Fried Pear Doughnuts with Sweet Creme Fraiche Filling
October 28, 2021
It’s pear season, and I am forever #teampear. The forgotten fruit of fall will always have a place in my heart and household. And now it will always have a place in these fried pear doughnuts, rolled in cinnamon sugar, and filled with a sweetened creme fraiche.
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I’ve always loved apple cider doughnuts, and I’ve always loved trying to recreate traditionally apple treats with pears instead. So here we are, in pear doughnut land. But don’t expect these to taste like apple cider doughnuts. No, these are more like a traditional filled doughnut, fried to perfection.
For the filling, I wanted to stay away from anything too sweet, so I balanced out the sugary doughnuts with a creme fraiche-style filling, which has plenty of tang to go along with its own sweetness. I included some pear in there as well, because why not? Lean into the season of pears, friends.
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for these Fried Pear Doughnuts at your grocery store:
- Pantry: Sugar, Flour, Vegetable oil, Confectioner’s sugar
- Fridge: Yeast, Eggs, Butter, Milk, Heavy cream
- Produce: Pears, Lemon
- Spice Rack: Salt, Cinnamon
- Special Equipment: Stand mixer, Flexible spatula, Rolling pin, Biscuit cutter, Baking sheet, Parchment paper, Wok, Thermometer, Spider, Piping bag, Long nozzle tip
Let’s Make Fried Pear Doughnuts
These doughnuts use yeast to rise, and the most important step of this entire recipe might be checking to make sure your yeast is active before making the whole thing. I do this even with instant yeast, just to make sure they are all still alive and kicking in the jar in my fridge.
Mix a small amount of warm, not hot, water and sugar together in a small bowl, then sprinkle the yeast on top. Set it aside in a nice, cozy spot and let the yeast rest for about five minutes. If you come back to them and they are all foamy, you’re good to go.
However, if your yeast don’t bloom, it’s better to know now. If there are some signs of life, it may just be a little bit cool, so wait another few minutes. After that, if there’s still no action, discard the whole mixture and start over with fresh yeast.
When you do have a nice little bowl of happy, active yeast, go ahead and add them along with the rest of the doughnut dough ingredients into the bowl of your stand mixer. This includes flour, egg, butter, milk, shredded pear, sugar, and salt. I grated the pear right into the bowl, no need to discard the liquid.
Use the dough hook on your mixer, and turn it on to medium-low speed. Allow everything to come together and it will start to look like a somewhat sticky, but not wet, dough. If your dough is too sticky, and it’s not forming together, you can add a bit of flour a spoonful at a time.
Different kitchens, temperatures, and humidity levels can all affect the texture of dough, even if you follow a recipe exactly. It’s always a good idea to have more flour on hand than a recipe calls for, since you may need to add some extra.
The rest of the ingredients are fairly straightforward. The eggs and sugar in this make it an enriched yeast dough. These tend to be more elastic and forgiving than something like a bread dough, which means doughnuts are a great project for someone new to yeast.
When the dough is able to be shaped, and it easily pulls away from the dough hook, you’re ready to let it rest. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl with a flexible spatula, and form the dough into a ball in the bowl.
Sprinkle the top with a little bit of flour. This will prevent it from forming a crust on the top. Then, cover the bowl with a dish towel, and set it aside in a warm place, such as on top of your fridge. Let the dough rise for about an hour and a half. When it’s ready, it may not fully double in size, but it will appear fluffy.
After the first rise, dump it out of the bowl and onto a generously floured surface. Use floured hands to deflate it gently. Then sprinkle the dough with more flour, and grab your rolling pin. You’re going to want this to be about half an inch thick.
If you prefer, you can roll this dough between two layers of floured parchment paper. This can help keep your work surfaces and rolling pin clean of flour. Plus, it allows you to more easily see if there are areas unevenly rolled.
To cut out the doughnuts, you can use a round biscuit cutter or simply a sharp knife. I suggest making the doughnuts about two inches wide, whether they are squares or circles.
If you are using a circular cutter, try to get the doughnuts as close to each other as possible. Scraps don’t reroll well, as that can make tough doughnuts. So you will end up discarding any dough that isn’t used.
