Once I developed my Strawberry Brioche dough for my Strawberry Fig Babka, all I could think about are Strawberry Donuts. If you read my Strawberry Fig Babka post, you know that I borrowed from one of my favorite blogs, Sally’s Baking Addiction, the technique of cooking down pureed strawberries into — what I call — a strawberry paste. To complement and further enhance the strawberry kissed dough for these donuts, I developed a strawberry pastry cream, lightened with a bit of strawberry whipped cream for the donuts’ filling. To gild the strawberry lily, I coated each donut in a mixture of ground freeze dried strawberries and sugar.
Best to Make these Strawberry Donuts Over Two days
While there are a number of steps to make these donuts, it’s not really complicated. It is certainly possible to make them in one day, but I much prefer to break it up over two days. You can make the dough and let it bulk ferment in the refrigerator overnight. Plus, you can make the filling components and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight. This way, you can shape and fry up the donuts in the morning and have them in time for breakfast. I wrote this recipe to be made over two days, but I included a note in the bottom for how to do it in one day.
How to Make Strawberry Paste
The key to success to the Strawberry Brioche dough is cooking down the strawberries in order to significantly reduce the liquid. I am calling this strawberry paste rather than puree because the end result is more reminiscent of a tomato paste in terms of look, although not quite as thick as tomato paste. Making the strawberry paste is actually quite simple and requires only one ingredient: strawberries! That said, if you want to “up” the strawberry flavor, you can grind up some freeze dried strawberries (12 grams or 1/2 cup) in a blender to turn it into a powder and cook it with the puree.
Fresh or Frozen Strawberries?
When I decided to go down this strawberry path, I discovered that the local markets did not have very nice looking strawberries, and what they did have were astronomical in terms of price. I believe that is because it is not yet strawberry season in my area, and we usually get strawberries this time of year from Texas. Earlier this year, however, Texas experienced unusually cold weather that killed much of the strawberry crop. Such is life.
I did not want the lack of fresh strawberries to slow me down, so I opted for frozen strawberries. A dear friend of mine who lives in California and has an abundance of fresh, sweet strawberries has made this dough recipe with fresh strawberries. While she obtained a delicious, fluffy brioche, she reported back that it did not have any strawberry flavor. Since I have not been able to try it out myself with fresh strawberries, this recipe only uses frozen strawberries.
That said, if you want to use fresh strawberries, make sure that they are very ripe and sweet. One of the benefits of using frozen strawberries is that they are picked and frozen at their peak. The downside to using frozen strawberries is that they have even more water in them. All that means is that it needs to cook longer. No biggie.
In the U.S., Dole sells 1-pound sized bags of whole strawberries, which should be enough for this recipe. I have also used other brands that sell 10 ounce bags (which is almost two-thirds of a pound), in which case I have pureed and cooked down 20 ounces at a time. While I have had success with other brands, I have found that Dole has a little less water in them, resulting in a faster cook time. I will also tell you that when I last cooked down 20 ounces of strawberry puree from a generic brand, it took 2.5 hours when I had the flame as low as possible. (I will get into cook time in Step 2, below.)
Step 1: Puree the Strawberries
When using frozen strawberries, allow them to thaw at least a half hour, if not longer, before pureeing. Even if you have a strong blender like a Vitamix, it will be easier to puree them when they aren’t so frozen.
Step 2: Cook the Puree to a Paste
Regardless of whether you use fresh or frozen strawberries, the trick is to make sure you cook down the puree until it is a paste. When you slide a spatula against the bottom of the pan, the mounds on either side should hold their shape so you can see the bottom of the pan. Even when you are at that point, I recommend to keep cooking for a bit. I call this a paste because it should look similar to tomato paste.
When cooking the puree, do not start by bringing it to a boil, as the sides may burn and stick to the pan. Your best bet is to set the flame on medium-low, giving it a stir every 10-15 minutes. If using frozen berries, it will take longer to reach the paste consistency.
Once cooked, allow it to cool at least 15 minutes before making the dough. While it can be warm, you do not want it to be much warmer than 115° F so you do not kill the yeast when you first mix all the dough ingredients. You can also make the strawberry paste in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to one week. Just let it get to room temperature before mixing it with the rest of the dough ingredients.
