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French Toast Donuts

These French Toast Donuts are made with thick slices of fluffy challah. Each slice is dipped in custard, deep-fried, then covered in cinnamon sugar. These homemade donuts are so good, especially with a hot cup of coffee!

French toast donuts on a turquoise plate

This summer one of our favorite farmer’s markets had a new stall featuring homemade donuts. Of course, I had to investigate. They had all the usuals – old-fashioned donuts, chocolate donuts, and the like – but they also had something I had never seen before: French toast donuts.

As it turns out, deep-frying french toast is a marvelous idea. After biting into one of those donuts I was in love with the crunchy cinnamon sugar exterior and the fluffy interior. It was one of those “nobody talk to me I’m having a moment” experiences. It was just me and my donut. Shhhh.

We went back to that stand every weekend all summer. Then, of course, the farmer’s market closed for the season and I began missing my weekly donut fix. That’s where this recipe comes in!

Hand holding a french toast donut

Why You’ll Love These French Toast Donuts

I’m happy to say that these French Toast donuts came out nearly identical to the ones I enjoyed at the farmer’s market. Here’s why I think you’ll love them as much as I do:

  • Fun to eat. There’s just something so satisfying about eating food traditionally enjoyed with a fork, with your hands instead. It feels like you’re getting away with something, doesn’t it? These donuts are meant to be eaten with your fingers – no utensils required.
  • Incredible texture. The exterior of these donuts is perfectly golden and crunchy, both from the frying and from a generous coating of cinnamon sugar. This contrasts beautifully with the insides of each donut, which is super fluffy.
  • Compulsively munchable. I’m telling you, once you eat a french toast donut you just might be ruined for all other kinds of donuts. At the very least, these babies will make your top donuts ever list.

Why Are These Called French Toast Donuts?

They are called french toast donuts because the first part of this recipe is identical to the way you make french toast.

A loaf of fluffy challah is cut into thick slices, dried overnight, then soaked in an egg custard. The recipe differs from traditional french toast when the slices are deep-fried and then doused in cinnamon sugar.

I used my Challah French Toast recipe as a starting point for this donut spin-off. If you want even more ways to make french toast, check out this Overnight French Toast and this Bourbon Apple French Toast Casserole. I also have a fun French Toast in a Mug recipe!

Challah and other ingredients for french toast donuts

Plan Ahead

It is worth noting that this recipe requires some patience. Why? Because you need to make the challah the day before you make the donuts. This way you can slice up the loaf and leave the pieces out to dry overnight. The dry time makes sure the bread soaks up more of the custard.

Recipe Ingredients

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need to make these donuts. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for specific amounts.

For the egg wash:

  • Egg
  • Olive oil

For the custard:

  • Large eggs
  • Half and half – You can also use whole milk or heavy cream if you prefer.
  • Honey – Heated in microwave 30 seconds to make it easier to pour.
  • Kosher salt
  • Vanilla extract – Use pure vanilla extract.
  • Grated nutmeg

For frying:

  • Vegetable oil – Don’t sub for another kind of oil, the smoke point may not be the same.
A stack of french toast donuts on a plate

How to Make French Toast Donuts

Now that you know what you’ll need, it’s time to start making some homemade donuts:

The day before:

  • Make the challah dough. Use my honey vanilla challah recipe to make the challah dough. Let it rise.
  • Braid the dough. Punch the dough down, divide it into three pieces, then roll each piece out and braid the dough. Braid tightly – you don’t want any gaps. When you finish braiding each side crimp the tapered ends together, then tuck them under.
  • Heat the oven and do the second rise. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Place the braided dough in your loaf 9×5 pan for the second rise. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Add egg wash. Just before the rising time has finished whisk together 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of olive oil, this is going to be the glaze for your bread. Gently brush the dough with a thick layer of it.
  • Bake. Place the dough in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the bread is a deep golden brown and sounds hollow when you thump it on the bottom.
  • Transfer to a baking rack to cool. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
  • Slice and leave out. Cut the cooled bread into thick slices, then leave out on baking sheet, uncovered, overnight. This will allow the bread to dry out.

The day of:

  • Make the cinnamon sugar. In a medium bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon, stirring well with a spoon. Pour onto a plate and set aside.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a wire rack on top.
  • Make the custard. Mix custard ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl and pour into a 9×9 baking dish.
Soaking two pieces of challah in custard for french toast
  • Add the bread. Soak dried bread slices in custard 2 slices at a time, for about 2 minutes per side. Set the soaked bread on the drying rack to sit. Sprinkle each slice with a pinch or two of cinnamon to taste.
  • Heat the oil. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot, heat 5 inches of vegetable oil to 345F – 350F degrees F. (Use a candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot to judge the temperature. Dutch ovens are best since they regulate the temperature better than regular pots.) Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the heat of your stove accordingly. You don’t want to temperature to rise above 350F or the donuts will burn. Likewise, you don’t want the temperature to drop below 345F or the donuts will not cook through.
  • Line a second baking sheet with paper towels. Place a clean wire rack on top. Make sure it is not plastic because we are going to put hot, just fried donuts on it to drain.
  • Fry until golden. When the oil reaches 345 – 350 degrees F, fry the bread slices, two or three at a time. Fry until they are light golden brown on both sides, about 1-2 minutes. Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the heat as you go. Make sure the donuts don’t overcook. If they are dark brown, they are overdone.
  • Drain. Once each piece of challah bread is golden, remove it from the oil with a metal spoon and place it on the wire rack to drain while you fry up the rest of the dough.
Coating the fried french toast donuts in cinnamon sugar
  • Add cinnamon sugar. Press each side of the fried dough into the cinnamon sugar, making sure to coat each side. Add the cinnamon sugar while the donuts are still hot (use tongs to prevent burning your fingers).
  • Serve!

