Looking for a showstopper for breakfast/brunch? You can stop now. This frankendessert will RUIN you. Yes, that is a good thing.
Full disclaimer, I live in Chicago and have never tried the original. This croissant donut hybrid was flaky with crispy edges and a soft buttery center. On its own it was quite flavorful, but drizzled with salted caramel it was to-die-for.
I researched recipes for donuts, croissants, and fried pies. My first and most major concern was the butter factor. There is a LOT of butter in this recipe (as any good croissant recipe should have). Butter has a much lower smoking point than peanut oil or shortening. The dough might not hold its shape and just disintegrate because its essentially held together by butter.
Concern two was the combo of flaky layers and eggs. If the eggs souffled too much because of the hot oil, it would puff up and puff up until YAR, she blows. But I did not want to sacrifice fat, moisture, or taste. Calories I can spare.
After I found a satisfactory croissant recipe, my final concern was time. Laminating the dough is a process. A process that requires a lot of arm strength. My arms were so sore this morning from rolling out the dough the night before, I had Adam start off the rolling. It also requires a lot of resting (for the gluten to relax and for your muscles to recover).
Now the famous dessert that people line up for hours to try are rolled in sugar, filled with cream and topped with glaze. Ain’t nobody got time for all that first thing in the morning. The night before I made my trusty salted caramel sauce that I could pour on old shoe leather and it would taste delicious.
Croissant Donut with Salted Caramel Sauce
makes about 10 donuts and 15 donut holes
Croissant recipe modified from Epicurious
1 1/2 cups whole milk, heated to warm (105°F–110°F)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages)
3 3/4 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) cold unsalted butter
Peanut oil or shortening for frying
Special equipment: a standing electric mixer with dough hook, 2 kitchen towels (not terry cloth) or two sheets of parchment paper, a ruler, slotted spoon or spider strainer, candy thermometer and a donut cutter or a round glass and a smaller circle to cut out the hole
1. Stir together warm milk, brown sugar, and yeast in bowl of standing mixer and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t foam, discard and start over.) Add 3 3/4 cups flour and salt and mix with dough hook at low speed until dough is smooth and very soft, about 7 minutes.
Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand 2 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, a little at a time, to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Form dough into a roughly 1 1/2-inch-thick rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap for 20 minutes in the freezer.
2. After dough has chilled, arrange sticks of butter horizontally, their sides touching, on a sheet of parchment paper. Place another sheet of parchment paper on to of the butter. Pound butter with a rolling pin to soften slightly (butter should be malleable but still cold). Pound and roll out on both sides until butter forms a uniform 8- by 5-inch rectangle. If the rectangle is uneven, cut the edges and the reincorporate the butter in the center. Chill in the freezer, wrapped in parchment, while rolling out dough.
3. Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour as necessary and lifting and stretching dough (especially in corners), into a 16- by 10-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you. Put butter in center of dough so that long sides of butter are parallel to short sides of dough. Fold as you would a letter: bottom third of dough over butter, then top third down over dough. But unlike a letter, you want the edges to line up. Brush off excess flour.
4. Turn dough 90 degrees so a short side is nearest you, then flatten dough slightly by pressing down horizontally with rolling pin across dough at regular intervals, making uniform impressions. Roll out dough into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle, rolling just to but not over ends.
Brush off any excess flour. Fold in thirds like a letter, as above, stretching corners to square off dough, forming a 10- by 5-inch rectangle. (You have completed the first “fold.”) Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 20 minutes in the freezer.
5. The next step is to make the “turns” or “folds.” Turn 90 degrees, fold, roll out, freeze, turn 90 degrees, fold, roll out, freeze, etc until your arms fall off and you’ve watched so many episodes of Dead Files you can’t sleep. Make 3 more folds in same manner, chilling dough in the freezer 20 minutes after each fold, for a total of 4 folds. (If any butter oozes out while rolling, sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.) After the last fold, fold the dough in thirds one last time and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator at least 8 hours but no more than 18 (after 18 hours, dough may not rise sufficiently when baked).
6. 8 hours later, remove dough from the refrigerator. Fill a high sided, thick bottomed pan with peanut oil or shortening and place on high heat. While oil is heating to 350 degrees F, flatten the dough by pounding the folded dough and then rolling out in a 16-by 10-inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the donuts with the donut cutter.
7. Frying technique: It is important to fry at 350 degrees F and I use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. Once my oil hits 350, I turn it to low and drop a few donut holes in to test them. After the donut holes finish frying, I check the oil temperature again and adjust the stove accordingly. This gives the oil temperature a chance to stabilize (too hot and my dough burns, too cold and my dough gets too greasy). Croissants usually call for proofing but this essentially proofed overnight in the refrigerator and I do not want the butter to get too warm. If the oil is taking longer than 15 minutes to heat up, stick the cut donuts in the fridge. I put the donut on the spider strainer, dunked it in the oil, and took it out right away. The butter on the outside and edges melted but it crisped up, sealing all the the butter in the center. I repeated the dunking, flipping to donut over after one side was golden–about 30 seconds total. After frying, I laid them on a double layer of paper towels, flipping them over a few times to get off any residual oil. I definitely recommend leaving the donut holes in the strainer as they are smaller and the top layer tends to flake off since the butter melts much faster. I microwaved the salted caramel sauce for 30 seconds and stirred it until it was drizzling consistency.
Salted Caramel Sauce
1 c sugar
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 c heavy cream, room temperature
1/2 tbsp sea salt
1. In a 2 quart pot, add the sugar and water on medium high to high heat. As it starts to brown around the edges and bubble, stir occasionally with a rubber spatula so that the bottom doesn’t burn. Cook until it is a deep…caramel color.
2. Move the pot off heat. Whisk in the butter. Be very careful as the mixture will boil violently. Add the pure vanilla extract and sea salt into the cream. slowly drizzle in the cream and whisk. If you add the cream in too fast, it might seize up and get hard but you put it back on the stove on low heat to loosen it up a little.
3. Let cool for about 20 minutes and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.