This dough is one of the softest, most supple and satisfying doughs I have ever made. Like any recipe with yeast dough, these doughnuts take a bit of time, but much of it is hands-off.
They also have a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure element, which is always fun. You can fill them with any flavor of jam, curd (lemon would be amazing), Nutella, nut butter, cookie butter (!!) or vanilla or chocolate custard. You can cut them any size you like. You can glaze them or toss them in powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar or plain granulated. You can even leave them naked and just enjoy the simplicity of warm fried dough.
They are almost too good to be true. One of my boys said we could sell them for $20 apiece. I laughed, of course, but, really, they are that good.
Another favorite filling (pictured here) is softened cream cheese mixed with some maple syrup and cinnamon. Roll them in some cinnamon sugar and you’ve got the perfect fall treat!
Don’t let “brioche” intimidate you. It’s just a fancy French name for an egg-and-butter-fortified yeast dough. It’s the stuff of dreams. It makes these doughnuts so rich, yet so light.
I do suggest (beg!) that you read this whole recipe all the way through before you lift a finger. It has a few stages and many steps, but it is not difficult. If you make these brioche doughnuts, pop on over to wildthistlekitchen.com and let me know how they turn out! Or come say “hi” on Instagram @wild.thistle.kitchen.
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1 1/4 sticks salted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
Seeds from one vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 eggs at room temperature
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 gallon neutral frying oil (such as peanut or vegetable oil or vegetable shortening)
1 cup of raspberry jam (or any jam you like) or chocolate hazelnut spread (such as Nutella) or other filling in a pastry bag or a large ziplock bag fitted with a long, narrow tip
2 cups granulated or other sugar for rolling, placed in a shallow dish or a pie plate
Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Once oven reaches desired temperature, turn off and leave door closed. Combine yeast with warm water in a glass measuring cup and let sit at room temperature while you proceed with the recipe.
Place butter, sugars, vanilla and salt in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium speed until combined, light and fluffy. Add eggs (I find it useful to crack all three into a bowl or a measuring cup and add while the mixer is running on low). Add yeast/water mixture and 1 cup of flour and mix until fully combined.
Switch from the paddle attachment to a dough hook. Add remaining flour and mix on low speed for 5 minutes until thoroughly combined and you have a soft, sticky dough. It will cling to the bowl a bit, but it should be almost in a ball. Add a bit more flour if it is extremely sticky, but be careful — you don’t want it as firm and smooth as bread dough.
Remove dough hook and remove bowl from mixer. Cover bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise in warmed oven for 1 hour. This is a good time to get your frying, cooling, filling and rolling stuff set up.
After dough has been rising for 1 hour, lightly flour work surface and top of dough. Roll dough to ½-inch thickness. Cut rounds (or any shape you like) and place onto floured cookie sheet to rest for 10 minutes while oil heats. I use a 2-inch-wide biscuit cutter and get about 20 to 22 doughnuts.
Optional: Using the wide end of a metal pastry tip, cut as many tiny doughnuts out of the remaining dough scraps as you can. These will make the cutest little doughnut “holes.” You won’t want to waste any of this gorgeous dough.
Heat oil over medium-high heat to 375 degrees in a heavy, large pot (I prefer cast iron). Once oil is hot, carefully place doughnuts in oil — about 5 or 6 at a time depending on your pot — and fry for 2 minutes per side, just until they are golden brown and puffed. Remove with slotted spoon to sheet tray with rack. Repeat until all doughnuts are fried. Finally, add your little baby doughballs all in one batch and stir gently until golden. Remove with slotted spoon to rack with other doughnuts.
Poke pastry tip into the middle of each doughnut and fill with your choice of fillings. Roll each filled doughnut and baby doughnuts in granulated sugar, powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. You can even fry the dough scraps and give them the same treatment.
Enjoy while fresh and warm!