Tips for Success

  • Cut thick slices of challah. Make sure you don’t cut your slices too thinly or they will be difficult to manage while deep frying.
  • Watch the oil temperature. It is very important to watch the temperature of your oil. Too low and the donuts won’t cook quickly enough, which means they will absorb oil. Too high, and the donuts will cook too quickly, which may lead to burning. I went into more detail about deep frying temperatures in my post about homemade beignets.
  • Use a metal spoon. It’s also important to use a metal spoon or metal tongs while deep frying the donuts. Plastic doesn’t hold up well with high temperatures and can leach toxins into your food.
French toast donuts on a baking sheet

Serving Suggestions

I love these donuts with a hot cup of coffee. This time of year, a gingerbread latte or pumpkin spice latte is the perfect combo! I also have a honey vanilla latte recipe coming up that is divine with donuts.

If you want to be a bit extra, you can serve these donuts with a small bowl filled with whipped cream and/or salted caramel. Dip the donuts into the whipped cream or caramel sauce between bites.

Saving Extras for Later

Donuts are best the day they are made, but since this recipe does make a fair number of donuts here’s how to store them:

  • Storage: Place the donuts in a paper bag and store them on the counter for up to 2 days.
  • Reheating: You can eat the donuts at room temperature. If you prefer them warm you can also place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Heat them in an oven preheated to 350F for 5 minutes.

More Donut Recipes

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French Toast Donuts

French toast donuts on a turquoise plate
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These French Toast Donuts are made with thick slices of fluffy challah. Each slice is dipped in custard, deep-fried, then covered in cinnamon sugar.

  • Author: Rustic Family Recipes
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Making the Challah: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 16-20 donuts
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Fry
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

For the egg wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

For the custard:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/4 cup honey heated in microwave 30 seconds
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch grated nutmeg

For frying:

  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

The day before:

Make the challah dough. Use my honey vanilla challah recipe to make the challah dough. Let it rise.

Braid the dough. Punch the dough down, divide it into three pieces, then roll each piece out and braid the dough. Braid tightly – you don’t want any gaps. When you finish braiding each side crimp the tapered ends together, then tuck them under.

Heat the oven and do the second rise. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the braided dough in a 9x 5 loaf pan for the second rise. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.

Add egg wash. Just before the rising time has finished whisk together 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of olive oil, this is going to be the glaze for your bread. Gently brush the dough with a thick layer of it.

Bake. Place the dough in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the bread is a deep golden brown and sounds hollow when you thump it on the bottom.

Transfer to a baking rack to cool. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Slice and leave out. Cut the cooled bread into thick slices, then leave out on baking sheet, uncovered, overnight. This will allow the bread to dry out.

The day of:

Make the cinnamon sugar. In a medium bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon, stirring well with a spoon. Pour onto a plate and set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a wire rack on top.

Make the custard. Mix custard ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl and pour into a 9×9 baking dish.

Add the bread. Soak dried bread slices in custard 2 slices at a time, for about 2 minutes per side. Set the soaked bread on the drying rack to sit. Sprinkle each slice with a pinch or two of cinnamon to taste.

Heat the oil. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot, heat 5 inches of vegetable oil to 345F – 350F degrees F. (Use a candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot to judge the temperature. Dutch ovens are best since they regulate the temperature better than regular pots.) Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the heat of your stove accordingly. You don’t want to temperature to rise above 350F or the donuts will burn. Likewise, you don’t want the temperature to drop below 345F or the donuts will not cook through.

Line a second baking sheet with paper towels. Place a clean wire rack on top. Make sure it is not plastic because we are going to put hot, just fried donuts on it to drain.

Fry until golden. When the oil reaches 345 – 350 degrees F, fry the bread slices, two or three at a time. Fry until they are light golden brown on both sides, about 1-2 minutes. Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the heat as you go. Make sure the donuts don’t overcook. If they are dark brown, they are overdone.

Drain. Once each piece of challah bread is golden, remove it from the oil with a metal spoon and place it on the wire rack to drain while you fry up the rest of the dough.

Add cinnamon sugar. Press each side of the fried dough into the cinnamon sugar, making sure to coat each side. Add the cinnamon sugar while the donuts are still hot (use tongs to prevent burning your fingers).

Serve! These donuts are fantastic with a cup of hot coffee or tea.

Keywords: french toast donuts, cinnamon sugar french toast, challah donuts

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