Every year, I pick a recipe that pushes me to my limits. Last year it was this Gingerbread Cake and this year it’s this Sufganiyot Croquembouche. I won’t sugar coat it (pun intended) this recipe isn’t a walk in the park. But I have to say if you’re looking for a confidence boost, dusting this beast with its final sprinkling of sugar does indeed make you feel like a boss. Make sure you clear your schedule if you decide to take this dessert on. Rushing through any step will likely end in disaster or result in caramel-related burns – speaking from experience. So now that I have intimidated you completely, let’s dig into this Sufganiyot Croquembouche.
As I mentioned, every year during the holiday season, I try my hand at something ambitious. I usually make something Christmas-related or just generally seasonal. But this year I decided to make something appropriate for Hanukkah. As you may or may not know, my partner is Jewish. So we usually do a little something for both Hanukkah and Christmas. But I’m not going to lie, we do a lot more for Christmas and this year, I thought we could change that. And so, the Sufganiyot Croquembouche was born because every holiday deserves a show-stopper.
For those of you who don’t know, sufganiyot are Israeli jelly doughnuts. They are usually served during Hanukkah because they are fried in oil. Sufganiyot consist of yeasted dough, fried and filled with jelly. Sour cherry seems to be the most common, but some are filled with different fruit jellies or even custard. The doughnuts are then finished with a dusting of powdered sugar and they are honestly heaven. Converting them to a croquembouche format does nothing to enhance their deliciousness, they don’t need any help in that department. But creating tiny sufganiyot and gluing them together using hot hot caramel is my idea of fun. I realize this may not be a commonly held opinion.
Now, let’s talk about the croquembouche side of this equation. A croquembouche is a French dessert typically served at weddings. Croquembouche is made up of profiteroles filled with pastry cream and glued together with caramel. The result is a towering confection that is the focal point of any dessert table. It’s a technically difficult dessert to pull off because you have to be aware of the structure you’re creating while moving quickly. You want to get as many cream puffs in place before your caramel cools too much. You can of course gently reheat the caramel, but that should be done sparingly as the reheating process darkens the caramel and in some cases burns it. Burnt caramel equals bitter caramel.
Okay, now let’s talk about fusing the two together. It all starts with doughnut dough. And if you’ve never made yeast doughnuts from scratch before, I will warn you the dough will be sticky. You will think there is not enough flour in the dough. And you will doubt yourself and feel like you’ve royally screwed up. You have not. The dough is meant to be sticky and you’re doing great.
The dough does an initial rise just like any other dough would. Then, with the aid of plenty of flour, it’s time to cut out the doughnuts. To do this, roll the dough out to 1/2 inch thickness and use a one-inch cookie cutter to punch out the doughnuts. The nuggets then rest for 45 minutes before being introduced to hot oil. And in terms of the oil, it should be kept in and around 325°F. You want the dough to cook all the way through before the doughnuts overcook on the outside. It’s a delicate balance, especially if you don’t have a proper deep fryer. But I am living proof you can do this with a dutch oven and a candy thermometer, so I believe in you.
Once your doughnuts are golden, it’s time to make the cream. I originally intended to fill my doughnuts with jelly but I couldn’t find one viscous enough to stay put in the sufganiyot as I wrestled them into a croquembouche shape. So I swirled some sour cherry jelly into a classic vanilla pastry cream. Word to the wise, don’t overmix the cream, it turns an awful shade of beige-y pink. Leave the jelly swirls intact and you’re golden just like your doughnuts.
When the sufganiyot are filled, it’s time for what I think is the most terrifying portion of this recipe – the caramel. It’s not because it’s dangerous, building the actual croquembouche is far more threatening to your fingers’ well-being, it’s more that making caramel is all about timing. No matter how many times I make caramel, I have a nasty habit of leaving it just a little too long. I make the mistake of looking for the color I want the final caramel to be. You should look for an amber color a couple of shades lighter than your desired shade. The caramel continues to cook after you take it off of the heat, even with the help of an ice bath, so bear that in mind.
Once your caramel is where you want it, you have everything you need to build your croquembouche. Now, you can build a croquembouche freehand or use a mold. I used a mold but not an official croquembouche mold because they are giant. Instead, I used a 10.6-inch paper mache cone wrapped in parchment paper and it did the trick. You are supposed to unmold your croquembouche after the caramel has set up but I didn’t and I don’t think it’s particularly necessary and it’s far too scary.
With the Sufganiyot Croquembouche built, it is simply a case of adding a few finishing touches. Fill any holes in the structure with maraschino cherries and create a small candy floss halo by dipping a fork into the caramel and rotating it around the croquembouche. Finally, dust the magnificence sugar beast with confectioner’s sugar and feel an extreme sense of pride. You did the freakin’ thing!
