Challah Donuts

As I mentioned in my last post, Challah Bread, my family discovered that my father is half European Jewish through an ancestry DNA test this past fall. I turned to baking to celebrate this new family heritage by making challah bread for my families holiday celebrations. It was so exciting to be able to connect to our family history through baking!

While strolling along in the grocery store one day shortly before the holidays, I came across a “bake From Scratch” magazine holiday issue. (Just a side note here…this magazine has become one of my new favorite baking publications out there!-and no, they did not pay me to say that.) I was thrilled to come across an entire section in the magazine devoted to challah dough! It included four recipes you can make with challah dough including challah donuts. YUP, I said CHALLAH DONUTS!!!!!! I about jumped up and down in the store thinking of how delicious fried challah dough would be. That soft, fluffy, and slightly sweet dough fried into a donut sounded like heaven to me.  Then I thought about how I could fill these fried rounds of deliciousness with one of my most favorite things on this earth, vanilla bean pastry cream. AND, I found another way to connect to my family history though baking…well baking and frying in this case.

I decided to treat my family to a very special movie snack for family movie night during the kids holiday break. At first, the kids were a little disappointed that I did not make popcorn…until they took one bite of these drool worthy challah donuts. I heard words like, “amazing,” “the best thing you have ever made,” and “can I have another one.” Nobody missed the popcorn! Since then, I have gotten many requests to make them again. I just fulfilled one of those requests last week. My son requested challah donuts  to celebrate getting his cast off his arm. I was more than happy to bless him with these fried, pastry cream filled bites from heaven!

Challah Donuts

Ingredients:

For the Donuts:

1 recipe of Challah Dough (see recipe below)
Vegetable oil for frying
1 C (210 grams) granulated sugar (vanilla sugar works wonderfully here! See my baking tip below)

For the Pastry Cream:

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise, seeds scraped
pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Directions:

For the Pastry Cream:

1. In a medium sauce pan, combine the milk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.

3. When the milk mixture comes to a simmer, very slowly pour 1/2 cup of the milk mixture into into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Continue to slowly add the milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly until it has all been incorporated.

4. Place a fine mesh strainer over your saucepan. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan through the mesh strainer to catch the vanilla bean pod and and any bits of egg.

5. Cook the mixture over medium high heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about two minutes.

6. Transfer the mixture to a an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attached, or a hand mixer. Add the butter and beat on medium speed until the butter melts and the mixture cools, about 5 minutes.

7. Place the pastry cream into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

For the donuts:
    1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with baking spray with flour.
    2. Turn out dough onto a heavily floured surface, and roll to 1/2 inch thickness. Using a 3 1/2- inch round cutter, cut dough, rerolling scraps as necessary.  Place onto prepared pans.
    3.  Set a wire rack over paper towels. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan (I like to use my cast iron dutch oven) pour oil to a depth of 3 inches, and heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees. Add donuts to hot oil in batches of 3-4, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry until light golden brown, 1 1/2-2 minutes per side. Remove, and let drain on prepared rack. Let cool for 5 minutes. Place the granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Dip doughnuts in sugar.
    4. Spoon pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Use a sharp knife to make a small hole in one end of each doughnut. Insert piping tip and fill with cream. Serve immediately.*Makes approximately 24 donuts. You can freeze half of your challah dough to use at a later time if you only want to make 12 donuts.

       Challah Dough

      Ingredients:

      1¾ cups warm water (105° to 110°)
      2 tablespoons (24 grams) granulated sugar
      1 tablespoon (14 grams) active dry yeast
      ½ cup (100 grams) olive oil
      5 large eggs
      ½ cup (144 grams) honey
      2 tablespoons (36 grams) kosher salt
      7½ to 8 cups (1,050 to 1,120 grams) all-purpose flour

      Directions:

      1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine 1¾ cups warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let stand until mixture is foamy, about 10 minutes. With mixer on low speed, gradually beat in oil. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in honey and salt. Gradually add flour, ½ cup (70 grams) at a time, until dough begins to pull away from sides of bowl. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and knead for 3 to 5 minutes.

      2. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let stand in a warm, draft-free place (75°) until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

      Recipe adapted from bake From Scratch Holiday 2016

      Recipe Source for pastry Cream: Martha Stewart Baking Handbook

      Baking Tips:

      • Dip your donuts in vanilla sugar to take them above and beyond. Vanilla sugar can be purchased or you can make some by placing a used vanilla bean in a bowl of sugar. Let the bowl of sugar sit for a few days before using.
      • Use a good deep fry thermometer to maintain the proper temperature when frying
      • Place your challah dough in your oven with the oven light on to rise. If it gets too warm with the oven light on, prop the oven door open.
      • If your dough is too sticky while kneading, add flour 2 TBS at a time until dough pulls away from side of bowl

      Bake and Share Ideas:

      1. Whip up a batch of challah donuts for your next family movie or game night
      2. Share challah donuts at your next brunch whether you host a brunch or attend a brunch
      3. Invite some friends over for coffee and challah donuts!

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