What do you get when fine French dining and America’s favorite sweet come together? A mouthwatering, pillowy dough with a cream custard center and caramel glaze on top.
It was surely only a matter of time before someone decided to blend the exciting sugary crackle of creme brulee with the creamy potential of a donut filling. Today, we’re going to show you how to create this gem of culinary decadence in the comfort of your own kitchen.
A Brief History of Creme Brulee Donuts
Crème brûlée donuts are a coming together of two old, venerable culinary traditions. Both these traditions have their roots going back centuries. The exact origins can be difficult to untangle.
Creme brulee, though often seen as a flagship dish of the French, has actually been claimed by several European nations over the years. Britain and Spain have also put in bids for having created versions of the dish back in the 16th and 17th centuries!
The version we love and recognise today however does seem to have started to appear in French cookbooks around the early 17th century. It soon became a standard bearer for creamy French sophistication and its ability to craft delectable desserts.
Creme brulee, though rattling around in Western recipe books for years, got its big break in the United States in the 1980’s. High-end restaurant Le Cirque introduced the dessert on its menu in New York, at which point it became the talk of the town. Soon, everyone with a bit of money and time to dine was cracking their spoons through the torched caramel top and marveling at the soft custard underneath.
What about donuts? Versions of sweetened dough fried in fat have appeared in many different countries across multiple ages. Some evidence of donut-like foods has even been found at ancient archaeological sites across the world.
However, the donuts we most commonly think of today may well have had their origins in Dutch settlers when they first came to New York (or New Amsterdam as it was then called!) in the 17th century. They brought with them something called ‘olykoek’, or oily cake – cheap, tasty, slightly sweet, and easy to make. The rest, as they say, is history.
Donuts now take on many shapes and forms, with people introducing new flavors and combinations all the time. So, who invented the creme brulee donut?
Well, Doughnut Plant in New York City, running since 1994, claims to have been the first to come up with the idea. No one seems to have stood up to challenge this claim, though we’ll never know if some experimental chef had already tried it hidden away in a test kitchen somewhere!
Regardless of ‘who did it first, it’s now become a naughty, sumptuous treat for food lovers and home cooks across the world. Time to put the apron on and start making our own.
Ingredients needed for Creme Brulee Donuts
The recipe we’re about to follow makes 20 donuts. Yes, you heard me right, 20!
‘Why so many?’ you might ask. Well, a decent amount of love, care, and patience goes into making these treats, and if you’re going to the effort we think you’re best off making a batch. They’ll keep well in the fridge for days and you can always impress your friends by sharing them.
If you want to make less, just reduce the ingredient sizes proportionately.
- 1300g Whole Milk- you can go with semi-skimmed, but full-fat will give you a bolder, more sumptuous texture!
- 10 Eggs
- 12 Egg Yolks- keep the whites separate in the fridge, you can always use them for something else later!
- 2 Vanilla Beans, de-seeded – if you can’t get hold of fresh beans, you can go for 2 tbsp of vanilla extract instead
- 400g Granulated Sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 3 tbsp / 9 tsp Salt
- 60g Cornstarch
- 750g Unsalted Butter,cubed, plus extra for greasing
- 1200g All Purpose Flour, plus extra for dusting
- 30g Active Dry Yeast – it’s possible to use other types of yeast, but Active Dry is least likely to leave a fermented flavour imprint on your dough
- Cooking oil – you want to go for something that is low in flavour but has a high smoking point. Vegetable oil is best, but you could also go for sunflower oil, corn oil, or peanut oil. Avoid olive oil, as this will impart an unwanted flavour and is likely to burn before you can get it hot enough to cook properly.
How to make Creme Brulee Donuts
A creme brulee donut can be divided into three parts – the donut dough, the creamy filling, and the ‘Brulee’, or caramelized, crunchy topping.
Many recipes will have you making a separate, caramelized sauce to dip the donut in, before having you blowtorch the top.
We think this is going overboard! For starters, who has a culinary blowtorch lying around? Second of all, the recipe we’re following today means you can get the same, gorgeous, spoon-tapping glaze on the top of your donuts without risking burning yourself by dipping them into the molten hot caramel.
It also cuts down on cooking and prep time in a recipe that takes a fair amount of toil to begin with!
For the easiest preparation, use a paddle mixer at a low speed to blend your dough. If you don’t have one, mixing by hand is also possible, or have someone else mix while you add ingredients!