So that is an exhaustive retelling of the making of this Sufganiyot Croquembouche. Was it difficult to make? Absolutely! Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Crafting croquembouche is oddly addictive. It’s sort of like getting a tattoo, I would imagine. Sure, there’s pain and some doubt but it’s also strangely satisfying and if you’re lucky, incredibly beautiful.
Sufganiyot Croquembouche with Sour Cherry Cream
- Stand mixer with a hook attachment
- Dutch oven
- Candy Thermometer
- small saucepan
- 10-inch Paper Machier Cone
- Parchment Paper
- Piping Bags
- Ateco 802 round piping tip
- 1-inch doughnut hole cutter
- 1 ½ cups whole milk lukewarm
- 4 ½ tsp active dry yeast
- 1 vanilla bean
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- ⅔ neutral oil I used canola, plus oil for frying
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 2 tbsp vodka
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 5 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
Sour Cherry Pastry Cream
- 2 ½ cups half and half
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 reserved vanilla bean pod
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 5 egg yolks
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 4 tbsp cold unsalted butter cut into cubes
- 1 ½ cups sour cherry jam pureed
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tbsp white corn syrup
- Maraschino cherries
- Confectioner's sugar
- Dried edible flowers optional
For the Sufganiyot
- Sprinkle the yeast over the milk. Add the sugar and whisk to combine. Let stand for 10 minutes or until foamy.1 ½ cups whole milk, 4 ½ tsp active dry yeast, ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and using the back of your knife, scrape out the caviar. Add the caviar to the yeast mixture and set the vanilla bean pod aside.1 vanilla bean
- Whisk the oil, eggs, and vodka into the yeast mixture and transfer to the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Sift in the flour and add the salt. Mix on low until a sticky dough forms. It should quite sticky, so don’t panic.⅔ neutral oil, 4 large eggs, 2 tbsp vodka, 2 tsp kosher salt, 5 cups all-purpose flour
- Transfer the dough to a bowl greased with neutral oil. Cover and let rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough and transfer it to a very well-floured surface. Dust the dough with additional flour and roll it out to 1/2-inch thickness. Using a 1-inch doughnut hole cutter, punch out the doughnuts. Transfer them to a baking sheet liberally dusted with flour and cover. Let rise for 45 minutes.
- Pour the oil into a large Dutch Oven and place over medium-high heat. Heat the oil to 325°F.** Add 6-8 doughnuts at a time and fry them until golden on both sides. About a minute or two a side.
- Transfer the finished sufganiyot to a cooling rack suspended over a baking sheet. Set aside to drain. Repeat with the remaining doughnuts. Let doughnuts cool slightly before creating a hole in the bottom of them using a paring knife in order to add the filling. Set the doughnuts aside.
For the Pastry Cream ***
- Pour the half and half, sugar, salt, and the reserved vanilla bean pod in a small saucepan. Place over medium-low heat and cook until steam begins to gather on the surface of the milk. Don’t let it come to a boil.2 ½ cups half and half, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 reserved vanilla bean pod, ½ tsp kosher salt
- While the half and half is heating up, whisk the egg yolks and cornstarch together. Ladle in a bit of the warm cream into the yolk mixture while whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the saucepan and gently cook until thicken.5 egg yolks, 3 tbsp cornstarch
- Take the pastry cream off of the heat and remove the vanilla bean pod. Add the butter and stir until the butter melts and is well integrated. Fold the jelly into the finished pastry cream. Don’t over mix, you want streaks of jelly, not a cohesive mixture. Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and cover. Transfer to the fridge and let set for a minimum of 2 hours.4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, 1 ½ cups sour cherry jam
- Once the pastry cream is ready, transfer it to a piping bag fitted with an Acteco 802 round piping tip. Pipe the cream into the sufganiyot until the overflow slightly.
- Once all the sufganiyot are filled, it’s time to assemble. Wrap a 10-inch paper mache cone with parchment paper. Cover a plate with parchment paper as well and set the cone in the center. Set everything aside.
- Pour the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook the sugar, swirling the pot occasionally until the sugar becomes molten and it reaches a golden color about 2 shades lighter than you want your finished caramel to be. Once you have the sugar where you want it, plunge the base of the pot into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.2 cups granulated sugar, ¼ cup water, 1 tbsp white corn syrup
- Lean a sufganiyah against the base of the cone, cream-filled side facing in. Dip one side of another sufganiyah into the caramel and press the caramel-dipped side into the other sufganiyot. Continue until you form a circle around the base of the cone.
- Start on the next layer by dipping the bottom of a sufganiyah into the caramel. Place it on top and between two of the sufganiyot in the first layer. Repeat this process until you get all the way around and to the top of the cone. Fill any gaps with caramel-dipped maraschino cherries.Maraschino cherries
- Dip the prongs of a fork into the caramel and rotate it around the croquembouche to form a halo of caramel. Dust the Croquembouche with confectioner’s sugar and decorate with dried flowers, if using.Confectioner's sugar, Dried edible flowers