Brioche donuts are the ultimate form of donut. They’re made with a super fluffy and pillowy brioche dough and fried to golden perfection with that characteristic white line through the center. They can be filled with Bavarian cream, pastry cream, jam, chocolate ganache, diplomat cream or any other soft and creamy filling.
What is brioche dough?
There is lean dough, like ciabatta, bagels and sourdough, which is generally made of just flour, water, yeast and salt. These doughs usually don’t contain much fat in them unlike enriched dough.
Enriched dough generally refers to a dough that’s rich in butter, eggs, milk, and/or sugar, etc. which makes the dough higher in fat, slightly sweeter and more tender. The most popular types of enriched dough are brioche and challah.
Brioche dough usually contains some eggs, milk and/or butter. The ratios are usually specific to the recipe but the main difference between brioche and challah is that traditional challah doesn’t contain dairy, it has a lot more egg yolks and uses olive oil.
The added fat and sugar tenderizes the dough, making it super soft and fluffy. Think fluffy french toast or a soft cream stuffed donut.
Making dough can be intimidating and it sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. There is a lot of science behind baking and especially dough with yeast, it’s actually very interesting but I’ll spare you the nerdy stuff. I’ll just give you a few things to keep in mind.
Ingredients for brioche donuts
- Flour: the added fats will weigh down the dough, making the gluten weaker. That can be balanced with a flour that has a higher protein content, such as bread flour.
- This recipe is made specifically using all-purpose flour to make it more accommodating for those who don’t have access to bread flour.
- Water: I’ve tested this recipe with both milk and water and found that water provides a more pillowy texture for brioche donuts.
- Eggs & egg yolks: My brioche has a little more eggs than traditional and the extra egg yolks added provide extra tenderness, making the donuts super pillowy soft.
- Yeast: this recipe works with both active dry yeast and instant yeast. I follow the same process for most of the dough except for active dry yeast, you’ll want to activate the yeast (see below) and for instant yeast, you can just add it in with the flour.
- Mixing: Depending on the type of yeast, the beginning additions can vary a little but the mixing process is simple. I add the eggs into the flour and sugar, then the butter and water. Mix
- Proofing: Dough proofs best at room temperature or slightly warmer. The colder the room, the slower the rise will be. I like to keep it somewhere between about 75-100°F (24-38°C).
What kind of yeast to use for brioche dough
I wanted to do a whole separate section on this to explain how to use both active dry yeast and instant yeast in this recipe. I’ve made this recipe many many times with both types and both of them turn out amazing.
The recipe is written using instant yeast because it’s easier and quicker but if you want to substitute it for active dry yeast, just follow these instructions.
Unlike instant yeast, active dry yeast needs to be activated. To do this, combine the yeast with HALF of the sugar and the warm water in a large cup, mix it and let it rest for 10 minutes. The mixture should develop a thick layer of foam on top.
If the water and yeast mixture doesn’t foam after at least 10-15 minutes, then the water is either too hot and kills the yeast or the yeast has expired. To be safe, make sure the water is lower than 120 °F (50 °C).
After the mixture has foamed, combine it with the rest of the ingredients and proceed to kneading.
If using instant yeast, I just add it into the bowl with the flour, sugar and salt. Then proceed to adding the eggs, butter and water.
Kneading the dough
You’ll want to knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes. There’s a few markers I use to know when the dough is done kneading.
- The dough should form a ball around the hook attachment on the stand mixer and not stick to the sides of the bowl anymore. It may still stick to the bottom of the bowl a little.
- The dough should also pass the windowpane test. The windowpane test is when you stretch a piece of the dough between your fingers until it’s thin enough to see light through before the dough tears.
If your dough is not passing any of these but is fairly close, that’s ok, just move on after kneading for 5-10 minutes.
If your dough is still really sticky and you can’t even touch it without it sticking to everything, add 2 more tablespoons of flour at a time, until your dough is able to be handled.
