These soft baked crème brûlée donuts are so so pillowy and soft. Featuring a fluffy homemade yeast dough filled with a homemade pastry cream and topped off with burnt sugar syrup, these donuts pack all the delicious flavor of crème brûlée.
what are baked crème brûlée donuts?
It's exactly what it sounds like: a combination of crème brûlée and donuts! This recipe involves making a yeast dough for the donuts, a simple pastry cream for the filling, and a caramelized water/sugar mixture for dipping the tops in. You get all the textures and flavors you'd find in a crème brûlée AND yeast donut!
what makes these baked crème brûlée donuts so good?
- better than fried! I know that's a bold claim, but so true! These donuts taste equally delicious, they're a bit healthier, AND you don't have to stand over your stove frying!
- light and fluffy. The donut dough is so pillowy - it's like a cloud!
- tons of texture. Nothing quite like an airy dough, creamy filling, and crackly sugar topping.
how to make baked crème brûlée donuts
Make the filling:
1. Heat milk until bubbly along the edges.
2. Whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and sugar.
3. Slowly pour in warm milk, whisking as you do. This helps gradually bring up the temperature of the eggs.
4. Strain the egg mixture back into your pot, and cook until thickened.
5. Whisk in butter and vanilla.
6. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the pastry cream. Plastic wrap pressed against the filling will help prevent a skin from forming on the surface! Chill the filling until firmed up.
Make the donut dough:
1. Whisk together wet ingredients to combine.
2. Add flour and salt, and knead until smooth. If needed, gradually mix in more flour until the dough is soft and elastic.
3. Cover and set aside until doubled in size. Depending on how cool your home is, this can take anywhere between 45 minutes to 2 hours.
4. Punch down the risen dough, and transfer to a lightly floured work surface.
5. Roll and cut out donuts.
6. Arrange cutout donuts on a baking sheet, and cover and set aside to rise until about doubled in size again. This second rise will take around 30 to 60 minutes (again, depending on the temperature in your home).
7. Bake donuts until puffed and golden brown. As soon as they're done baking, transfer the donuts to a wire rack so the residual heat from the pan doesn't dry them out.
8. Cool donuts COMPLETELY before filling. Warm donuts will cause a soupy mess if you try to fill them!
9. Once cooled, fill the donuts with the cooled pastry cream! Make a little hole in the side of each donut using a sharp pairing knife or skewer (enough to fit the tip of your piping bag in). Transfer the pastry cream to a large piping bag and cut the tip off. Press the tip into the hole you just made and fill until the pastry cream starts pushing out of the hole.
Make the sugar topping:
1. Combine sugar topping ingredients in a skillet, and cook until golden brown.
2. Dip the tops of the donuts in the sugar, and let sit until firmed up. Enjoy!
working with burnt sugar
Burnt sugar is not difficult to make, but it can be a bit tricky to work with! There are 4 main tips you should keep in mind when working on the sugar topping:
- Do NOT stir! This can cause the sugar to harden and crystalize. If needed, swirl the pan gently to evenly melt and brown the sugar.
- Take the sugar off the heat sooner rather than later! The heat from the pan will continue to brown the sugar significantly after it comes off the stove. The best thing to do is take the skillet off the heat as soon as the center starts to brown. It should be a very light honey color. Swirl the pan around off the heat and wait about 1 minute. The sugar should brown to perfection from the residual heat. If it's still too pale, you can return it to heat for a few seconds to help it along - but there's no going back from overly caramelized sugar!
- Be careful! Hot sugar is... well, HOT. It's best to use a long handled pair of tongs to hold the donut and dip the top in the sugar to avoid having it near your skin.
- Let it set. The topping needs at least 5 to 10 minutes to firm up enough for the sugar to reach the point that you can crack and break it. So be patient!
the key to soft baked donuts
Whenever you're baking a yeast dough, it's very important to keep these key tips in mind to make sure you have the fluffiest dough around:
- yeast. Check to make sure your yeast isn't expired. If you've baked with it recently and had no issue, odds are your yeast is perfectly fine to use! But if you're worried about how active the yeast is, you can test it beforehand by dissolving it into the milk with 1 tablespoon of sugar. After about 5 to 10 minutes the surface of the milk should bubble and foam. If it doesn't, you probably need a new pack of yeast.
- ingredient temperatures. Make sure your ingredients aren't too hot or you run the risk of killing the yeast. The ideal temperature for the milk is 110-115°F, or body temperature. If you stick your finger into the milk, you shouldn't really feel a shift in temperature. The rest of your ingredients should be room temperature. When in doubt, err on the side of slightly colder ingredients - it'll take the dough longer to rise, but at least the yeast will be alive and well!
- rolling the dough. You want to make sure the dough is thick enough to hold the filling, but not too thick or it'll end up doughy. The sweet zone is about ½ an inch thick.
- avoid overbaking! The key to a soft, fluffy, and cloud like baked yeast donut is watching the bake time.
