Soft, pillowy donuts made from a buttermilk dough. Topped with a buttermilk and vanilla bean glaze. These buttermilk donuts are not overly sweet and are brioche-like in texture.
Buttermilk Donut Recipe Inspo
There is a bakery here in DC which makes the absolute best donuts I have ever had. EVER. What sets these donuts apart is that they are not like your average Dunkin’ or grocery store donut – not airy/oily/krispy. Instead, they are thick and pillowy inside with a slight crisp on the outside. I think they use some sort of challah or brioche recipe for the dough. They usually glaze them with what they call a ‘honey glaze’ but I wouldn’t know because I eat them in 2 minutes flat and could care less about what they put on top.
Our pediatrician used to be very close to this bakery and so sick or routine visits to the dr with my firstborn were always made sweeter by a stop at Bread Furst. Once we moved away from that area, we switched to a different practice and my donut cravings are not being met. So, I decided it was time I figured out how to make my own ‘pediatrician visit’ donuts.
Why this Buttermilk Donut Recipe
These are thick but soft and fluffy, yeasted but not difficult to make. The base for them is my ever favorite bread recipe which is an enriched dough (eggs, honey, butter). Where I would normally use water in the dough, I opt for buttermilk. And not just because I would! The buttermilk elevates the taste and texture by giving a little tang and a lot of tenderness. This is about as close as I’ll get to those pediatrician donuts and I’m pretty darn happy with these so I’m ok with that. They are not your everyday donuts, they are soft and bready and not light and crisp and to me, they are perfect.
Tips for perfect Buttermilk Donuts
Two little fussy things about these; the dough needs to rest overnight in the fridge for the gluten to relax, develop and deepen in flavor. Also important, the frying oil should be at a 360-375 F to evenly fry the dough. From these adorable minis via Sarah Kiefer (which we put on this sour cream cake) you can make the donuts cute and tiny (the smaller side of a piping tip!). You can also make these rounded for fillings, using a biscuit cutter.
For the topping, I took inspiration from the bakery donut that inspired these and went with a simple white glaze (specks of vanilla bean make ‘em pretty and tasty) and the tang of the buttermilk really mellows out the sugar and it’s so, “i’m barely here but you’d definitely miss me if I wasn’t”.
Notes on making buttermilk donuts
I’ve given instructions to let the dough rest overnight in the fridge. If you wish to do this all in one day, you can do the first rise at room temperature for about 2 hours (until the dough has doubled in size).
Donuts are best the day of frying, like most homemade breads.
A laser thermometer is useful here for knowing the temperature correct for frying – it takes about 10 minutes to get up to 375.
The third photo features the same donut but with a strawberry orange sugared topping; if you’d like to make it pulse 1/2 cup freeze dried strawberries with 1/2 cup sugar and the zest of an orange. When the donuts are cool, brush them with melted butter and then dip the wet donuts into the strawberry orange sugar.
Soft pillowy and thick donuts made with buttermilk and honey; topped with a buttermilk vanilla bean glaze.
Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, place buttermilk, yeast and sugar. Let it set for 5 minutes while the yeast activates. Mixture will be foamy.To the bowl add the eggs, melted butter, honey, vanilla and salt. Stir to combine. Add the flour and knead until dough comes together in a ball. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge overnight.
The next morning: Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper.Turn cold dough onto a well floured surface. Cover the dough in a thin layer of flour. Roll it out to ½ an inch thickness. Use donut cutter (or a biscuit cutter and a piping tip) to punch out donut shapes. Place the donuts on the parchment and set aside in a warm place to rise.
Fry the donuts: after about an hour the dough should be room temperature and slightly puffy. Heat a dutch oven deep pot filled with oil (the oil it should reach ⅔ of the pan’s height) to 360 -375 F. Line plates or cookie sheets with paper towels. Carefully place donuts into the oil. Don’t fry more than 4 at a time. Using a metal spatula, fry the donuts on each side, until you have a medium brown on both sides (a minute or two per side). Once done, place the donuts on paper towels to remove excess oil.
To make the buttermilk topping: whisk ingredients together in a small bowl, when donuts are cool, dunk them face down into the glaze.