These donuts really are a treat that’s worth the effort. Let’s get started.
Preparing the Dough
- Gently heat 300g of milk and add your yeast to it. Add to the bowl of a stand mixer, or mixing bowl, and let it rest for 10 minutes. The yeast and milk should bloom and expand!
- Add 1200g of flour to the yeast and milk. Mix for 5 minutes.
- Continue mixing, gradually adding your 10 eggs, one at a time.
- Add 200g of sugar along with your 3 tbsp of salt. Mix for another 5 minutes.
- Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place it in the fridge overnight.
Preparing the Custard Cream
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, egg yolks, and vanilla seeds.
- In a large saucepan, combine 1000g of milk and 200g of sugar. Bring to a simmer on medium heat.
- While stirring, slowly whisk about 125ml of the milk mixture into the cornstarch mix, then whisk this back into the saucepan.
- Continue whisking for 5 minutes or so, until the mix thickens.
- Stir in 300g of your butter, one cube at a time, until it’s all nicely blended.
- Strain the mixture to remove any clumps, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it cool. You can then pop your pastry cream in the fridge until it’s ready to use.
Cutting and Cooking Your Dough
- Take your dough out of the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. You’re looking to have it about ½ an inch thick – it’s likely to expand about 4 times by the time it’s cooked!
- Use a round cookie cutter to cut 20 donuts from your sheet.
- Transfer these to baking sheets, leaving a bit of space between each donut. Cover them with plastic wrap again and put them in a warm place for about half an hour.
- Heat 2 inches of cooking oil in a large saucepan. Use a deep-fry thermometer and wait until it gets to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You need hot oil for this!
- Cut the donuts out of the parchment paper and use the paper to transfer the donuts into the frying oil (don’t put the paper in though!)
- Cook the donuts in batches – roughly 2 to 3 minutes each, turning once. They’re ready to go when they’re puffed and golden, with a lighter coloring inside. Remove with a slotted spoon and place them on a wire rack to cool.
Adding the Brulee Topping to Your Donut
- Before you fill them with cream, dust your donuts generously with sugar.
- Broil the donuts in the oven for about 30 seconds, until the sugar has melted. Add more and repeat if you want a thicker layer.
- Allow the donuts to cool off and the sugar to crystallize. You’re now ready for the final stage!
Filling Your Donuts with Cream
- Once your donuts have cooled, use a skewer to make a hole in one side of each, wriggling it around to form a space in the middle of the dough.
- Use a piping bag and piping tip to put cold vanilla custard into the center of each.
Crack into your donuts, taste and enjoy!
The following nutritional information is for each donut before it’s been deep fried – please note that, depending on the amount of oil you use, deep frying the donuts could add anywhere between 100 and 400 calories to each serving.
Calories – 687
Total fat – 38.6g
Saturated fat – 22.4g
Cholesterol – 306mg
Sodium – 1332mg
Total Carbohydrate – 72.6g
Dietary fibre – 2g
Total sugars – 23.9g
Protein – 14g
Vitamin D – 67mcg
Calcium – 120mg
Iron – 4mg
Potassium – 241mg
Are there any better tasting donuts at McDonalds than Creme Brulee?
In our opinion, you can’t get much better than a Creme Brulee Donut! McDonald’s are always changing up their menu when it comes to desserts. A popular one is the Glazed Pull Apart donut, but we don’t think this beats the creamy custard center and cracking glaze of the Creme Brulee!
Where can I buy Creme Brulee donuts?
Creme Brulee donuts are a labor of love. You’re likely to find the best ones at small, independent donut and pastry stores who have the time, dedication and care to make them as good as they can be. Why not check out local stores near you to find out where your best Creme Brulee donut might be hiding?
Can you make Creme Brulee ahead?
You can make the custard cream ahead of time and keep in the fridge for several days. The unfried dough will need to be used up within 24 hours of cooking, otherwise the yeast might over ferment!
Once you’ve cooked your donuts, they’ll keep in the fridge for at least 3 days. That’s why we recommend cooking a batch and sharing them around!
So there you have it – a decadent, sumptuous, tour-de-force of a donut, combining French dessert with an all-time American classic. Not the easiest to make, but certainly worth the effort!
Keep your eyes peeled next time you go to your local donut store, to see whether they have Creme Brulee Donuts in stock. If they don’t, why not request them? If all else fails, follow our recipe above to make a delicious batch for you, your family, and your hungry friends.