Seven Easy Steps to Make Strawberry Donuts
1. Mix the Strawberry Donut Dough
Using a KitchenAid mixer makes this step seamless. Especially if you are using dry active yeast, the important thing here is to make sure that your eggs and butter are at room temperature. Forgot to take them out of the refrigerator and feeling so excited to get started that you do not want to wait 30-60 minutes for the eggs and butter to get to room temperature? No sweat. Check out my Getting to Room Temperature post.
2. Knead Until it Passes the Window Pane Test, then Add the Butter
You may need to stop your mixer to wipe down the sides as it kneads. I highly recommend using a dough scraper, although a rubber spatula can work too. The dough should clean the bottom of the bowl, meaning that it does not stick to the bowl. Although the dough should not be overly sticky, it should be slightly tacky. If the dough is not cleaning the bottom and sides of the bowl, add 10 g. (1 Tablespoon) of flour at a time. Because we all may cook down the strawberries to different stages, you may have more liquid in your dough. Adding small amounts of flour like this will allow you to control the dough until it gets to the point of cleaning the bottom and sides of the bowl. It should take 5-10 minutes for the dough to be kneaded.
You will know it is done when you take a small piece of it and carefully spread it thin. If it doesn’t rip and is translucent, it has passed the window pane test! At this point, put the mixer back on and add the butter, 1 Tablespoon at a time, allowing each Tablespoon to be fully incorporated before adding the next.
3. Allow the Strawberry Donut Dough to Rest
At room temperature, bulk fermentation will take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. However, by making the dough ahead, you can have Strawberry Donuts for breakfast the next day! Simply place the dough in a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Pop it in the refrigerator overnight. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
4. Prepare the Strawberry Cream Filling
The filling for these Strawberry Donuts is a strawberry pastry cream lightened with a little strawberry whipped cream. (Sooooooooo delish!) Let’s deal with the cream for the strawberry whipped cream first: In an airtight container, mix together the heavy cream and the diced strawberries. Cover and refrigerate.
Pastry cream is super quick to make. The key to success for pastry cream is simple: organize. Before you start cooking, have a heat proof bowl or a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap prepared and gather all your ingredients. Have a strainer, a whisk and a rubber spatula close by.
In a medium pot, add the milk, half the sugar and the vanilla bean paste. (Instead of the vanilla bean paste, you can scrape the seeds of a half a vanilla bean into the milk or just use vanilla extract.) In a separate heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg, yolks, rest of the sugar, ground dried strawberries, and the cornstarch. While the milk is heating to a boil, whisk the egg mixture really good until it thickens a bit. Place the bowl on a rubber mat or swaddle it with a wet kitchen towel to hold it in place.
Once the milk mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and allow it to sit for a minute or two. Slowly pour approximately one-third of the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so you do not end up with scrambled eggs. Then pour the tempered egg mixture back into the pot, whisking constantly. Bring it to a boil over a medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Once it comes to a boil, set a timer (Alexa is perfect for this!) for two minutes, whisking the entire time. (Nerd alert: Without getting too hyper-technical, we boil the mixture for two minutes because that is enough time to cook the eggs to stabilize the proteins with the starch from the cornstarch.)
Once the two minutes are up, remove the pastry cream from the heat and pour it through a strainer (to catch any unwanted scrambled egg parts) into a heat proof bowl or onto the plastic wrap over a baking sheet. Cover the top with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming (which happens when milk/cream is cooked and cooled). The pastry cream will quickly set up as it cools. To cool it quicker, place the bowl of pastry cream into an ice water bath. Store the pastry cream in the refrigerator.
5. Fry the Strawberry Donuts
The next morning, fill a wide pot with a few inches of oil. Using a candy thermometer, heat the oil to 350°F. You’ll have to increase and decrease the heat, but shoot for 340°F to 350°F.
Meanwhile, cut 20 squares of parchment paper, each 4-inches by 4-inches (does not need to be exact) and set aside. You will place each donut on a parchment square.
Then lightly flour the counter and roll out the dough so it is approximately half an inch thick. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut out the donuts. Place each one onto a parchment square, placing each on a baking tray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Mix together the ground, freeze dried strawberries and sugar.
Fry the donuts, two at a time. Place the donut with the parchment square into the oil, so the parchment square is on top. After 20 to 30 seconds, use tongs to lift off the parchment paper and discard it. (It will come right off. Using the parchment prevents us from touching the donuts and mis-shaping them as we put them into the oil.) Cook for approximately 1-2 minute on each side, until golden brown. You can keep turning them over every 30 seconds or so. Use tongs, a skimmer, a slotted spoon, a long fork, or chopsticks to flip them over.
