Last Updated on September 24, 2020 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD
This tested-till-perfect french cruller donut recipe is so good. The interior of the crullers is perfectly fluffy and the exterior, shatteringly crisp. These are such a fun weekend baking project or a special treat for any occasion.
What are French Crullers?
French Crullers are a special kind of doughnut different from the yeast and cake doughnuts more commonly found. They are made with a special dough called choux – the same type of dough used to make éclairs, cream puffs and gougères. (All of which I want in front of me right now, please.)
Choux dough is made in a unique way. Water and butter are brought to a boil, then the flour is dumped in. It starts to gelatinize immediately in the hot water and in less than a minute, a smooth dough is formed.
Whole eggs are the only leavener, and they are beaten in gradually once the dough has cooled a smidge.
Any choux dough is actually cooked twice. First the flour paste is cooked in a pot, then it is formed into shapes, after which it is cooked a second time by a high heat method (baking, for eclairs and friends, or frying for French Crullers).
Because it is a high-moisture dough cooked quickly in high heat, the surface sets quickly while the interior is still very wet. As the liquid inside heats up, steam is formed but it is totally trapped by the now-deliciously-crisp surface.
Since the air bubbles can’t escape, they come together to form a single massive air bubble (or a few large ones). That’s the hole inside a cream puff!
The result for a French Cruller is a browned exterior with crisp nooks and crannies that give way to a moist, fluffy interior, made distinct by the large holes and not-too-sweet custardy flavour.
How To Make French Crullers
1. Place water and butter in a saucepan with sugar and salt and bring to a boil.
2. Remove from heat and dump in the flour. Stir and return to heat.
3. Stir constantly over medium heat for about 1 minute, until dough comes together in a smooth ball and leaves a coating on the bottom of the saucepan.
4. Transfer dough to stand mixer and let cool 5 minutes.
5. Beat eggs and incorporate into dough a splash at a time with mixer on medium speed.
6. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pop the bag in the fridge to cool for 15 minutes.
7. While dough chills, bring a deep pot with 3 inches of oil to 375ºF. Cut rough 4 x 4″ squares of parchment paper.
8. Pipe chilled dough in 3 1/2″ rings on the parchment paper squares.
9. Use tongs to carefully place crullers parchment-side up in the hot oil. Pull off the parchment paper using the tongs and set aside (you can reuse it with the next batch). Fry about 4 crullers at time but don’t overcrowd the pan.
10. Cook for 3 minutes undisturbed on first side then carefully flip the cruller using tongs and cook 2-3 minutes on second side.
11. Transfer to wire racks to cool before glazing.
Tips for Perfect French Crullers
- Flour – I tested the recipe using both bread flour (touted as the best option by some pastry chefs) and all-purpose. They performed similarly, but if anything, the all-purpose flour crullers had a greater rise.
- Oil – Using a higher-temperature oil (375ºF) sets the crullers’ pretty ridges before the dough can spread.
- Milk vs Water – Using water (instead of milk or half milk like some recipes suggest) makes the most delicious, shatteringly crisp exterior. The doughnut is plenty rich and fluffy inside without milk thanks to the high proportion of butter and eggs.
- Frying – Be sure to fry the crullers parchment-side up. The undersides (facing the parchment) will have smooshed a bit against the surface. The side facing you will have the prettiest appearance, and frying that side first will set the beautiful shape.
- Doneness – Unsure when the dough is cooked? The film on the bottom of the pot is your surefire way of knowing. If the dough is no longer curdled, coming away from the sides and looks kind of like Play-Doh, you can be confident it is ready.
- Freezing – I tested the recipe with freezing the uncooked crullers for 10 minutes and also overnight to see if it made a difference in how well the pretty ridges were formed in the finished doughnut and it made no difference so don’t bother.
French Crullers Recipe
- 1 cup water
- 4 oz unsalted butter 1/2 cup
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 5 oz all-purpose flour 1 cup lightly spooned and levelled plus 2 tsp
- 4 large eggs beaten
- 1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Bring water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil over high heat. Turn off heat and dump in the flour. Use a spoon or a spatula to stir it all together. Bring it back to medium heat and cook about 1 minute, until mixture forms a cohesive ball and leaves a film on the bottom of the pot.
- Transfer the dough to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Let the dough cool for 5 minutes.
- With mixer running on medium speed, add a few tablespoonfuls of the beaten egg and incorporate completely. Repeat with remaining egg, a few tablespoonfuls at a time, until all eggs are incorporated and a smooth batter is formed.
- Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large (1/2" or larger) star tip. Chill for 15 minutes in fridge.
- While dough chills, bring a deep pot with 3 inches of oil to 375ºF. Cut rough 4 x 4" squares of parchment paper.
- Pipe chilled dough in 3 1/2" rings on the parchment paper squares.
- Use tongs to carefully place crullers parchment-side up in the hot oil. Pull off the parchment paper using the tongs and set aside (you can reuse it with the next batch). Fry about 4 crullers at time but don't overcrowd the pan.
- Cook for 3 minutes undisturbed on first side then carefully flip the cruller using tongs and cook 2-3 minutes on second side.
- Transfer to wire racks to cool before glazing.
To Make Glaze
- Whisk together the confectioners' sugar, milk and vanilla. Thin out with a little water if needed. Pour into a shallow bowl and dip the donuts halfway to glaze.