For the global food fanatics, St. John Bakery won’t be a new name. Like the Magnolia Bakery of New York, it is a household name for baked goods enthusiasts (like me!) For those who don’t know the sheer awesomeness that is St. John, please check it out and prepare to swoon.
I definitely swooned the first time I saw these gorgeous donuts. I decided there and then; I WANT THEM IN MY LIFE. Alas London is a bit too far for me to travel at the moment. So I could either content myself with sighing over delicious pictures or bring some St. John magic to my own kitchen.
Guess which I chose?
No brownie for you because duhhh. Here I am sharing my experience making these little pieces of pastry heaven. Be bold and bake, my lovelies!
(disclaimer: there is no baking involved in this recipe. I just really liked the alliteration 😋)
The original recipe can be found here, and if you go through it you can see that the making of the dough requires a stand mixer. All the recipes for St John doughnuts that I have found in my research impress upon the need of a stand mixer in order for the dough to be light and fluffy. But since I am a humble beginner deprived of the joys of a stand mixer (this was a hint for my parents, in case they are reading this), I was willing to take the risk and knead it by hand. I may not have tasted the original donuts but I can say with surety, mine were pretty darn good.
Making this dough by hand will require some serious elbow grease and patience. I admit there was a time while I was working the dough, that I thought it’s all going wrong! It’s not working, the dough is lumpy and not coming together and I’ve just wasted a lot of ingredients, I am a failure! (over dramatic? My middle name) But gradually and slowly with more kneading and kneading, it came together beautifully. The dough had a lovely stretch to it, just like shown here in this video. And after proofing? My God. The way it rose. I could just tell that it would yield some beautiful doughnuts.
So if you like me don’t have a stand mixer (yet), worry not, for I’ve explained the recipe step by step as to how to make the dough by hand. Understanding them will take time and concentration. But they are well worth it! My only advice to you is to have patience.
While kneading the dough
The overnight wait for it to proof and rest
The second proof after shaping the doughnuts
Allowing them to cool before filling them with the delicious creamy custard
And then… YOU CAN EAT AS MANY DOUGHNUTS AS YOU WANT BECAUSE YOU ARE AWESOME.
I ended up eating five. Don’t judge. THEY’RE THAT GOOD. Not too big, not too greasy; with a soft, airy inside and filled with the most delicious vanilla custard cream.
They turned out exactly as I had hoped and what I believe St. Johns are like – a thin, crisp exterior that gives way to an airy and fluffy center filled with a smooth pastry cream. The doughnuts are rolled in a coating of granulated sugar and cinnamon powder while they’re still warm, which causes it to just sort of melt onto the outside of the doughnut. Sugary perfection.
Nothing compares to biting into a homemade doughnut and seeing that delicious cream ooze out. It has to be one of the most satisfying experiences.
One last thing. I would recommend making and frying all the doughnuts once. Do not store the dough for later use. The texture just isn’t same if made out of a day old dough. The doughnuts are best the day they are made, fresh and crisp!
St John Bakery Doughnuts
Yields: 20 doughnuts
For the Doughnuts:
For the Pastry Cream:
For the Doughnuts:
(If you have a stand mixer then, follow all steps using that, if not then knead by hand *read description above)
Place all the dough ingredients, except from the butter, into a large bowl, and mix with the help of a wooden spoon till the dough starts coming away from the sides and forms a ball. Then slowly start adding the butter to the dough, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix with your hands in circular motion. Dough will be very sticky. Keep on mixing well after each addition until butter is fully incorporated and dough is soft, smooth, and elastic, a total of 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it in a well-floured bowl. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or, preferably, 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 into 2 – 3 -inch squares.
Roll the squares into smooth tight buns and place them on a floured baking tray, leaving plenty of room in between. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel and leave for about 1-2 hours, or until about doubled in size.
Fill a large pot with 2-3 inches of oil. When the oil is hot, carefully place a few doughnuts in the oil.
Fry about 2 minutes per side, until deep golden brown.
Remove the warm doughnuts to a bowl with sugar and cinnamon powder and shake until covered.
Repeat until all the doughnuts have been fried.
For the Pastry Cream:
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks until well combined, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in the flour mixture until thick and pasty. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until bubbles just start to form around the edges. Do NOT boil.
Pour the just boiling milk over the yolk mixture, continuously whisking to prevent curdling, then return the mixture to the saucepan.
Then cook over a medium heat, whisking constantly for about 5 minutes, until very thick and glossy.
Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap against the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled.
Whip the cream until thick and fold into the chilled custard.
Transfer the cream to a piping bag fitting with a small round decorating tip. Poke a hole in the side of each doughnut and fill with pastry cream. The doughnuts should be served as soon as they are filled.
Recipe courtesy: Not without salt, Brown eyed baker
PS. My bunnies, Sam and Pippin, couldn’t resist oohing and aahing over the doughnuts either. :p