I’m not a huge fan of frosting, especially the overly-sweet American buttercream. Italian meringue buttercream, however, is one of those great inventions of pastry – silky, light and luscious. It’s stable, holds its shape well and is forgiving when things go a bit awry (which they usually do when meringue is involved). So, when I ran out of cream, I decided to swap the creme patissiere (which is the traditional filling for brioche doughnuts) with this dreamy mocha buttercream.
These doughnuts are light-as-air, tossed in crystals of sugar and filled with the most luscious mocha buttercream. And although the recipe is long (and takes a few hours of kneading, whisking and frying), it is well worth the wait and work.
*This recipe makes 10-13 doughnuts, using a 2-inch round cutter. If you do not have a round cutter, use any round object with sharp edges.
*These doughnuts are best eaten the same day. When stored in the fridge, they lose their light and pillowy texture.
*The brioche dough can be frozen for up to a month. Shape into a ball, place inside a freezer bag, press all the air out and seal. When you want to bake with it, place in the fridge to thaw overnight. Then turn onto a floured surface and let it rest for 20 minutes.
*Please be careful while pouring the sugar syrup into the egg whites.The syrup is extremely hot and can cause severe burns.
*The sugar syrup should not be poured on to the whisk, otherwise you risk it splashing over you. If using a hand-held whisk, ask a second person to help you pour in the sugar mixture.
For the Mocha buttercream:
- 120 g castor sugar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 30 ml water
- 2 egg whites
- 200 g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
- 40 g dark chocolate, melted and at room temperature
- 1/2 shot of espresso, at room temperature
- Add the sugar, honey and water to a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved completely. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring to a boil and boil the mixture for 3 minutes BUT DO NOT STIR! Cook the mixture to the soft ball stage (or 120°C). If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test the temperature of your sugar using this method.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using an electric whisk), whip the egg whites to soft peaks. (when you lift the whisk, it should have a soft peak that droops slightly).
- Slowly pour a steady stream of the sugar syrup into the egg whites, being careful not to hit the whisk. Continue whisking till stiff peaks form and the meringue has cooled slightly.
- Add the softened butter, one cube at a time until fully incorporated. Stir in the chocolate and espresso. Chill in the fridge until ready to use.
- When ready to assemble, transfer the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle.
For the doughnuts:
- 4 g instant yeast hydrated with 1/8 cup of warm water
- 75 g water
- 250 g flour
- 30 g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 65 g softened unsalted butter, cubed
- Mix the yeast with the warm water, and let the foam double in size.
- To make the brioche dough, mix the flour, sugar, water, activated yeast, lemon zest, vanilla, salt and eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until it’s all combined. Then turn up the speed to medium high and let it run for about 5 minutes, or until the dough starts coming away from the sides and forms a ball.
- Slowly add the butter to the dough, a spoonful at a time. Once the butter is incorporated, mix on high speed for 5 minutes until the dough is glossy, smooth and very elastic when pulled.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to proof in the bowl until it has doubled in size, about 1-2 hours. Punch down the dough, cover it and place in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, take the dough out of the fridge tip the sough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a rough shape with 1 inch thickness. Using a 2 inch round cutter, cut as many doughnuts as you can. Re-roll and cut using the scraps. Place on a floured baking tray, leaving plenty of room for them – so they don’t stick together while they proof. Cover lightly with a towel and leave at room temperature for 20 minutes.
To fry and assemble:
- 300 ml vegetable oil
- 70 g castor sugar, for tossing
- Fry the donuts! Place the oil into a large heavy-bottomed pan set over medium-low heat. I didn’t use a thermometer, but the oil should ideally be between 175-180 degrees.
- While the oil comes to temperature, add castor sugar to a bowl and set aside. Line a baking tray with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
- Once at temperature, fry the doughnuts. Don’t overcrowd the fryer – do two to three per batch, depending on the size of your pan. Place on paper towel and then toss in sugar while doughnuts are still warm.
- Once done frying and coating, use a sharp knife to make a small hole into the sides of the doughnuts. Remove the butter from the refrigerator.
- Pipe the buttercream into the hole, making sure that a bit of it oozes out the top of the doughnut.