Salted Caramel Glazed Doughnut Holes
Tender yeast raised doughnut holes are filled with salted caramel pastry cream and drizzled with salted caramel sauce.
My oven went out last week. I opened it after it had been preheating for 20 minutes or so to bake a loaf of my favorite, almost weekly loaf of banana bread, to find that it was still ice cold. Nothing that I did would cause the heating element to turn on. I eyed my banana bread batter and my toaster oven, and thought, “Why not?”
As it turns out, banana bread bakes up pretty well in a toaster oven. As do homemade baking powder biscuits, which I discovered the next night while making bacon and egg biscuit sandwiches for dinner.
Still, there is a limit to what you can bake in a toaster oven and there’s just no way this house is going without an oven for an extended amount of time. So, last Friday night my husband and I went out in search of a new one, which we found – a double oven (DOUBLE OVEN!!!) which I am ridiculously excited about.
We’d been invited to join our neighbor’s for dinner last weekend and I had promised to make the dessert. But, my new oven is not scheduled for delivery until Thursday. So, what sweet treat do you make for 15 people without an oven? You get out the fryer and make…
Doughnuts are usually something I reserve for breakfast and brunch. But, that kind of nonsense is over, because Doughnut Holes for dessert are the bomb. Especially for a crowd.
First of all, doughnut holes are already proportioned into individual serving sizes. I made mine somewhat larger than what you’d cut from the center of a whole doughnut because I wanted them to be large enough to contain quite a bit of salted caramel pastry cream (because OMG, salted caramel pastry cream is delicious).
I also wanted each doughnut hole to be large enough to provide a satisfying 2 or 3 bite dessert all on their own. I made them golf ball size, but you can make these any size you like.
Just be aware that shaping these doughnut holes into larger or smaller balls of dough will affect the cooking time. Smaller doughnut holes will cook much faster. And, if you decide to make your doughnut holes much larger than golf ball size, I’d suggest lowering the temperature of the cooking oil by 10 or 15 degrees so that the center has time to cook before the outside burns.
Salted Caramel Doughnut Holes Recipe Notes
These doughnut holes are filled with salted caramel pastry cream, which is just pastry cream with salted caramel sauce whipped in. Then they are drizzled with even more salted caramel sauce. So, you’re going to need to have some salted caramel sauce on hand.
If you’d like to try your hand at homemade, this recipe for salted caramel sauce is amazing. It’s one of those things that I like to have on hand pretty much all the time because it makes everything better. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I thought to fill these doughnut holes with salted caramel pastry cream – I already had some salted caramel sauce in the refrigerator.
If you’re not keen on making salted caramel sauce from scratch, just purchase a couple of jars of caramel sauce and stir some salt into it. You’ll need about 1 1/2 cups of sauce.
For Perfect Doughnut Holes, Plan Ahead
Every element in these salted caramel doughnut holes, the salted caramel sauce, pastry cream and dough, can be made in about 5 hours, start to finish. (Not all of that 5 hours is hands-on. It includes time for the dough to rise.) If you don’t have a 5 hour block of time, no worries. The salted caramel sauce and pastry cream can both be made in advance and you can control how long it takes the dough to rise by placing it in the refrigerator.
The salted caramel sauce will keep well in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. So, make it as far in advance as you like. The pastry cream will keep for up to 2 days, covered in the refrigerator.
You can also slow down the rise time of your dough by allowing it to rise in the refrigerator. This is a great way to fit bread baking into a schedule that doesn’t allow for you to be home for several hours in a stretch. The dough will continue to rise in the refrigerator, but will do so at a much slower rate.
If your plan is to make everything in one day, here’s your game plan:
- Make the pastry cream, place it in the refrigerator to chill completely.
- Make the doughnut hole dough, cover and let it rise for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
- While the dough is rising, make the salted caramel sauce. Let it sit on the counter, stirring from time to time, to cool to room temperature. The sauce needs to be at room temperature before incorporating it into the pastry cream. If your salted caramel sauce isn’t cooling down fast enough, just put it in the refrigerator for a while.
- Shape the doughnut holes and let them rise for about 45 minutes.
- Heat your oil and fry the doughnut holes, let cool completely before filling with pastry cream.
- While the doughnut holes cool, finish the salted caramel pastry cream: whip the cream and beat in the chilled pastry cream and room temperature salted caramel sauce.
- Fill the doughnut holes, drizzle with salted caramel sauce.