Once cooked, remove them onto a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (makes for easier cleanup). Allow them to cool for just 30 seconds before coating them with the strawberry sugar. Place back on the rack and allow them to cool completely.
6. Mix the Strawberry Cream Filling
You can mix the strawberry pastry cream by hand or with a mixer. A hand mixer is perfect for this job. You just want to mix it to smooth it out, just a minute or so.
Using a strainer to catch the diced strawberries, pour the cream into a cold bowl. (I like to stick a metal bowl in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. Cream whips up faster when it is cold, so whipping it in a cold bowl is to your benefit.) Use a whisk or hand mixer to whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to over-whip it. Whisking by hand is a bit of a workout, but you have much more control so that you do not over-whip. (Pro tip: If you over-whip the whipped cream, simply whisk in an additional 1-2 tablespoons of additional cream.)
Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream and pour into a pastry bag fitted with a medium-wide tip. (You can toss in the discarded strawberries too, but make sure the hole in your pastry tip is big enough for them to come out.)
7. Fill the Strawberry Donuts
Use a paring knife to cut a small hole into the donut. Then you can insert a finger inside to clear the way for the strawberry cream filling. A honing steel (knife sharpener) also works great for this. Just make sure the honing steel is cleaned well, as you do not want any pieces of metal from prior knife sharpening to fall into your donuts. Then fill each donut with the filling, leaving a small blob coming out of the hole.
The donuts are best the day that they are made. If you do not plan to serve the donuts immediately, keep the strawberry cream (in the pastry bag is fine) refrigerated and fill the donuts just prior to serving.
- candy thermometer
- 7 g. active dry or instant yeast (2¼ tsp. or 1 envelope)
- 245 g. milk* (1 cup)
- 75 g. granulated sugar (⅓ cup plus 2 tsp.)
- 1 large egg (at room temperature)
- 1 large egg yolk (at room temperature)
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 130 g. strawberry paste** (½ cup, packed)
- 550 g. all purpose flour (4½ cups plus 1 Tbsp.)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 113 g. unsalted butter (at cool room temperature, cut into 8 pieces (8 tbsp. or ½ cup))
- canola oil or any other neutral oil suitable for frying (a 48 ounce bottle should be more than enough)
Strawberry Cream Filling:
- 75 g. heavy cream (⅓ cup)
- 25 g. strawberries, diced into small pieces (4-6 medium sized strawberries)
- 25 g. freeze dried strawberries, processed into powder in blender or food processor (1 cup)
- 25 g. corn starch (3 Tbsp.)
- 475 g. whole milk (2 cups)
- ½ tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 125 g. sugar (⅔ cup)
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 100 g. sugar (½ cup)
- 25 g. freeze dried strawberries, processed into powder in blender or food processor (1 cup)
- Dough. [If using instant yeast, skip to Step 3 and add the yeast and the milk with the rest of the ingredients.] In microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring after each interval, warm milk to body temperature, generally between 105°F and 110°F. Alternatively, you can heat the milk in a saucepan on a low flame, stirring constantly. Either way, do not let the milk get above 115°F. (If you do, just let it sit out at room temperature for a couple of minutes constantly checking it until it cools to body temperature.)
- Place warmed milk into bowl of electric mixer. Sprinkle yeast and approximately 1 tsp. of the sugar over the milk. Using a fork, stir the mixture to distribute the sugar and hydrate the yeast granules. Allow to sit for approximately 3-5 minutes until the mixture gets foamy.
- Add the room temperature egg, the room temperature egg yolk, the strawberry paste, and the vanilla to the mixture. Using the dough hook, turn the mixer on at a low speed and add the rest of the sugar. With the mixer running at the lowest speed, add the flour. As the flour starts to get absorbed by the liquid mixture, raise the mixer to a medium speed. You may need to turn the mixer off once or twice to wipe down the sides of the bowl with a dough scraper or rubber spatula. Allow to knead for approximately 3 minutes. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl and be tacky, but not too sticky. If it is too wet (sticking to the sides and bottom of the bowl), add some flour, no more than 1 Tbsp. at a time. If the mixture is too dry, add a little milk, 1 tsp. at a time.
