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Vanilla Custard Bread Ahead Donuts

yield: 10 donuts
5 from 2 votes

Special Equipment

  • a deep fryer (see baker's notes)


For the Classic Vanilla Custard Filling

  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces or 99 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (17 ounces or 482 grams) whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean pod
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • cup (1.5 ounces or 43 grams) all-purpose flour

For the Donut Dough

  • 2 cups (9 ounces or 255 grams) bread flour
  • zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 2 ½ Tablespoons (1 ounce or 28 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • cup (2.65 oz or 75 grams) water, warmed to between 120°F to 130°F
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces or 57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1-inch cubes


  • ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) heavy cream
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces or 99 grams) granulated sugar
  • canola oil, for frying


Day 1: Make the Vanilla Custard!

  • Reserve 1 tablespoon of the ½ cup granulated sugar in a small airtight container with a lid and seal. You'll need this sugar for Day 3.
  • Pour 2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons whole milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Use a sharp knife to slit 1 vanilla bean pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds into the milk. Place pod in the milk. Cook to a boil over medium heat, about 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place 6 large egg yolks and the rest of the granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Sprinkle ⅓ cup flour over the mixture and whisk to combine.
  • Once the milk reaches a boil, immediately pour over the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Pour back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes or until thick. The whisk should leave a trail in the custard. Place a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and pour the custard into the sieve, discarding any lumps and the leftover vanilla bean pod. Immediately press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Cool the custard in its bowl on a wire rack for 1 hour; once at room temperature, refrigerate until cool, around 4 hours but preferably overnight.

Day 2: Make the Donut Dough!

  • Combine 2 cups bread flour, zest of 1 medium lemon, 2 ½ Tablespoons granulated sugar, ¾ teaspoon instant yeast, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix to combine, and use a measuring cup or tall glass to create a small "well" in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour ⅓ cup warm water into the well, and mix until shaggy and moist. Add 2 large eggs and mix to break up the yolks. Nestle into the stand mixer and knead on medium speed for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball. Turn off mixer and let the dough rest for 1 minute.
  • After a minute, turn the mixer back on to medium and add ¼ cup cubed butter, 1 to 2 pieces at a time, only adding more when the previous pieces are incorporated. Once all the butter has been added, increase mixer to medium-high and knead until the dough is glossy, smooth, and elastic when pulled, around 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, around 1 to 2 hours.
  • Once doubled in size, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Knead with your hands until deflated, about 1 to 2 minutes, and place back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight until doubled in size once more, about 8 hours.

Day 3: Let rise AGAIN, Fry, and Assemble the Donuts!

  • After their overnight proof, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Use a bench scraper to divide the dough into 10 pieces, about 50 grams (or slightly less than 2 ounces — 1.80 ounces) each. Roll each dough piece into a ball between your hands, similar to how you would roll a piece of PlayDoh or clay into a ball when you were a kid. Keep rolling until each piece is a smooth, tight, round ball.
  • Place the dough balls on lightly floured sheet pans, leaving plenty of space between each to allow them to double in size. Cover with a loose sheet of plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, around 3 to 4 hours.
  • In the last hour of the donuts' final proof, prep your assembly station and deep fryer. Combine ½ cup heavy cream and the reserved 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high until light, fluffy, with medium peaks, about 3 minutes. Fold into the chilled vanilla custard and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a Bismark pastry tip. Refrigerate until ready to use. Place 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a large, shallow bowl and set aside. Line a wire rack with two sheets of paper towels and fill a deep fryer halfway up with canola oil. Heat the oil to 355 (F).
  • Carefully remove the donuts by wedging a floured bench scraper underneath each one. Working in batches of 3 to 4 donuts at a time, fry for 2 minutes on each side, or until the donuts are puffy and golden brown. Once done, use a slotted spoon to move the donuts to the prepared wire rack. Repeat until all the donuts are fried, making sure that the oil temperature is correct every time you start a new batch — if the oil is too hot, they will burn on the outside but stay raw in the middle, and if the oil is too cool, the donuts will be greasy.
  • Toss each donut in the shallow bowl of sugar while still warm from the fryer. To fill each donut, wait 15 minutes to allow the donuts to cool slightly and then use a chopstick or a Bismark pastry tip to poke a hole in the side of each donut. Pipe vanilla custard into the holes until each donut is plump and swollen, around 20 grams (or 0.75 ounces of custard) each. The donut should be stretched thin to the point of bursting. Consume immediately — you deserve it.