What temperature to proof dough at?
You want to make sure your dough is proofing at a comfortable temperature. Generally, room temperature is fine but if it’s slightly warmer, you’ll get a much quicker rise.
Yeast dies at around 120F (50C) so make sure the temperature is lower than that. I recommend anywhere between 75F (24C) to 100F (38C).
The dough can also be proofed in the refrigerator. This is called a retarding proof because it really slows down the process. The Benefit of this is that you can just pop the dough in the fridge overnight and the dough will develop a stronger flavor if it proofs for longer.
You can refrigerate the dough overnight for the first proof or the second proof, just bring it back to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
Some recipes call for rolling the dough out similar to cinnamon rolls and then cutting out rounds. This way you can also a hole from the center and make donuts with holes and donut holes.
I prefer to just gently stretch the dough into a log and slice off chunks of dough. I just wing it but you can weigh them to make sure they’re even.
Slice off chunks, then grab one, place it onto the countertop and cup it with your fingers (dough still on counter, fingers around it like a cage). Now move your hand in a circular motion quickly around the dough (see video above for reference) until it’s a smooth ball.
You can make any size this way. They can be large and filled or tiny donut holes.
Rising and Proofing the dough
Rising and proofing are typically used interchangeably but the initial ‘resting time’ is actually the rising and the second ‘resting time’ is the proofing. The time needed for rising/proofing is dependent on the recipe and the environment.
Typically with instant yeast, you’re “allowed” to skip the first rise and just let the dough relax for just 10 minutes instead before shaping the dough. I prefer to still let it rise. It works both ways but I get a fluffier dough from letting it proof twice.
A general guideline is that the dough should double in size each time. It should also slowly spring back when you press on it, but also leave a small indent.
If the dough springs back quickly, then it needs more time to rise. If it doesn’t spring back at all, it may be over proofed and result in a flat, deflated bread.
I would argue that this step is your “make it or break it”. For the best success, I recommend using a candy thermometer to make sure your oil is at the proper temperature throughout.
The ideal temperature for the oil is 360F (182C) which means you’ll want to use any kind of oil that has a smoke point higher than 400F (204C), just in case your oil overheats a little you don’t want to smoke your whole kitchen. I use vegetable, sunflower or canola oil.
To keep the oil at a more consistent temperature, avoid overcrowding the pot. I do 3-4 donuts at a time. Also avoid having no donuts in the pot as well. When you remove one donut, add a donut.
In place of a candy thermometer, you can also use a meat thermometer or an infrared thermometer to check your oil once in a while. To test the temperature of the oil with any kind of thermometer, stick the end of a wooden spoon into the oil. If it doesn’t bubble at all, it’s not hot enough, if it bubbles slowly and gently, it’s perfect. If the oil bubbles violently, it’s way too hot.
- If the oil is not hot enough, the donuts will not float properly, they will not have that distinct white line in the center (under-proofing can also make this happen), they will take longer than 2 minutes to brown on each side, they will absorb more oil, making them heavy and greasy.
- If the oil is too hot, the donuts will brown very quickly, less than 1 minutes on each side, but the center of the donuts will still be doughy so they will be heavy when you pull them out of the oil.
- If the oil is at the perfect temperature (you can give or take 5-10 degrees), the donuts will brown in 1-2 on each side and they should feel lighter when you lift them out of the oil.
How to air fry donuts
FRIENDS!! Yes, I tested this and it worked magically. The only difference is that the outside crust of the donut is dry since it’s not submerged in oil. So if you want to coat it in sugar you’ll have to brush it with a little butter or something because it doesn’t stick.
I only tested donut holes (about the size of a timbit). I did 400F (204C) for 4ish minutes, flipping halfway. They were perfect but I did not test the big boys but I’m sure it would work.
I would probably lower it to 360F for 5 minutes, then flip them over and do another 5 minutes. Test one first and see if it’s done in the center, then do the rest.
