St. John Bakery Doughnuts
Friday Donut (or doughnut) Day! It started sometime last year with the simple act of Gabe picking up doughnuts on Friday and then repeating himself the next week. Just like that a tradition was born. Now we all expect it, crave it, look forward to it and appreciate Friday’s all the more because of it.
We’ve used it as a chance to tour Seattle via their doughnut scene, although truth-be-told we’ve mostly landed back to Top Pot because I’m weak for their Salted Caramel Old Fashioned.
It wasn’t until the start of this school year that I started making the doughnuts at home. Three weeks in and, get this, my kids are begging for the store bought kind.
Sorry kids, I’m making you doughnuts. These doughnuts in particular.
It was these very doughnuts that had Gabe and I making the long trek from our little hotel in Notting Hill to St. John Bread & Wine across the street from Spitalfields Market. I know we went at least twice and it’s quite possible there was a third visit. It was because of these doughnuts (thanks, Molly for the heads up) and the bacon sandwich.
They are a simple doughnut; soft, not very sweet and not complex in flavor but have a subtle bitter tang which I now know to be lemon zest. Like most good yeasted recipes the dough takes a sweet time rising and developing in flavor so there’s a very soft sourness. At St. John they filled them with lemon curd and – my favorite – custard. Although someone on Instagram tells me they now have butterscotch which blew my mind and had me pining for a trip back to London.
These doughnuts fueled our weekly fix last Friday and the one before that. The boys missed them warm from the fryer so to make up for it I served them as dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle along with a bit of chocolate sauce. I recommend that way too.
St. John Bakery Doughnuts
This recipe comes from Justin Gellatly who perfected this recipe while working at St. John. He now has his own bakery and a cookbook,Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding: Sweet and Savoury Recipes from Britain’s Best Baker, which is high on my list of next purchases.
I changed the recipe subtly – used all-purpose in place of bread flour, added salt to the custard and switched it from grams to cups for those of you who don’t use a scale. If you want the original recipe it’s right here.
The recipe makes about 20 doughnuts, so it’s safe to say that our neighborhood now celebrates Friday Doughnut Day.
4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
zest from 1/2 a lemon
3/4 cup water
1 stick butter, soft
oil (he recommends sunflower, I used vegetable) for frying
sugar, for tossing the doughnuts
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
6 egg yolks
scant 1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
For the doughnuts:
Put all the dough ingredients, apart from the butter, into the bowl of an electric mixer with a beater attachment and mix on a medium speed for 8min, or until the dough starts coming away from the sides and forms a ball. Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for a minute.
Start the mixer up again on a medium speed and slowly add the butter to the dough, about 1 tablespoon at a time.
Once it is all incorporated, mix on high speed for 5 minutes until the dough is glossy, smooth and elastic when pulled.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise until it has doubled in size, about an hour. Knead the dough just briefly it to get the extra air out, then re-cover the bowl and put into the fridge to chill overnight.
The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and gently press it into a large rectangle about 1-inch thick. Cut the dough (I find a pizza wheel makes quick work of this) into 2 – 3 -inch squares. You should get about 20.
Roll the squares into smooth, taut, tight buns and place them on a greased baking tray, leaving plenty of room between them – you don’t want them to stick together while they prove. Cover lightly with cling film and leave for about 2-3 hours, or until about doubled in size.
Fill a large pot with 2-3 inches of oil leaving at least 5 inches of space from the top. Heat the oil to 360°F.
Carefully place a few doughnuts in the oil. Watch your oil temperature so that he remains right around 360°F. Don’t overcrowd the pan.
Fry about 2 minutes per side, until deep golden brown.
Remove the warm doughnuts to a bowl with sugar and shake until covered.
Repeat until all the doughnuts have been fried.
For the custard:
To make the custard, slit the vanilla pod open lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Put both pod and seeds into a heavy-based saucepan with the milk and bring slowly just to the boil, to infuse the vanilla. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl and mix together for a few seconds, then sift in the flour and mix again. Pour the just boiling milk over the yolk mixture, continuously whisking to prevent curdling, then return the mixture to the saucepan. Add the salt then cook over a medium heat, whisking constantly for about 5 minutes, until very thick.
Pass through a fine sieve, discarding the vanilla, and place a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming. Leave to cool, then refrigerate.
Whip the cream and the 2 tablespoons of sugar together until thick but not over-whipped and fold into the chilled custard.