This week has been ridiculous. We are currently exhibiting at design week, which all kicks off tonight. Yesterday was a 12 hour install, which is always exhausting. Usually we are pretty quick at those, but yesterday's dragged out - nothing really went wrong, it just all took forever. Thankfully we are done with that now, and can concentrate on design week fun!
Let's just take a moment to talk about doughnuts though. As much as I love cake, I think I quite possibly love doughnuts more. There is something about a perfectly fried dough, either glazed with an interesting flavour or stuffed with some sort of exciting filling that really gets me going. The contrast of the sweet filling or glaze against an enriched fluffy dough is the best. And I love how versatile they are - you can make an entire batch, and finish them off in as many ways as you would like.
Rhubarb season has just started here in NYC, and I almost feel a bit panicked to put it in as many things as I possibly can before it disappears from the greenmarket again. It grows year-round in New Zealand so I am used to having constant access to it, so this limited time period thing is kind of balls. I'm definitely going to make the most of it though - there are a few rhubarb recipes coming your way in the next few weeks so that you can make the most of it too! Including these doughnuts.
These doughnuts are really something else. A fluffy brioche dough, a vanilla bean pastry cream, roasted rhubarb, and then finished off with a vanilla sugar. The combination of flavours compliments each other perfectly. The sharp tart flavour of the rhubarb stands up to the sweet custardy pastry cream, and the vanilla sugar highlights the vanilla paste that is tossed with the rhubarb and stirred through the pastry cream. It seems like a lot of elements, but each one has a well-deserved place. Rhubarb and custard are one of my favourite flavour combinations - I could have eaten all of these in one go, so had to take the rest to Jill's to get them out of my sight.
Rhubarb is notoriously sour, so I roasted it with a little vanilla bean and sugar to help take the edge off. It also makes it the most beautiful colour, and any leftover is perfect stirred through yoghurt, eaten with granola, or just straight up spooned into your mouth.
A few wee notes:
- The pastry cream is best made the day before or at least a few hours before you begin to make the doughnuts, so that it has time to cool completely.
- Rhubarb can be roasted while the doughnuts are proofing - just make sure that it is cool before you fill the doughnuts with it
- I made these using a stand mixer - you can most definitely do it by hand, but it will take a serious amount of elbow grease, and you will need to ensure that the butter is extremely well incorporated when you add it in.
- The vanilla sugar ideally needs a little time to dry out, so make it just after you put the brioche dough on.
- A thermometer will be your friend when you are frying dough. I love this one - it has an alarm on it which makes it super easy to use.
- Most of the recipe is in grams. Ounces don't tend to be specific enough for pastry recipes. A kitchen scale is an excellent investment.
- I love using vanilla paste in my recipes - My favourite is this brand (I buy it by the litre), but the seeds of a vanilla bean will work just as well.
- Ensure that you do not over proof the doughnuts once they are cut out. The sign of a well proved doughnut is a small ring of pale dough around the middle of the doughnut.
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Roasted rhubarb brioche doughnuts
Vanilla bean pastry cream
- 132g egg yolks (about 8 yolks)
- 110g sugar
- 35g corn starch
- 1 Tbsp vanilla paste, or the scrapings from one vanilla bean
- 550g whole milk
- 27g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups (250g) sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 500g rhubarb, washed, trimmed, and sliced into 2 inch pieces
- ½ cup (100g) sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla paste
Brioche doughnut dough
- 180ml (¾ cup) whole milk, lukewarm
- ¼ cup (50g) sugar
- 2 ¼ tsp active yeast
- 3 cups (430g) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 large egg and 2 egg yolks
- 100g (7 Tbsp) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
- Flavourless oil for frying (approx 4-6 cups)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl.
- In a medium pot, warm the milk and vanilla paste until there is movement just around the edges of the milk - do not bring it to the boil.
- Remove the milk from the heat, and, whisking constantly, add half of the milk mixture into the egg and cornflour mixture to temper the egg yolks. Whisk briskly for 30 seconds. Transfer the milk-yolk mixture back to the pot, and return to a medium heat. Whisk constantly until very thick.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, mixing well until totally combined. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes, whisking occasionally.
- Strain the pastry cream through a mesh sieve, and into a bowl. Cool to room temperature then place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream to prevent a skin. Place in the fridge until completely cooled.
- In a small bowl, rub the vanilla bean paste into the sugar using your finger tips. Spread out on a plate to dry at room temp. When you are ready to use, break up using your fingers. Pass through a mesh sieve if required to remove any lumps.
- Preheat oven to 180˚c / 350˚f. Toss together the rhubarb, vanilla paste and sugar in a bowl. Transfer to a baking tray and roast for 15-20 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft and syrupy. Allow to cool slightly then either transfer to a blender or food processor and puree, or mash well with a potato masher. Allow to cool completely.
- In a small bowl, combine the lukewarm milk, yeast, and 1 Tbsp of the sugar. Stir to combine, and leave for 5 minutes until foamy.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, remaining sugar, and salt. Mix on low using the dough hook.
- Add the yeast and eggs to the dry ingredients, and mix on low until the dough forms a sticky ball. Increase the speed of the mixer and knead for another 5 minutes, stopping occasionally to clear the dough hook of dough.
- With the mixer on medium, add the butter a cube at a time, waiting until it is fully incorporated before adding the next piece. This process should take 12-15 minutes. Once the butter is fully incorporated, knead for a further two minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic, and passes the "window pane" test. This is where the dough will stretch and become transparent when stretched out. If it breaks, continue to knead until it reaches this stage.
- Cover the bowl with a wet kitchen towel, and allow to prove until doubled in size, 45-90 minutes depending on the conditions in your kitchen.
- Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. Roll into a circle that is about 2.5cm thick (1 inch). Leave to sit for 5 minutes to allow the dough to relax.
- Cut out circle shapes using a cookie cutter approximately 2.5 inches (6cm) in diameter. Place the cut doughnuts on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- Leave the doughnuts to proof for a further 20 minutes. When you poke them lightly with your finger, it should leave a small indentation that springs back.
- While the doughnuts are proofing, heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot (cast iron works great). Heat the oil to 175-180˚c / 340-350˚f.
- Once the oil has come to temperature, test it with a few scraps of dough. Gently lower the doughnuts, two at a time, into the hot oil. Cook for 1 ½ - 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack. Allow to cool for 30 seconds before tossing in the vanilla sugar. Repeat the process with the rest of the doughnuts. Once the doughnuts are cool, poke a hole in them using a chopstick, and widen the hole using your finger.
- Fill a piping bag fitted with a medium-sized round tip with the pastry cream. Fill a second bag with the rhubarb puree. Carefully fill the cavity of the doughnut halfway with rhubarb puree, then follow with the pastry cream, as full as the doughnut will allow you - you can usually feel when they are full. When you pull away the piping bag, a little of the pastry cream should ooze out. Top each with a small blob of the rhubarb.
- Serve immediately. Best eaten on the day that they are made.