Transfer the dough rounds onto a parchment-lined and floured baking sheet, leaving about a half inch of space between them. Sprinkle them with more flour (are you noticing a theme?) and cover with a kitchen towel.
Set the pan of doughnuts aside to rise again, this time for only about half an hour. They should puff up gently, and they may get close to one another. If they do spread into each other, simply cut them apart with a bench scraper.
At this point, you can freeze the dough, if you prefer not to fry them until another time. This is a great idea if you want fresh doughnuts for breakfast without waking up before the sun. You can store frozen doughnuts for a few months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight, and then come to room temperature before frying.
If you are making them right away, you can start heating up your oil while the doughnuts are rising. Use a deep pot or wok, and add about two inches of vegetable oil. Using a wok can help you discard less oil because of the shape of the pan. This is what I use when frying doughnuts.
Add a thermometer to the pan and heat it up to be 350°F. Oil temperature is important when deep frying, since hot oil can cause your doughnuts to brown too much on the outside and still be raw in the middle. Cold can cause the doughnuts to absorb more oil, and be greasy.
You will also want to prepare your cinnamon sugar. Combine the two together in a bowl, then spread out the mixture on a parchment-lined sheet pan or another large, flat pan or dish. We are using confectioner’s sugar here for a nice powdery texture.
Once the oil is hot, add three or four doughnuts at a time. Cook for about a minute, and then use a spider tool to flip and cook for another minute. When the donuts are golden on both sides, gently submerge them under the oil for a brief moment.
Remove them from the pan and toss immediately into the powdered sugar. Turn the doughnuts to coat them on all sides. Then transfer the sugared doughnuts onto a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
You can freeze fried, unfilled doughnuts that are not coated in sugar for a couple month. Just skip the cinnamon sugar and transfer them directly from the oil to a paper-towel lined plate. Let frozen doughnuts thaw to room temperature before filling and serving them.
Doughnuts taste best fresh the day they are fried, but if needed, you can store them unfilled in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple days. They will be ready to fill and serve immediately.
How to Finish & Fill Doughnuts
The doughnuts will need some time to cool, since you don’t want to fill them while they are still warm. During that time, you can prepare the creme fraiche filling. A true creme fraiche actually takes a couple days, so this is more of a mock one, with the tangy flavor and some extras.
To get started, add the heavy cream and lemon juice to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. You can use a hand mixer for this if you prefer, or a stand mixer will work just as well. Mix on high speed until the cream is somewhat thickened with soft peaks.
Add in the pear puree and sugar. The pear flavor here is pretty subtle, so feel free to add more if you really want a lot of it in your doughnuts. You can also leave the pear out completely and just have a tangier creme fraiche.
Continue mixing on high until everything is incorporated. The creme fraiche can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for a couple days.
Transfer the creme fraiche to a piping bag with a long, small, round tip. Use a paring knife to cut an X-shape in the side of each doughnut. Insert the piping tip into the X and gently squeeze the bag to fill the doughnut.
Enjoy filled doughnuts as soon as possible. Eating the pear doughnuts immediately after filling will be the best experience. However, if needed, you can store them loosely covered at room temperature, and eat within one day at the most.
A sugary and tangy fried treat, these pear doughnuts are filled with sweet creme fraiche. They are light and fluffy, a perfect breakfast!
How to Serve Fried Pear Doughnuts
I firmly believe that doughnuts are a breakfast food. But I would never limit myself to only morning hours to enjoy these fluffy fried treats. Brunch, dessert, mid-afternoon snack – yes, please! At any time of the day, enjoy them alongside a hot pear cider to really appreciate the pear.
If you are serving them with breakfast or brunch, doughnuts make an excellent starter course. Follow them with something a bit more savory, like a tomato and avocado omelet. Don’t forget a pitcher of hard apple cider sangria for the table. For those who don’t want alcohol, mix up this cinnamon apple shrub with some soda water.
I can’t forget doughnuts’ soulmate, coffee! Since these are fruity themselves, you could try them with a pomegranate grenadine iced mocha. Or for something warm and cozy, try a seasonal honey chestnut cafe au lait. Not a coffee lover? Chai white hot chocolate is a perfect choice.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- Pears are delicious alongside apples in a pear & apple crisp with honey caramel.
