Old Fashioned Doughnut Croquembouche

Pastry chef Paola Velez's twist on a traditional croquembouche features homemade cinnamon doughnuts instead of cream puffs. The first step is to fry up a batch of the doughnut holes. They're then "glued" together with a simple caramel to form a cone-shaped tower. For the finishing touch, dip the tines of a fork into the hot caramel, and as the caramel drips from the tines, swipe the caramel back and forth over a work surface, then gather together and drape around the tower like a sash. The dessert can be assembled up to 10 hours ahead of time and placed on a table to make an impressive edible centerpiece. There will be some caramel "glue" left over; if desired, add butter and cream and turn it into a caramel sauce for ice cream.

Old-Fashioned Donut Croquembouche
Photo: Photo by Sarah Crowder / Food Styling by Drew Aichele
Active Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Servings:
10

Ingredients

Doughnuts

  • Vegetable oil, for frying

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 4 ¼ cups (600g) all-purpose flour

  • 1 ¼ cups (240g) granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1.666 cups (380g) Greek yogurt

  • 3 large eggs

Caramel "glue"

  • 3 cups granulated sugar

  • ½ cup water

  • Gold leaf, optional

Directions

For the doughnuts:

  1. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to a large pot or wok. Add enough vegetable oil to reach a depth of 1 3/4- to 2 inches. Heat oil to 350°F over medium heat.

  2. Meanwhile, cook butter in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it stops foaming and browned bits form on the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes. Transfer browned butter to a small bowl and let cool slightly. Place dry ingredients in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix gently on low speed. Add yogurt, eggs, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of the browned butter, and mix on low until just incorporated. The dough will be slightly damp. Let stand until oil is ready.

  3. Place a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Working in batches of 5 to 6, and using a 1-3/4" (1 ounce) scoop, scoop out dough, level the top, and add to the oil. Alternatively, use a 1/8 cup measure, or scoop out 2 tablespoons of dough, and roll gently between very lightly oiled palms into rounds. Fry doughnuts until golden brown, beginning to crack open on the surface, and cooked through, adjusting heat as needed to maintain temperature, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer doughnuts to a wire rack and let cool completely. Return oil to 350°F between batches.

For the caramel "glue":

  1. Fill a large roasting pan or sink with about 1 inch of cold water. Stir sugar and water in a heavy medium pot until it looks like wet sand. Stir over medium heat until sugar melts, about 4 minutes. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Cook, occasionally swirling pot for even browning, brushing down sides of pot with a wet pastry brush if crystals form along side of pot, until light amber in color, about 8 minutes. Remove immediately from stove and place bottom of the pot in pan of cold water to stop cooking and prevent caramel from turning too dark.

Building the croquembouche:

  1. Working quickly and carefully (the caramel is very hot), pick up one doughnut and dip one side into the caramel. Do not let your fingers touch the caramel. Place on the edge of the plate, caramel-side down. Repeat with 7 more doughnuts, forming a circle. Continue dipping doughnuts in caramel, building doughnuts on top of each other in smaller and smaller rings until tower is complete. If caramel becomes too hard to use, reheat on low to medium heat just to loosen.

Decorating the croquembouche:

  1. Dip a fork in caramel and quickly swipe it back and forth over a work surface, repeating dipping in caramel as needed, and forming a web of long thin strands about 4 inches wide. Very gently pick up the strands, gathering them slightly in the center and drape lightly around the croquembouche, like a sash. Repeat once or twice more, wrapping the spun sugar around the croquembouche. If desired, use a small paintbrush to attach small pieces of edible gold leaf sporadically on the doughnuts. The Doughnut Croquembouche can be made up to 10 hours in advance.

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