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  • Megan

Cookbook Challenge: Bread Ahead's Deep-Fried Custard Doughnuts

Updated: May 27, 2023

I’m going to limit my words here, because the video with this post is a record twenty-one minutes long, and it speaks for itself.

I will say that a few weeks after I shot this video, my sister got me an online class making these same doughnuts with a Bread Ahead instructor. I learned a few things from the class, like that my custard in this video is actually not thick enough (I should have let it cook even longer until it had the thickness of choux pastry dough). I also learned that I could plop the doughnut dough into a bitty bread pan and bake it into a brioche loaf, which ended up being far preferable to deep frying.

As for the doughnuts, they turned out beautifully both times I made them: soft, pillowy, chewy, and a bit tangy. Even with the custard filling, they sit so light. What an exquisite treat!

The dough requires an overnight rise, plus a second four-hour rise before it's fried into doughnuts; so you'd have to wake up pretty early to have this treat for breakfast. But you can always wrap the doughnuts in plastic and foil and freeze them for the following morning(s). That is, if you can resist housing them all when they’re freshly fried and filled. *swoon*

The recipe below makes 20 doughnuts; I quartered the recipe out of lack of confidence and then was left with a woeful dearth of delectable doughnuts. But that’s okay, because by then I knew I could do it again. I CAN MAKE DEEP-FRIED DOUGHNUTS WITH CUSTARD FILLING! And I bet you can too.

Equipment you’ll need:

- Stand mixer or electric hand mixer (you can mix the dough by hand too; it’s quite greasy and messy when incorporating the butter, but it's doable)

- Digital scale

- Large heavy pot and thermometer for deep frying (unless of course you have an actual deep fryer)

The Dough

*Again, this is for 20 doughnuts! I recommend halving or quartering the recipe if you’re new to this process and just want to get your feet wet.

500g bread flour

60g sugar, plus more for coating finished doughnuts

10g fine sea salt

15g fresh yeast (if using active dry yeast, which is what I used, cut in half to about 8 g)

zest of one lemon (I omitted this because I didn’t have a lemon, but it's worth including!)

4 eggs

150g water

125g softened unsalted butter

vegetable oil for frying (enough to fill pot about halfway)

1. Using an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and zest until well-mixed. Add in the eggs and water. Use a dough hook or beater attachment to mix the dough on medium speed for 6 to 8 minutes. Then let the dough rest for a minute.

2. Turn the mixer back on and add in the butter about 25 grams at a time. Mix until butter is fully incorporated and dough is glossy, smooth, and elastic when pulled. Cover the bowl with plastic and let it rise until doubled in size (about two or three hours).

3. Punch down the dough to let out the gases that have built up in it (I learned in my class that this step helps give the yeast a kick in the pants, or something to that effect). Then re-cover the bowl with plastic and let the dough rise in the fridge overnight. (DON’T wrap the dough itself in plastic; minute 10 of the video is me having learned this lesson).

4. The next morning, divide the dough into twenty 50g pieces and roll them into tight round buns (heyo!). See how to do this at minute 11:25.

5. Place the dough balls on a floured pan and lightly cover them with plastic. Let them rise until they have doubled in size (about three to four hours).

6. Heat the vegetable oil in the pot to 356°F (180°C). Carefully place one or two balls into the oil, using a dough scraper or spatula (the first time I made these, I fried one doughnut at a time; the second time I fried two at a time, and that worked fine too). Fry each dough ball for two minutes on each side. Monitor the oil temperature throughout the frying process: if it gets too hot, the doughnuts will burn around the outside while not cooking through; if it’s not hot enough, the doughnuts will absorb the oil and become greasy.

7. Out of the oil, coat the doughnuts in sugar and let them cool. Once they’re cool, make holes through their centers to create a pipeline for the custard filling. Which brings us to…

The Custard Filling

*Fills twenty doughnuts and then some; if you halve or quarter the dough recipe, remember to do the same here!

1 liter milk (preferably whole milk, but 2 percent also worked for me)

4 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 teaspoon crushed cardamom pods (didn’t have this, so I omitted)

zest of 5 oranges (I used clementine zest, but orange is superior)

12 egg yolks

175g sugar

75g bread flour or all-purpose flour

250ml heavy whipping cream

1. Pour the milk into a large saucepan along with the cardamom (both ground and crushed) and zest of four of the oranges. Heat the milk to infuse the zest and cardamom. (Interestingly, the cookbook tells me to bring the milk to “the boil,” but in the online class, the instructor emphasized not to let the milk boil. Boiling milk has always been a no-no in my experience, so aim for just below boiling point.)

2. In a bowl, mix together the egg yolks and 125g of the sugar. Then sift in the flour and whisk until the mixture is silky smooth.

3. Whisk the hot milk, a tiny bit at a time, into the egg mixture (if you've used cardamom pods, strain those out). Whisk constantly to keep the eggs from curdling. Once all the milk has been whisked in, pour the mixture back into the pot and cook on medium, whisking constantly, until it becomes thick.

4. Pass the custard through a fine sieve. Then place a piece of plastic on the surface of the custard to prevent a “skin” (gross) from forming. Let the custard cool, then refrigerate until fully chilled.

5. Using an electric/stand mixer, whip together the cream, the last 50 grams of sugar, and the zest of the fifth orange, until thick and pillowy.

6. Fold the whipped cream into the chilled custard. Cover and refrigerate.

7. Once the doughnuts have cooled and you’ve forged a pipeline through their centers, it’s time to fill them with the custard. Fill a piping bag or Ziplock bag with the custard and cut off the tip/corner. Stick the bag’s tip into the doughnut hole and squeeze in the filling. You’ll feel the doughnut get heavy as it fills up.


It’s a long and toilsome process—specifically the frying and the custard making—but that first bite of a freshly fried doughnut filled with homemade custard? Well, you’ll see what happens at minute 18:40: twenty-five seconds of blissful chewing followed by an utter loss for words.

If you want in on that…go make some doughnuts.


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