I had two really perfect experiences with doughnuts last year. One was at Tour de Farm, a farm to table dinner I worked on for several years. The brioche doughnuts were made by Heidi Woodman and they were perfect. They were light and fluffy, tossed in superfine sugar served with whipped cream and a single leaf of lemon verbena. It was stunning in it’s simplicity and delish-ness.
The second was at a restaurant called Indigenous, in Sarasota Florida. It was a savory benget, light and full of cheesy goodness, with honey and thyme. Yum. It had to be replicated. So, that’s what I did.Rather than do the cheese fondue like mixture, ala Indigenous, I chose to whip goat cheese with a little parmesan and pipe that into the doughnuts. Then I served that with some grated parmesan, thyme, fresh ground pepper and a very liberal drizzle of honey, cuz, honey, you know I love the honey. On the plate I also had some honeydew, also drizzled with honey and sprinkled with salt. (So yum.)
As it turns out brioche isn’t like other doughs so everything I knew about bread kinda had to be ignored. That was fine. Just take it slow. Let the dough incorporate everything and then move on to the next step. Make it a bunch of times. (My neighbors have become accustomed to the sight of me wandering around the neighborhood with doughnuts in hand. I even have one neighbor who plowed my driveway in some sort of snow removal for baked goods exchange.)
This recipe is pretty big so that I can make it once and use it in 4 ways. I make doughnuts and rolls or small loves. I tend to par bake the rolls which means stopping the baking process when they’re about 5 minutes from being done, then cooling, wrapping them up and freezing.
1/2 c water (slightly warm to the touch)
1/2 c whole milk (slightly warm to the touch)
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 t salt
6 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 c sugar
24 T (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4oz goat cheese, softened
1oz romano cheese, finely grated
fresh ground black pepper
fresh thyme or sweet basil julienned
1 – 2 c superfine sugar
1T spice like cardamom, cinnamon or orange zest (optional)
Mixing & Rising
Combine milk & water in a measuring cop and whisk in yeast over. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes. Pour yeast mixture into a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment and add in flour and salt.
Blend at medium-low speed until shaggy lumps form, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add in sugar. Increase speed to medium; beat until smooth, 3 minutes or so.
Reduce speed to low. Add butter, 1 – 2 T at a time, beating until each one is completely blended, about 1 – 2 minutes (dough will be soft and silky).
Scrape dough into middle of the bowl. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until about doubled in volume, 1 and a half hours.
Gently punch down dough by lifting around edges, turning bowl and pulling it into middle. Cover bowl again and chill overnight.
Roll dough out with a rolling pin until it’s about 1/4″ thick. Punch out doughnuts with a biscuit cutter and place on a parchment covered cookie sheet or other tray. Place in warm draft-free area and cover with a clean towel. Let dough rise until light and almost doubled (about 1 hour.)
At the end of the rising process, whip the goat cheese, and parm together with a fork or mixer until it’s fluffy. Transfer to a pasty bag fitted with a medium pastry tip. (Stick pastry bag – tip side down in a tall glass until ready to use.)
Heat peanut oil to 350. Gently drop doughnuts away from you, into oil and fry until dark brown on each side. Doughnuts should flip themselves when they’re done cooking, but if they’re done on one side before they flip, you should flip them.
Transfer to a paper towel-lined cookie sheet and let cool. Sugar doughnuts: cool slightly, toss in the sugar & spices in a small paper bag.
Savory doughnuts: wait until they’ve cooled enough to handle them, then insert a knife, slicing back and forth to create a space for the cheese. Then insert a chopstick to create a little hole and fill with cheese from the pastry bag. Doughnuts should be almost splitting when they’re filled. Place them on a serving tray, drizzle with honey and grate some parm over the top.
Pour dough out of bowl onto parchment paper covered surface. Divide in half. Put half back in the bowl and put it back in the refrigerator.
If you’re making loaves divide into two for full sized or 4 for mini loaves. Shape them into a loaves and put into pans. For rolls divide dough into 12 portions. Divide each one of those portions into thirds and roll into balls. Place 3 balls in each muffin slot. Place in warm draft-free area and cover with a clean towel. Let dough rise until light and almost doubled (about 1 hour.)
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Gently brush or spray egg glaze over risen dough loaf or muffin pans. (Sprinkle with sea salt if you want to.)
Bake brioches until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to rack. Cool 10 minutes. Remove brioches from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.