Brioche Doughnuts Filled with Italian Mocha Buttercream

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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.

Notes:
*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:

Ingredients:

  1. 120 g castor sugar
  2. 1 teaspoon honey
  3. 30 ml water
  4. 2 egg whites
  5. 200 g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  6. 40 g dark chocolate, melted and at room temperature
  7. 1/2 shot of espresso, at room temperature

Method:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. When ready to assemble, transfer the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle.

For the doughnuts:

Ingredients:

  1. 4 g instant yeast hydrated with 1/8 cup of warm water
  2. 75 g water
  3. 250 g  flour
  4. 30 g caster sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 2 eggs
  7. zest of 1/2 lemon
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. 65 g softened unsalted butter, cubed

Method:

  1. Mix the yeast with the warm water, and let the foam double in size.
  2.  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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

Ingredients:

  1. 300 ml vegetable oil
  2. 70 g castor sugar, for tossing

Method:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Pipe the buttercream into the hole, making sure that a bit of it oozes out the top of the doughnut.