Monday, April 29, 2013


Homemade Bismarck Doughnuts
Bismarck = raised donut with vanilla bean pastry cream inside, chocolate icing on top 
Continuing on my tour through the popular donut recipes, I chose to make bismarcks for my next batch. Making bismarcks is a more complicated process that includes making pastry cream, letting it cool, frying donuts, waiting for those to cool, piping the cream into each donut and then icing the tops while the icing is still warm. And the first time I made these, I completely botched it.

Spouses weren't allowed.
I guess we cause more trouble than the kids.
It was Take Your Child to Work Day at Blair's office, so that morning, I popped the dough in for the first rise before leaving to drive Blair and Gwen to the shuttle stop. We are fairly new to this area, so of course, we took a wrong turn and couldn't find the stop, which made me kind of frustrated. But we turned around and eventually spotted a troop of parents and kids waiting on the street and figured that that must be the designated shuttle stop. Gwen was SO EXCITED to ride the shuttle to work with her dad that she was squealing! As Blair's first time taking his kid to work, he was smiling ear-to-ear with pride and I think he squealed a few times too. I actually got a little lump in my throat as I waved goodbye to them, which is unlike me, but I felt really proud of them both for some reason. I coughed away the lump, got back in my car and sped back home to tend to the rising dough.

Bismarck FAIL!
This is the point where the main screw-up took place. I rolled the dough out way too thin (probably a little less than 1/4") and it didn't occur to me until AFTER the second rise and AFTER frying them all when I realized that there was no room in each donut to pipe in the cream filling. Only two donuts that I had cut from the re-rolled scraps were fat enough to fill. And while we're on the subject of cream, piping in non-chilled cream filling was my second botch. Instead of making the cream at least 4 hours ahead of time so it could chill completely, I made it during the second rise, so it was still warm when I piped it into the two donuts, which made them a little soggy inside. But despite the sog-factor, the vanilla bean pastry cream was delicious and so was the chocolate icing, so I knew that I had some good bare bones to work with, if I could only improve my execution. I ate one bismarck, gave the other to my neighbor and sulked for the rest of the morning about how I sucked at making donuts. That was, until it was time to pick up Gwen and the sight of her sleeping in the carseat after an eventful morning at Dad's work warmed my heart and made me feel happy again.

Three days later, I made the bismarcks again, this time rolling to 1/2" thickness (I measured this time) and piping in REALLY COLD vanilla bean pastry cream. I shared the result with my family and they said they were the best donuts they had ever had...although, they're my family, so it doesn't count!

INGREDIENTS to make 24 medium-sized donuts

Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream
1 vanilla bean pod
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract

Donuts (Adapted from Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker)
1 cup of very warm water (around 105° F)
1 tbsp granulated sugar (proofing) + 1/2 cup (dough)
3 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground mace
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 cups bread flour, sifted
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
3 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
lots of canola oil for frying - enough to fill your pot 2" deep

Chocolate Icing
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Make the pastry cream first so it has time to chill completely. Warm pastry cream steams up the donut from the inside, causing sogginess. To make the pastry cream, split the vanilla bean pod with a knife, scrape out the seeds and flick them off your knife into a saucepan with 2 cups of half and half. Turn the heat on to medium low, whisk in the 1/2 cup of sugar and scald the mixture until little bubbles form on the edge of the pan. Remove from heat and set aside while you do step 2.
  2. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together 2 egg yolks, 1 egg, and 2 tbsp cornstarch. 
  3. SLOWLY drizzle the scalded, bean-speckled half and half mixture into the bowl of eggs and cornstarch, whisking constantly. This has to be a slow process so you don't curdle the eggs.
  4. Transfer the liquid back into the saucepan over low heat and cook until the pastry cream thickens, whisking every few seconds.
  5. When the texture is like thick pudding, remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp almond extract. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours. You might be wondering why we're using vanilla bean AND vanilla extract, and the reason is that this pastry cream must to be wonderfully flavorful to stand up to the super-chocolatey icing.
  6. Now is a good time for a break if you want it, otherwise, you can charge ahead and start on making the dough. To start, dissolve the 1 tbsp sugar in 1 cup of hot water, pop in your thermometer and do some "mise-en-placing" (getting your wet and dry ingredients together (see next two steps)) while you wait for the water to cool to about 105° F.
  7.  In a large bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp ground mace, 1 1/2 tsp of kosher salt and 4 cups of bread flour, sifted. If you don't have a sifter, just whisk it all together to aerate and combine.
  8.  In a small bowl, combine 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and the cubed butter to 3 large egg yolks.
  9. At this point, the temperature of your hot water and sugar mixture should be close to 105° F, so spoon in the 3 tbsp of yeast into the mixer bowl and stir to combine. Let proof for about 5 minutes or until foamy.
  10. When the yeast has proved, add the eggy wet ingredients and stir to break up the butter.
  11. Next, add the dry ingredients, a cup at a time. After about half of dry ingredients, switch to the dough hook and add the rest of the dry ingredients, again at a cup at a time. Continue working the dough with the dough hook for about 2 minutes until the dough looks like a brain and picks up all of the little crumbs at the bottom.