- Use lemon juice in both parts of lemon curd filled sandwich cookies.
- Leftover cream is a perfect excuse to make some rich coffee ice cream.
- While the vegetable oil is hot, why not fry up some sweet corn fritters with bourbon-maple syrup.
Other Sweet & Tangy Treats to Try
Fried Pear Doughnuts with Sweet Creme Fraiche Filling
- 2 Tbsp Water warm
- ½ tsp Sugar
- 2 ¼ tsp Yeast (one packet)
- 3 ½ Cups All-purpose flour plus more for rolling
- 2 Eggs
- ¼ Cup Butter room temperature
- ½ Cup Milk room temperature
- 1 Bartlett Pear shredded on the large side of a box grater
- 1 Tbsp Sugar
- 1 ½ tsp Salt
- Vegetable Oil for frying
- 1 Cup Confectioner's Sugar optional
- 1 Tbsp Cinnamon optional
Sweet Creme Fraiche
- ¾ Cup Heavy Cream
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- ¼ Bartlett Pear pureed
- ½ Tbsp Confectioner's Sugar
- In a small bowl, combine the water and ½ tsp of sugar. Stir to mix the sugar into the water, and then sprinkle the yeast on top. Set it aside for 5 minutes, and allow the yeast to bloom. If it doesn't bubble up, start over with fresh yeast.
- Add the bloomed yeast mixture along with the flour, egg, butter, milk, shredded pear, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium-low until combined. If the dough is very sticky, you can add more flour by the spoonful.
- Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl with a flexible spatula, and form the dough into a ball in the bowl. Sprinkle the top with a little bit of flour. Cover the bowl with a dish towel, and set is aside to rise for 1.5 hours, until puffy.
- Dump the dough onto a generously floured surface, and deflate it gently. Cover with more flour, and roll it out to be a ½ inch thick. Use a sharp knife or biscuit cutter to cut out the donut shapes. If using a cutter, try to get as close as possible. Discard any scraps and don't reroll, as that can make tough doughnuts.
- Place the cut doughnuts on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with flour. Cover with a dish towel, and let rise for 30 min. Meanwhile, bring a deep pot or wok with 2-inches of vegetable oil up to 350°F.
- If you want to coat your doughnuts, prepare a parchment lined baking sheet or other flat pan. Combine cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl, and spread into the prepared pan.
- Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the oil is 350°F and no greater than 375°F. Add 3-4 doughnuts into the hot oil, and cook them 1 minute per side, until puffed up and lightly golden. Dunk the doughnut under the oil one last time, then immediately transfer to the pan with cinnamon-sugar and coat. Be sure to check the oil temperature before each batch, letting it heat up or cool down as needed.
- Set the fried and sugar-coated doughnuts aside on paper towel lined plate to cool completely before filling.
Sweet Creme Fraiche Filling
- Add the heavy cream and lemon juice to the bowl of a mixer (stand or hand will work) fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix on high speed until somewhat thickened, with soft peaks.
- Add in the pear puree and sugar, and continue mixing on high until everything is incorporated.
- Transfer the creme fraiche to a piping bag with a long, small round tip. Use a paring knife to cut an X-shape in the side of each doughnut. Insert the piping tip and gently fill the doughnut.
- Enjoy filled doughnuts as soon as possible.
- Make ahead tips:
- You can freeze the doughnut dough after the second rise for 3-4 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight, and then come to room temperature before frying.
- Freeze fried unfilled doughnuts that are not coated in sugar for 1-2 months. Let doughnuts thaw to room temperature before filling and serving.
- The creme fraiche can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for 1-2 days.
- Doughnuts taste best the day they are fried, but you can store them unfilled in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days.
- Eat filled doughnuts immediately for the best experience, or within 24 hours at most.
- Choosing pears:
- For the doughnuts, you can use any pear. I used Bartletts, which tend to be the most readily available. These are often green and hard when you buy them. Let them ripen on the counter until they are yellow and have some give.
- For the creme fraiche, you want to use a very ripe pear that is soft and will puree easily. Again, Bartlett pears work well for this, once yellow and ripe.
- Nutrition note: It's difficult to determine exactly how much oil is absorbed by the doughnuts when frying. The nutrition facts and calories are calculated to take oil into account, but your results may vary.