Can I use custard/pudding mix for the filling?
Yes! You can skip a few steps and use store-bought custard or vanilla pudding mix (prepared according to the package instructions) for the filling.
Can you fry baked donuts?
Yes! Feel free to fry these donuts if you prefer. Everything else in the recipe is the exact same!
Do baked donuts taste the same as fried?
These donuts are pretty darn close to fried - the main difference is in the outside crust! Fried donuts have a slicker and slightly crispier outside. Baked donuts are distinctly drier (because they're less greasy) and have an all around soft outside.
These donuts are best served the same day they're made, but will last up to 3 days in the fridge. Avoid making the burnt sugar until right before you plan on serving! These donuts need to be stored in the fridge because of the cream filling - and the sugar topping will soften when exposed to the moisture in the fridge!
check out these other recipes!
Baked Crème Brûlée Donuts Recipe
for the pastry cream filling:
- 1 & ½ cups (360mL) milk
- 3 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
for the yeast donuts:
- ¾ cup (180mL) lukewarm milk (around 110°F)
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar, divided
- 2 & ¼ teaspoons (7g) instant or active dry yeast
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 3 to 4 cups (360g to 480g) all-purpose flour spoon and leveled
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
for the sugar topping:
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (60mL) water
Make the pastry cream filling:
- Pour milk into a medium sized saucepot. Set over medium heat and cook until it starts steaming and the edges just start to bubble. Set aside off the heat.1 & ½ cups (360mL) milk
- In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly pour the hot milk over the egg mixture, whisking as you pour, to gradually bring up the temperature of the eggs.3 large egg yolks, ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- Strain the mixture back into your saucepot. Set the pot over medium heat again and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture starts to boil and thickens to a soft pudding consistency. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes of cooking.
- Take the pastry cream off the heat, and whisk in your butter and vanilla. Pour the pastry cream into a heat safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the pastry cream (to prevent a skin).2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Chill the pastry cream in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours, or until cold and set.
Make the donut dough:
- In a large bowl, whisk together milk, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and yeast to combine. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the surface of the milk starts bubbling and foaming. If it doesn't foam, odds are the yeast is expired or the milk was too hot, and you'll need a new batch.¾ cup (180mL) lukewarm milk, ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar,, 2 & ¼ teaspoons (7g) instant or active dry yeast
- Add the remaining sugar, egg, vanilla, and butter. Whisk to combine.1 large egg,, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 3 tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter,
- Add 3 cups (360g) of flour and salt to the wet ingredients. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix together until it starts to come together into a dough. If it's very sticky, mix in more flour until it forms a ball of dough.3 to 4 cups (360g to 480g) all-purpose flour, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. If needed, add more flour as you knead to keep the dough from sticking.
- Oil a large bowl and place the dough, turning to coat the top and sides of the dough in oil. Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, or until about doubled in size.1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
- Punch down the risen dough, and turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out into about ½ an inch thick and use a 3 inch round cookie cutter to cut donut shapes out.
- Arrange the cutout donuts on your parchment lined baking sheets, leaving at least 3 inches of space between each donut. Gather and reroll the dough to finish cutting out all the donuts.
- Cover and set aside the cutout donuts in a warm place to rise again until doubled in size (about 30 to 45 minutes).
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- Uncover the risen donuts, and bake in the center of your preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until puffed and golden brown on top.
- Take the baked donuts out of the oven, and immediately transfer to a wire rack. Set aside to cool completely before filling.
- To fill the donuts, use a sharp pairing knife to make a hole in the side of each donut. Fill a large piping bag with your chilled pastry cream filling and cut the tip off. Push the tip into the hole in the donut and fill until the pastry cream starts pushing out of the hole.
- Set aside filled donuts in the fridge until ready to top with caramelized sugar. If you don't plan on serving them right away, I would hold off on making the sugar until closer to serving time so that it stays crisp and crackly!
Make the sugar topping:
- In a medium skillet, combine sugar and water. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, gently swirling the pan if needed to ensure the sugar melts evenly. Do not stir or it can cause the sugar to harden and crystalize!1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, ¼ cup (60mL) water
- Continue boiling the sugar until it starts to brown. Once the sugar juuust starts to brown in the center, take it off the heat. It should be a light honey color - the sugar will continue browning significantly from the residual heat of the pan, so it's best to take it off earlier!
- Let the sugar sit for about 1 minute off the heat to continue browning to an amber color. If it doesn't brown enough, return to the heat for a few seconds to help it along. Be careful not to over caramelize the sugar or it will taste burnt!
- Use a long handled pair of tongs to hold the donut and dip the tops into the caramelized sugar. If the sugar firms up too much as you're dipping the donuts, warm over low heat to liquify it again.
- Place the sugar topped donuts on a wire rack or piece of parchment paper to catch any drips and set aside until the sugar has hardened (about 5 to 10 minutes). Serve once the sugar has firmed up!