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Justin Gellatly’s Doughnut Recipe

May 29, 2014
by Justin Gellatly

Some time ago, I became hooked by the baking of Justin Gellatly (especially his sourdough bread, eccles cakes, custard tarts, hot cross buns, mince pies and doughnuts) and, over the years, I have written many stories charting his ascendancy. So it is my great pleasure to publish Justin’s recipe for doughnuts today, celebrating the rise of an heroic baker upon the publication of his first book, succinctly titled, BREAD, CAKE, DOUGHNUT, PUDDING.

Justin & Louise Gellatly

“I started making my doughnuts while working at St John Restaurant over ten years ago and, if I say so myself, they have become a bit legendary. Once you’ve had my doughnuts there is no going back.

I normally keep the fillings quite classic – custard, jam, lemon curd and apple cinnamon. But I have been developing many new flavours for this book, like my most fought-over one, the caramel custard with salted honeycomb sprinkle, which has become a bit of a signature for me, and another that I launched at Glastonbury, the violet custard with sugared violets and Parma violet sprinkle.

As in my bread recipes, I always weigh the water when I’m making doughnuts, it’s a lot more accurate than using a measuring jug.

I would recommend using a deep-fat fryer (you can pick up a Breville 3 litre one for about £30), which is a lot safer than a pan of hot oil. Either way, PLEASE be careful when using hot oil – I have had many burns and it’s really not very nice.

You will also need an electric mixer such as a Kenwood or KitchenAid, and if you don’t have a deep-fat fryer (which will have an integral thermometer) you will need a good digital thermometer to check that the oil is at the right temperature.

You can try out your own fillings by using the recipe for crème patissière and just folding in your additional filling of choice, but I am not a fan of the savoury doughnuts that are popping up in a few places.”

Makes about 20 doughnuts (about 1kg dough)
Preparation time: 45 minutes, plus proving and overnight chilling
Cooking time: 4 minutes per doughnut, fried in batches; about 30–40 minutes total

500g strong white bread flour
60g caster sugar
10g fine sea salt
15g fresh yeast, crumbled
4 eggs
zest of 1⁄2 lemon
150g water
125g softened unsalted butter

about 2 litres sunflower oil, for deep-frying

caster sugar


Put all the dough ingredients apart from the butter into the bowl of an electric mixer with a beater attachment and mix on a medium speed for 8 minutes, or until the dough starts coming away from the sides and forms a ball.

Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 1 minute.Take care that your mixer doesn’t overheat – it needs to rest as well as the dough!

Start the mixer up again on a medium speed and slowly add the butter to the dough – about 25g at a time. Once it is all incorporated, mix on high speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is glossy, smooth and very elastic when pulled, then cover the bowl with cling film and leave to prove until it has doubled in size. Knock back the dough, then re-cover the bowl and put into the fridge to chill overnight.

The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and cut it into 50g pieces (you should get about 20). Roll them into smooth, taut, tight buns and place them on a floured baking tray, leaving plenty of room between them as you don’t want them to stick together while they prove. Cover lightly with cling film and leave for about 4 hours, or until about doubled in size.

Get your deep-fat fryer ready, or get a heavy-based saucepan and fill it up to the halfway point with rapeseed oil (please be extremely careful, as hot oil is very dangerous). Heat the oil to 180°C.

When the oil is heated to the correct temperature, carefully remove the doughnuts from the tray by sliding a floured pastry scraper underneath them, taking care not to deflate them, and put them into the oil. Do not overcrowd the fryer – do 2–3 per batch, depending on the size of your pan. Fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown – they puff up and float, so you may need to gently push them down after about a minute to help them colour evenly. Remove from the fryer and place on kitchen paper, then toss them in a bowl of caster sugar while still warm. Repeat until all are fried, BUT make sure the oil temperature is correct every time before you fry – if it is too high they will colour too quickly and burn, and will be raw in the middle, and if it is too low the oil will be absorbed into the doughnut and it will become greasy. Set aside to cool before filling.

To fill the doughnuts, make a hole in the crease of each one (anywhere around the white line between the fried top and bottom). Fill a piping bag with your desired filling and pipe into the doughnut until swollen with pride. Roughly 20–50g is the optimum quantity, depending on the filling; cream will be less, because it is more aerated. You can fit in more than this, but it doesn’t give such a good balance of dough to filling.

The doughnuts are best eaten straight away, but will keep in an airtight tin and can be reheated to refresh them.


Makes about 900g (45g filling each for 20 doughnuts)
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

1 vanilla pod
500ml full fat milk
6 egg yolks
125g caster sugar, plus an extra 2 tablespoons
80g plain flour
200ml double cream

Slit the vanilla pod open lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Put both pod and seeds into a heavy-based saucepan with the milk and bring slowly just to the boil, to infuse the vanilla.

Meanwhile place the egg yolks and the 125g of sugar in a bowl and mix together for a few seconds, then sift in the flour and mix again.

Pour the just-boiling milk over the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling, then return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook over a medium heat, whisking constantly for about 5 minutes, until very thick.

