By Dennis Prescott
Updated September 16, 2014
Credit: © Dennis Prescott

In Stacked, FWx contributor Dennis Prescott concocts recipes to back up his motto: If we are fortunate enough to eat three meals a day, why not make them as delicious as possible?

I love doughnuts. They really are the best combo of fantastic pastry and super-fun toppings. Once you have a great dough as a base, you can experiment away.

I’ve topped doughnuts with everything from strawberries, to bacon, to Froot Loops, and the results have always been delicious. All of them. We have our favorites, the ones that call our name, but at the end of the day, I haven’t met a doughnut I didn’t like.

This recipe combines two of my favorite things, brioche and caramel popcorn. It takes a little time, a little love and a little patience. But I guarantee, it’s well-worth the wait.

Salted Caramel Popcorn and Vanilla–Custard Brioche Doughnuts

Makes 14 to 16

Brioche doughnuts

  • 3 teaspoons yeast
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • 1½ cups butter at room temperature, cut into 10 pieces

Combine the yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar and the water. Stir and allow the yeast to activate, about 10 minutes.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast mixture, ⅓ cup of sugar, flour, salt, vanilla and eggs. Beat on low for about 5 minutes, until the dough starts to come together. Make sure all of the dough is incorporated, scrapping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Continue to beat on low for an additional 5 minutes.

Add the butter, 1 piece at a time, allowing each piece to incorporate into the dough before adding the next. The dough will be very wet and sticky.

Once all of the butter is incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium and knead the dough for 15 minutes. It will look pretty ugly at first, but eventually will turn into a shiny and rich dough.

Lightly oil a large bowl, add the dough and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up for a few minutes on a floured surface. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and flour it lightly. Roll out the dough into a ¾-inch thick rectangle. Using a 3½-inch cutter (or a drinking glass, in a pinch) cut out the doughnuts. Arrange the cut doughnuts on the prepared baking tray, leaving a couple of inches between each doughnut. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow them to proof for 2 hours until they are doubled in size.

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a Dutch oven or deep fryer, heat 2 inches of canola oil to 350°, checking the temperature with a thermometer. Working in batches, carefully drop in 2 or 3 doughnuts at a time. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Remove the doughnuts from the oil with a slotted spoon, and drain them on the prepared baking sheet. Allow the doughnuts to cool completely before filling.

Pastry cream filling

  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons whipping cream

In a pan on medium, heat the milk until warm, and bubbles just start to form around the sides.

In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, salt and flour, and whisk well to remove any lumps.

Very slowly and while whisking constantly, add a small amount of the milk to the yolks. You don’t want scrambled eggs, so just add a touch.

After adding a couple of tablespoons, pour the rest of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly, to incorporate into the custard.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, raise the temperature to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Pour the custard through a sieve to remove any lumps. Add the vanilla, and mix to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the pastry cream, and refrigerate overnight.

In a small bowl, whisk 6 tablespoons of whipping cream until thick, then fold it into the pastry cream. Add the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip. Poke a small hole in the center of each cooled doughnut, and fill with about ¼ cup of filling, being careful not to overfill.


NOTE: Prepare the icing when the doughnuts are cooled and filled, to be sure the icing doesn’t harden.

  • 4½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon maple (or vanilla) extract
  • ⅓ cup whole milk

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and whisk until smooth and thick. Add a little more milk, if needed, to thin. Dunk one side of each cooled, filled doughnut into the icing to coat it well, and then top with Caramel Popcorn (recipe below).

Caramel Popcorn

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 9 cups popcorn

In a saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, corn syrup, maple syrup and whipping cream, and bring the mixture to a boil on medium heat. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add the popcorn to a large bowl, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and mix well. Pour the popcorn out onto the prepared baking sheet, and let cool for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle on top of the iced doughnuts.