- Share and devour.
Used to make this recipe:
You might also like:
- Overnight Caramel Sticky Buns
- Overnight Homemade Glazed Doughnuts
- Bananas Foster Butter Cake
- Chocolate Almond Babka
Salted Caramel Doughnut Holes
- 1 Recipe Salted Caramel Sauce (OR 1½ cups store bought caramel sauce seasoned to taste with salt.)
- 1½ tsp unflavored gelatin
- 3 tsp cold water
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 6 large egg yolks
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup whipping cream
- 1 cup salted caramel sauce
- 2 cups whole milk, at room temperature, between 75 and 85 degrees
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3½ tsp active dry yeast
- 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten
- 6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 6 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- Vegetable oil for frying
- In a small dish, stir the gelatin and water together to combine. There should be just enough water to moisten the gelatin, creating a thick paste. Set aside.
- Add milk, sugar, salt, egg yolks and cornstarch to a 4-quart or larger heavy bottomed saucepan and whisk vigorously to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, at which point the mixture will have thickened to the point that the whisk will leave tracks as you stir. Remove from the heat and whisk for 30 seconds longer. Pour into a bowl.
- Break the gelatin into small pieces, dropping them into the hot pastry cream. Whisk until the gelatin is completely incorporated, about 20 seconds. Whisk in vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap over the surface of the pastry cream, and punch a few holes in the surface of the wrap with a sharp knife. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
- After the pastry cream has chilled, whip the heavy cream until medium peaks form.
- Remove the cooled pastry cream from the refrigerator. Add the pastry cream and 1 cup of the salted caramel sauce to the whipped cream and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated, creamy and smooth. The Pastry Cream is now ready to use. If not using it right away, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
- Pour the milk into the bowl of a standing mixer, and sprinkle in the sugar and yeast. Stir to combine and then let sit for about 5 minutes to let the yeast begin to come alive. Whisk in the egg, egg yolk, melted butter, vanilla, lemon zest, and nutmeg.
- Fit your mixer with the dough hook, add 5 cups of the all-purpose flour and mix on low speed (speed number 2 on a KitchenAid Mixer) until the dough begins to come together. Slowly add enough of the remaining cup of flour so that the dough comes together into a soft, slightly sticky ball. Depending on the humidity in the air, this might take the entire remaining cup or only a bit of it. What you're looking for is a soft, smooth ball of dough that clings to the dough hook, and does not stick to the sides of the bowl, but does stick slightly to the bottom of the bowl. If you stop the mixer and touch the dough, it should feel slightly sticky, but not so wet as to be confused with cookie dough.
- Once the dough has come together, sprinkle in the salt. Continue to kneed in the mixer for about 8-10 minutes. The dough should look very soft and smooth.
- Butter a large bowl and dump the dough into the bowl. Butter a piece plastic wrap (or spray with non-stick spray) and use it to cover the bowl. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours, until it has doubled in size.
- Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- After the dough has risen, dump it out of the bowl onto a clean work surface and divide in half. Keep half covered while working with the other half. Divide the half portion of dough into 26 pieces and roll between your palms into golf ball sized balls. Place on a parchment covered baking sheet, spaced at least 1-inch apart. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with non-stick baking spray and cover the dough. Repeat with remaining half of dough.
- Allow the doughnut holes to rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 45 min to 1 hour.
- Heat a fryer to 350 degrees, OR pour enough vegetable oil into a large, deep saucepan to come up the sides 3 or 4 inches, and heat the oil to 350 degrees. Fry the doughnut holes, 6-8 at a time, for about 3 minutes, until a deep golden brown, using a slotted spoon to gently flip from side to side to encourage even browning. If large bubbles appear in the dough that prevent the doughnut holes from flipping over, use a sharp knife to gently pierce the bubble. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to paper towels to drain. Do your best to keep the temperature of the oil between 340-370 degrees.
- Let the doughnuts cool completely before filling with salted caramel pastry cream.
- Fit a pastry bag with a round or star tip and fill the bag with pastry cream. Insert the tip into the side of each doughnut hole and squeeze in some pastry cream, until you see the sides of the doughnut hole expand a bit. When you remove the piping tip from the doughnut hole, a bit of pastry cream should seep outside, which is how you know you've filled them enough.
- Drizzle the tops of the doughnut holes with additional room temperature salted caramel sauce and serve.