with cream? I'm in! Yum yum!

  7. These sound amazing! I have never made doughnuts at home but they must be so much better than storebought! I am loving the addition of the amaretto and pastry cream!

  8. love these! my mom always made latkes and donuts for hannukah :)

  9. I heard that piece on Here and Now and thought of you :) Was thinking those Persian inspired latkes sounded pretty amazing as well. Hope you had a perfectly lovely holiday and can't wait to see you on stage!

  10. Love, love, LOVE donuts and anything filled with pastry cream gets my vote!

  11. I have not had good experience making doughnuts simply because the dough does not rise at all and not very good outcome either. So with that, I have like given up trying to make doughnuts. Thanks for sharing this recipe and yes, I am happy to hear that the dough don't need to rise that much to be a success.

    I like this unique one you made with the filling inside and yes, would love to try it too.

  12. I love donuts which is why I must stay away from them. And I am an equal-opportunity donut eater - jam - cream - you name it. My husband has been waxing poetical about homemade donuts. Now, seeing this, I may need to indulge him.

  13. For a person who doesn't like doughnuts... you did an amazing job with these homemade ones. WOW! I'm glad they swayed your opinion on eating a doughnut... yay for the pastry cream. :) Wishing you all the best for 2012!! ~ Ramona

  14. I love doughnuts, but I gotta admit I try to stay away from them....I can't eat just one. I may have to try to make yours, they just sound TOO GOOD and them hide them from myself. Wishing you the best in 2012, and look forward to sharing my recipes!!!

  15. They look lovely! I only eat donuts on special occasions - there just isn't much that is healthy about a donut, so they go on the "limited" list!

  16. Thanks for all the comments--I don't have a doughnut-eating problem, but you'll rarely see me deep-frying anything except during Hannukah. I have a serious weakness for good French fries, and they go straight to my butt, much to my trainer's dismay.

    @Rosemary, looking forward to seeing that recipe!

    @Amy, the original recipe called for a different flavor combination, but I had amaretto and almond extract on hand. I think the recipe could be tweaked for different flavor profiles.

  17. I have to admit, I'm not much of a doughnut fan myself. I much prefer a fruity muffin with my tea in the morning, but my husband would be in heaven if I made these for him!