When you walk into a donut shop, you see lots of familiar treats. There are cake donuts with a variety of sprinkles, crumbs and glazes. There are crackly old fashioned donuts, also made with cake donut dough, that have a lot of texture to them. There are yeasted donuts in all kinds of rings, twists and swirls, with glazes, sparkling sugars and other toppings. There are also twisted, ring-shaped crullers. These are french donuts that stand out on the donut shelf because they are very different from their cake and yeast-raised neighbors.
I’ve seen crullers described as just another cake donut, but one bite will tell you that this simply isn’t true. Crullers are light, moist and eggy inside. Unlike cake donuts, they are often hollow, as well. Crullers are donuts that are actually made with pate a choux, the same pastry used to make cream puffs and eclairs. The choux paste is made and piped into rings using a big star tip – which helps give them their signature crinkly look – before being deep fried like any other donut.
Choux paste is not difficult to work with or to pipe, and it keeps well in the fridge for several days if you want to make it in advance. It is difficult to handle freshly piped choux paste enough to get it into the frying pan without it loosing its shape, however. To avoid this problem, I used a tip from Gale Gand’s cruller recipe (since they all start with choux, I’ve noticed that most cruller recipes look pretty much the same!) and froze the dough for a few minutes before frying the donuts. This firmed them up enough to make them easy to handle and hold their shape until they got into that hot oil.
Crullers are best when they are relatively fresh – though the same could be said for all donuts – and have a slightly crisp texture to contrast to their softer, eggy centers. I topped mine with a coconut glaze and some toasted coconut. The crullers are not sweet on their own, so you’ll want to at least go for some powered sugar or cinnamon sugar on top if you don’t want to glaze your batch.
Toasted Coconut Glazed Crullers
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs
Vegetable oil, for frying
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup toasted, shredded coconut
Combine water, butter and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Once that mixture boils, add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula until dough comes together in a ball. Continue to cook and stir for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
Transfer dough to mixer or clean bowl and let mix at a low speed for 2 minutes until slightly cooled (bowl should not be too hot to touch). Add eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is fully incorporated to add the next one. Increase mixer speed to make batter smooth.
Transfer choux to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pipe choux into 3-inch (donut sized) circles.
Place baking sheet in the freezer for 20-25 minutes to set the choux.
Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy saucepan (you will need a depth of about 2-inches) to 375F.
Drop semi-frozen choux rings into the hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.
Drain crullers on a plate lined with paper towels before glazing.
For glaze, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, coconut milk and vanilla until smooth. Dip the top of each donut into the glaze, then sprinkle donuts with toasted coconut. Place donuts on a wire rack to allow the glaze to set.
Makes about 12 donuts