- Lower the mixer speed to low (1 or 2 on the KitchenAid) and slowly add the salt, allowing it to knead into the dough, an additional 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and take a small piece (approximately 1 tsp.) of dough and stretch it between your fingers. It should form a “window pane”, meaning it should get thin enough that it is translucent without it ripping. If it is not at that point yet, continue kneading in the machine at 1 minute intervals. (It may just need an additional minute or two to reach the window pane stage. If it still isn’t there yet, check to see if the dough is too dry. If it is, add ½ tsp. water and knead another minute.)
- With the mixer running at medium speed, add the butter. It is best to add it one piece at a time, waiting until it is fully integrated into the dough before adding the next piece. You may need to turn off the mixer from time to time to push the slab of butter back into the range of the dough and the hook. This process will take approximately 5-10 minutes. Once all the butter is incorporated, the dough will look shiny and be slightly tacky. (If, after approximately ten minutes, the butter is still not fully incorporated, do not panic. Just move to the next step – having some unincorporated butter is not problematic in this recipe. That said, the key to incorporating the butter is nothing more than patience.)
- Lightly grease a bowl with a little butter or nonstick cooking spray. Form dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Turn the dough over to coat it in the butter or nonstick cooking spray and cover tightly with plastic wrap.*** Refrigerate the dough overnight.
- Strawberry Cream Filling. In an airtight container, mix together the heavy cream with the diced strawberries. (These are the first two ingredients in the Strawberry Cream Filling.) Cover and refrigerate overnight. Set a a heatproof bowl aside or line a baking sheet with plastic wrap.
- In a heavy saucepan, bring the milk, vanilla bean paste and half of the sugar (you can eyeball it) to a boil, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugar dissolves.
- While the milk is heating, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, the yolks, the rest of the sugar, the freeze dried strawberry powder, and the cornstrach. Whisk until the mixture starts to thicken slightly, so it leaves a ribbon for a few seconds when you lift the whisk from the bowl. Place the bowl on a rubber mat, other non-stick surface, or wrap a wet towel around the bottom to hold it in place as you whisk in the hot milk.
- Once the milk comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for approximately one minute. Carefully pour approximately ⅓ of the milk mixture in the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Quickly pour the tempered egg mixture back into the pot with the rest of the milk mixture, whisking constantly. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly. Once it starts to boil, set a timer for 2 minutes. Continue cooking and whisking constantly. After two minutes, immediately pour the pastry cream through a strainer into a heatproof bowl or onto plastic wrap laid out on a baking sheet. Immediately cover the top of the pastry cream with plastic wrap and allow it to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, cut 20 squares of parchment, approximately 4 inches by 4 inches. Prepare the sugar coating by mixing together the sugar with the freeze dried strawberry powder. Place an empty mixing bowl (metal is ideal) in the freezer or refrigerator.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out until it is ½-inch thick. Shoot for a rectangle, but any shape will do. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut donuts out, placing each one on a parchment square, then placing each parchment square one on a baking sheet. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
- Fill a large pot with a few inches of oil, enough for the donuts to float in. Using a candy thermometer to note the temperature, heat the oil over medium heat to 350° F. (You will probably have to adjust the heat throughout the cooking process. Try to maintain the temperature between 340°F and 350°F.)
- While the oil is heating up, set up a cooling rack or two over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Carefully insert two donuts (with the parchment squares) into the oil. After approximately 30 seconds, use tongs to remove and discard the parchment squares. Allow the donuts to cook 1 to 2 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned. Using tongs, a skimmer, a large fork/spoon, or chopsticks, flip the donuts and cook an additional 1-2 minutes, until the donuts are lightly browned. Once cooked, use a skimmer or slotted spoon to carefully remove the donuts, placing them on the prepared cooling rack. Allow the donuts to cool for no more than 30 seconds, then (using tongs) coat them in the strawberry sugar. Place on cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Repeat with remaining donuts.
- While donuts are cooling, beat the pastry cream until it is sooth. (You can do this by hand or with a mixer. A hand mixer is perfect for this.) Remove the cold bowl from the freezer or refrigerator and strain the strawberries and cream mixture into it. Whisk the cream (by hand or with a mixer) until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream. (You can fold in the discarded strawberries, but make sure to use a tip on the pastry bag wide enough for them to go through.) Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium sized tip with the mixture. Poke a hole into each donut and use your finger (or a clean knife honing steel) to push the insides around. Pipe each donut just until they are full. Best to fill the donuts just prior to serving. The filling can remain refrigerated in the piping bag until you are ready to fill and serve.