    Dough "Brain"
  12. If you're ready for a break, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and throw it in the fridge for up to 15 hours. Otherwise, if you are ready to charge it, proceed to the next step!
  13. To construct the proofing chamber in your oven place a 9”x13” roasting pan on the bottom rack and then pour boiling water into it to fill it to about half way. Then roll out the dough on a floured cookie sheet to about 1” thick and stick it on the top rack of the oven, covered with a cloth napkin or towel. Then let the dough rise for 1 hour, or until roughly doubled in size.
  14. Next, roll out your the dough to 1/2” thickness and cut circles with a metal round cutter. I used a 2.5" cutter to make medium-sized bismarcks, but a 4" cutter will make some nice-sized monsters with room for tons of cream filling!
  15. Lay out the rounds on two floured cookie sheets about 2” apart and put them back in the proofing oven to rise again, this time with some fresh boiling water. It should take about 30 minutes for the donuts to double in size.
  16. Fill a heavy-bottomed pot 2” deep with canola oil, turn the heat on to medium, stick in a thermometer and wait for the oil to heat up to 350° F.
  17. Fry time! Using the metal spatula, carefully transfer the rounds from the cookie sheet into the oil. Be sure to do each transfer carefully, because every finger depression and blurp of your spatula will be permanently etched into the surface of your donut, like that scar from the navel ring you had for two weeks when you were 20, but that blew up and stretched when you were pregnant with your first child (sighhh again). Also, don't be Eager Beaver and put too many donuts in the oil at once, because they'll crowd each other and not puff up as nicely. They only need to be in the oil for about 30-40 seconds on one side and then 20 seconds on the other, so the frying process will be really fast. I was expecting to be slaving over hot oil for at least an hour and subsequently breaking out with zits the next day, but thankfully that didn’t happen.
  18. When the donuts are done frying, set them out on a wire rack and let them cool completely. 
  19. Man, this is a lot of steps! The next stage is to pipe the cream filling into the cooled donuts. Fit your pastry bag with any pokey tip and fill the bag with the cooled pastry cream. Then insert the tip of the bag into the side of each donut and squeeze in filling until you feel satisfied. For my size donuts, it probably worked out to be 3 tbsp or so, but I had a lot left over.
  20. The last stage of this process is to make the chocolate icing. To do that, heat the 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips in a bowl set over simmering water and stir occasionally to melt. When the chocolate is smooth and melted, take it off the heat (not just off the burner, but take the bowl out of the saucepan too). Give it a good stir and set it aside for a sec while you do the next step...after you've licked the spoon, of course. 
  21. Dump in 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup boiling water, 1 tsp light corn syrup, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract to your mixer bowl and flip it on to medium to beat it until nice and smooth. The paddle attachment works better here, because the frosting will congregate in the middle of the whisk and you have to stop a few times to get it out, which is kind of a pain.
  22. Using a rubber spatula, scrape every last ribbon of melted chocolate into the mixer bowl with the frosting, then scrape the sides of the bowl down and flip the mixer back on until the chocolate is incorporated and your icing looks like, well, icing.
  23. Carefully dip each donut top into the icing and set on a rack to cool. Eat 1 to 4 of them while the icing is still soft and melty. If the weather is cold, sip something hot and steamy, but if the weather is warm, wash your doughnut down with an ice-cold latte and think about how fantastic it is that you just made bismarcks from scratch.


  1. I've been checking out lots of your donut recipes via pinterest and they all look amazing! I just made some autumn spiced donuts filled with apple cider curd today and they are fantastic! I hadn't made donuts in years, so it was fun to get back to it :) I'll have the recipe up on Nov 16th on my blog if you're interested in seeing the process and the finished product!
    :) Amanda

    1. Oh, how wonderful! I can't wait to see your donuts! Thanks Amanda :)

  2. I found your awesome blg last week and just made your bismark donuts. They turned out perfect. All of it is so easy and so good. The icing is like a soft fudge. What I did was make the donuts, the filling and the icing and kept them separate until we wanted a donut and just put it together and gobbled. Thanks so much for your recipes, maple bars are next . Gail