In the photo below, the smallest one is air-fried and the other ones are oil fried.
How to serve donuts
My favorite way to eat brioche donuts is just tossing them in cinnamon sugar while they’re still warm.
Try these classic donuts, tossed in vanilla sugar and filled with Bavarian cream. They can be filled with pastry cream, blueberry jam, rhubarb jam, lemon curd. Ganache is always good (combine any kind of chocolate with cream, option to whip it once it’s cooled too). Diplomat cream (can omit the lemon if you want) or chocolate mousse can be used as well.
Brioche donuts are best served fresh and warm. If they’re not served immediately, it’s best to reserve any filling that requires refrigeration before serving.
If the donuts are not filled they can stay in an airtight container, at room temperature for about 3-4 days. Then refrigerate them for up to a week. When serving unfilled leftover brioche donuts, you can reheat them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.
Donuts filled with a filling that can stay at room temperature for a few days (ganache, jam), can stay out. They can stay out for 3-4 days or as long as the filling is good. Probably not good to reheat these ones.
To keep it simple, serve them fresh or fill them before serving. 🙂
If you’ve made it this far, I apologize for the length. I hope this post is helpful to make the best brioche donuts! Make sure to tag me @baranbakery on instagram and as always, have a blessed day and happy baking!
- 4 1/2 cups (540g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 2 1/4 tsp (7g) instant yeast
- 3 Tbsp (36g) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (113g) salted butter, softened
- 1 cup (8 oz) water
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon and/or 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
- 48oz canola, sunflower or vegetable oil
- Place the flour, yeast, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment. Turn the mixer to low speed, add in the eggs and egg yolks, followed by the softened butter and water.
- Once they’re all combined, turn the mixer to medium-low speed and allow it to knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the dough begins to peel itself away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball around the hook attachment.
- If this doesn’t happen within the kneading time, the dough is too sticky; add 1 to 2 tablespoons (7 to 14 g) of flour and continue to knead until the dough comes together.
- Test the strength of the dough by stretching a piece of dough between your fingers. The dough should stretch thin enough to let light through before tearing.
- Push the dough to one side of the bowl, grease the open side of the bowl, then repeat with the other side. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- Place the bowl in a warm environment, in the sunlight or on a stovetop warming zone, and allow it to proof until it’s doubled in size; this may take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.
- Line two baking sheets with 16-20 4x4” parchment paper squares, and lightly flour a work surface.
- Once the dough has doubled in size and is really fluffy, punch it down and turn it over onto the prepared work surface,
- Split the dough in half. Gently roll each half into a log, and cut each log into 8-10 chunks (you can weigh them to make sure they’re even if you want, I just cut the log in half, then each side in half and in half again).
- Roll each chunk into a tight ball and place the chunks on the prepared baking sheets. Cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap, and place them in a warm environment to proof for 30ish minutes, until they puff up slightly more.
- Prepare for frying the donuts by lining two cooling racks with paper towels and spreading the sugar and cinnamon and/or vanilla powder in a bowl.
- Ten minutes before the donuts are done proofing, heat the oil in a large pot over high heat to about 360F (182C) on a candy thermometer*, then lower the heat to medium. Use the thermometer to keep the oil within 10 degrees of 360F (182C).
- Depending on the size of your pot, place two to four donuts in the oil at a time, being sure to leave space around them. Fry the donuts on each side, turning the donuts with a slotted spoon, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they are browned.
- If it is taking longer than 2 minutes to brown one side of the donut, increase the heat just a little. Work quickly, and avoid having an empty pot, so the oil doesn’t burn.
- Place the fried donuts on the prepared racks. While they’re still warm, toss the donuts in the sugar. Serve warm or let them cool completely to room temperature if filling the donuts.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 208Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 59mgSodium: 169mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 1gSugar: 12gProtein: 5g
Nutrition information may not be fully accurate.