Hungry Hubby has a soft spot for bananas in custard. His mum isn’t a baker but this was a dessert she’d make for him when he was a tot. It is traditionally made with Bird’s Custard powder, which was created by Mr Bird in the 1800s for his egg-allergic wife. It is a simple mix of cornflour, almond extract and a little yellow food colouring which you whisk into hot milk and cook until it thickens, rather than the cream and egg version creme Anglaise. It’s much more akin to American “pudding” if this were served warm and before it sets and us Brits are rather sentimental about it’s comforting, nursery sweetness.
Me, I have a total love-hate relationship with bananas. Especially when used in baking. I love to eat a banana when they have not one hint of green remaining and barely a brown freckle or two – any sooner, and they are just too unripe for me, hard and tangy. Any later and they are overly sweet and the gloopy texture makes me gag. But! I do so love the flavour, that when I discovered freeze dried banana powder, a light bulb went off over my head and a whole new world of baking with bananas was opened to me! Enter my Banana & Custard Donuts.
Oh these fill me full of nostalgia. I was totally addicted to banana yogurts growing up and still buy Longley Farm ones as a little treat, rather than the Munch Bunch ones I would have way back when in the 80s, undoubtedly full of food colouring and added sugar! Both me and Hungry Hubby love pouring a canary yellow puddle of Bird’s custard over a hot steamed or baked pudding; even school dinners seemed delicious when followed up with pudding and this custard! As I am a tad precious about banana in my baking, rest assured, that if you too have similar issues with the icky texture from overly ripe ‘nanas, these donuts are the ones for you. The freeze dried banana powder retains the flavour of the fruit but also a little tang. I add it to both the dough and the custard and whilst it is present, the flavour is subtle and will suit the fussiest of banana eaters out there!
Prove your shaped donuts overnight in the fridge in a large tupperware box to speed up the process! Click To Tweet
When it comes to making donuts, I must admit that I think it is one of the few “bakes” which is for the confident baker. I make my dough like a light brioche with butter beaten into the yeasted dough and it is much looser in texture than most bread doughs. It needs slow proving in the fridge so you can shape it. But if you follow my method, you can make the dough after work on a Friday night and by mid-morning on Saturday, you will be tucking into the lightest, fluffiest, custard filled donuts you have ever had. It’s so worth the effort, just don’t be discouraged if your first attempts come out a little wonky (shhh, I usually get at least one rogue shaped one per batch even now!). Also, note that during the two cold prove stages, the dough wont grow significantly. But once you pop the room temperature shaped balls of dough into the hot oil, stand back and watch them puff up magically and beautifully! It gives me immense pleasure to watch this happen 😀
I have made my fair share of donuts in a large cast iron casserole using my trusty Thermapen to monitor the temperature, but it always made me extremely nervous safety-wise so I have got myself a deep fat fryer. The one I bought is this Breville Easy Clean one which has a large capacity (go big or go home, my foodie friends Brian & Jen told me when I asked which to buy!) plus crucially, you can remove the inner pot so pouring the cold, used oil out so much easier. Cheaper models don’t have this feature so you have to pick the whole thing up to get rid of the oil. Plus using a dedicated fryer means handing over control of the cooking temperature to the machine – I found that my electric hob heats in an exponential fashion so it goes from stone cold to volcanic in a heart beat (frightening stuff when dealing with a vat of oil). Which in turn means your donuts cook beautifully evenly, no more burning the first one! Although, these Banana & Custard Donuts are to die for, even if a few are a little too brown 😉
Light and fluffy donuts filled with banana flavoured custard, made with freeze dried banana. No artificial ingredients here!
- 250 g strong bread flour
- 3 tbsp freeze dried banana powder
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 7 g dried fast action yeast
- 7 g sea salt
- 2 large eggs
- 50 g buttermilk
- 60 g soft butter, cubed
- 1-2 litres vegetable oil to fry with
- 4 tbsp caster sugar to toss the donuts in when cooked
- 2 egg yolks from medium eggs
- 30 g caster sugar
- 3 tbsp freeze dried banana powder
- 20 g plain flour
- 150 g double cream
Mix together the flour, banana powder, sugar, yeast and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat the eggs and buttermilk together then pour it into the flour in a slow, steady stream until you have a soft not sticky dough.
Knead on medium speed for 5-10 minutes until the dough comes together into a smooth ball and cleans the sides of the bowl. Beat in the butter, one cube at a time until all incorporated. The dough will look more like a very thick batter at this stage, so don't worry - that's meant to happen! Cover the bowl and chill for 2-4 hours until just about doubled in size.
Take the dough out of the fridge and divide it into 10 equal sized pieces. You shouldn't need any extra flour or oil to shape them into balls using a cupped hand, applying firm pressure to force it into a smooth, spherical ball. Try to get it as smooth as possible so the donuts are shaped nicely when fried.
Cut 10 small squares of baking parchment out (about 3-4 inches square), dust well with flour then sit the shaped donuts on them. I transfer them to a large plastic box with a lid (use a few smaller ones if you don't have a big one or it wont fit in your fridge), spacing them out well to allow for rising and pop the lid on before putting in the fridge overnight.
Make the custard by whisking the egg yolks, sugar, banana powder and flour together to a thick paste. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to the boil then pour in a thin steady stream over this paste, whisking constantly. Once all of it is incorporated, return to the saucepan and cook, whisking constantly until it thickens. This will happen rapidly once it reaches the right temperature. Take off the heat, pass through a sieve if worried about lumps then scrape into a piping bag and leave until cold before refrigerating overnight.
Next morning, take the dough balls out of the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature - this is crucial to ensure they are cooked through as fridge cold dough will reduce the temp of the oil too much and may leave them doughy in the middle.
Heat the oil to 180˚C - I really recommend using a deep fat fryer as it is much easier to control the temp and feels a lot safer than having to monitor the temp with a thermometer whilst cooking. When up to temp, pick up each dough ball on the paper then flip onto a slotted spoon and lower into the fat. I can cook 5 at a time in my fryer without overcrowding the pan. Donuts should flip themselves over after 3-4 minutes of cooking but use tongs to hold them under the oil if they are being stubborn!
Drain the donuts on kitchen paper briefly then toss in the caster sugar, before transferring to a plate to cool. When all of them are cooked, turn off the deep fat fryer or carefully take the oil off the heat, leaving for several hours until cold before disposing of it. Poke a hole in the side of each donut with a chopstick, before cutting a small opening about a 1/4 inch wide off the piping bag and with it's tip inside the donut, pipe in the custard until you see it about to come out around the piping bag. Eat with joy in your heart!
Donuts are best when eaten soon after cooking and filling but these ones are certainly more than good enough to eat 24 hours later.
A delicious little variation would be to add a tsp of cinnamon to the caster sugar you roll the cooked donuts in.
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Get the freeze dried banana powder from The Spice Mountain – a fabulous little company who has top quality freeze dried fruits and vegetables at very reasonable prices. Plus they are lovely people (I met them in Borough Market, London, on my last trip there) and they ship worldwide!