Pass through a fine sieve, discarding the vanilla, and place a sheet of cling film on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming. Leave to cool, then refrigerate.

Whip the cream and the 2 tablespoons of sugar together until thick but not over-whipped and fold into the chilled custard.

October 2009

In the past, I was never that crazy about doughnuts and  though I can appreciate the pop sensibility of Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kremes that I encountered in America with their infinite permutations of sprinkles and coloured icings, I never wanted to eat them.

Disenchantment set in at an early age. From the works of Richmal Crompton and other favourite childrens’ authors, I learnt that doughnuts were something completely delicious that all children loved to eat, but then my expectations were crushed once I actually tasted one. It was horrible, a greasy  sticky lump of sponge filled with synthetic cream and a squirt of sickly red syrup at its heart. Like Proust with his madeleine, I can remember it now, only I should rather forget.

But then last week as I was buying my daily loaf at St John Bread & Wine in Commercial St, one of the waiters dropped a hint that Justin Gellatly was baking doughnuts at the weekend and my curiosity was piqued. I decided – in the interests of keeping an open mind – to give doughnuts a second shot. On Sunday on the dot of ten, opening time, I was there at St John to inspect the doughnuts, a pile of freshly baked custard-filled ones nestling together like eggs in a basket. Even as I paid for mine, another customer arrived and went straight  for the doughnuts, so I knew something was up.

Once I got home, it all went into slow motion. The world dissolved as I bit into my doughnut and the intensity of the moment of consummation exploded to fill my consciousness entirely. In that first bite, there was the delicate nutty flavour of the outside mingling with the feathery sponge of the inside and then both of these mixed with the rush of delicious custard. It wasn’t too sweet, and the texture of the sponge was ideally contrasted with both the sugary exterior and the creamy custard interior.

Then I woke, as if from a dream, the world came back to me and I realised my face and hands were covered in sugar. Now I understand what all the fuss was about. Now I know, this is what doughnuts should be like!

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Visit Justin’s bakery – Bread Ahead (Bakery & Baking School), Cathedral St, SE1, with Borough Market Stall from Monday to Saturday

Read some of my other stories about Justin Gellatly

The Return of Justin Gellatly

Last Night at the Bakery

Night in the Bakery at St John

Justin Gellatly, Head Baker & Pastry Chef

Five Hundred Eccles Cakes

The Bread, Cake & Biscuit Walk

13 Responses leave one →
  1. May 29, 2014

    Amazing doughnuts,Justin gave us 100 to give away at Bookslam yesterday. Rapturously received.

  2. Eva Gorman permalink
    May 29, 2014

    This is fantastic! Earlier today I saw this video from Penguin Books showing how Justin makes these donuts. I was disappointed that they did not include the recipe and here it is!

    I think some donuts are in my near future.

    Thanks, Gentle Author!

  3. May 29, 2014

    aaagghhh! waking up in deepest Pembrokeshire and feeling so very far away from getting my hands and face covered in sugar from one (?) of those doughnuts!

  4. sbw permalink
    May 29, 2014

    Thank you GA for introducing us to Justin, I have since sought him out, and am now, what can only be described as a fan! So much so that I have purchased a gift of a baking day at Bread Ahead for my dh! And thank you Justin, I now need to buy the book! Congrats. sbw

  5. May 29, 2014

    Good grief! Eating doughnuts? Terrible for weight watching! My favourite is with the apple inside. Watch out Billy Bunter!

  6. May 29, 2014

    Oh, well, yes! I believe your assumption, that “there is no going back”… — But they are so tasty, these lots of calories!!

    Love & Peace

  7. May 29, 2014

    Yummy! I will definitely try these! Valerie

  8. David permalink
    May 29, 2014

    I nearly didn’t read about your doughnuts when I read that you also make ‘mice’ pies!
    The doughnuts sound great though. I’ll try a mice pie also one day.

  9. May 29, 2014

    I’m going to try these!

    There used to be a bakers on the Hackney Road next door to the tailor opposite the Children’s Hospital that were open on Sunday morning.
    My aunt Florrie used to walk us to Sunday School at the Shoreditch Tabernacle and she would take us into the bakers for hot jam doughnuts. I’ve never forgotten how brilliant they tasted.

    Krispy Kreme have their place but a doughnut to me is always filled with raspberry jam and covered in granulated sugar.

  10. Sarah C permalink
    May 29, 2014

    They sound delicious. As good as the ones my grandmother’s friend used to make us in her kitchen when I was a child. But perhaps better because she didn’t fill them.

  11. May 29, 2014

    Looks like will be a yummy recipe to enjoy. I am a fan of special type of food and me searching from internet and other sources.

  12. Gary Arber permalink
    May 29, 2014

    I have only just succeeded to get my weight down to 12 stone and now look what you have done.
    I’ll die a happy man

  13. Penny Wythes permalink
    May 30, 2014

    I am drooling in envy – but I WILL NOT buy a deep fat fryer – I WILL NOT……….
    Take it the mice pies were fro Mr Pussy – perhaps he’d like a Stargazy Pie next.

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