Since there are quite a few steps in this recipe, I suggest spreading out the work over two days. Make the streusel and pastry cream the first day, and save the dough-raising and assembly for the second day.
I used Wild Turkey American Honey bourbon because of its sweet, mellow flavor, but you can substitute your favorite brand. The bourbon can also be completely omitted from the pastry cream, if desired.
1/3cupnatural crunchy peanut butterlow or no-sugar/salt
2tablespoonslight brown sugar
2/3cupmini chocolate chips
Peanut butter pastry cream
2cupsmilk or creamdivided
3/4cupsmooth or chunky natural peanut butterlow or no-sugar/salt
1/4-1/2cupto taste Kentucky Bourbon
2tablespoon+ 2 teaspoon active dry yeastdivided
2cupswhole fat half & halfheated to 110˚F, divided
4 to 5cupsbread flourdivided
1/2cupunsalted buttermelted and cooled slightly
Vegetable oil for frying
1tablespoondark corn syrup *optional
Preheat oven to 350°. Place the flour, peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar and salt in a small bowl. Pour in the melted butter and mash the ingredients together with a fork. Pour the mixture onto a metal baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes or until golden and fragrant.
Let the streusel cool on the pan completely. Crumble streusel with your fingers and mix in the 2/3 cup chocolate chips. Reserve for later use.
Peanut butter pastry cream
In a medium bowl, whisk cornstarch in 1/2 cup of milk, set aside. Combine the remaining milk and sugar in a medium saucepan; heat until the mixture just starts to bubble. Remove from heat.
Beat the whole eggs and yolks into the cornstarch/milk mixture. Pour 1/3 of the boiling mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so the eggs do not cook. Return the remaining milk mixture to a boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter. Whisk until the peanut butter is melted and well combined. Add the salt. Stir in bourbon to taste. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
In a medium bowl dissolve 2 tablespoons of yeast into 1 1/2 cups of the half & half. Add 1 1/2 cups of the bread flour and stir until a smooth paste forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm spot for about 30 minutes.
While you wait for the paste mixture to rest, combine the remaining half & half and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir to combine. When the paste mixture has rested (and has risen a bit) add it to the mixer bowl along with the vanilla and egg yolks. Mix until smooth. Turn off the mixer and add 2 cups of the remaining flour and top with the sugar and salt. Mix on low for about 30 seconds or until the dough starts to come together. Add the melted butter and mix until it becomes incorporated, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Switch to a dough hook and add more flour gradually, about 1/4 cup at a time with the mixer turned off. Knead the dough at medium speed between additions until the dough pulls completely away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and not too sticky. You may not have to use all the remaining flour. The dough will be very soft but not very sticky. Put the kneaded dough into a large bowl that has been greased with shortening. Turn the dough over to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for 30 minutes. After it has rested, gently punch down the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with a lightly floured tea towel. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out dough to 1/2 inch thick. With a 3” pastry ring or cookie cutter, cut out rounds.
Place the doughnuts on the lined baking sheet 1 inch apart and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm spot to proof until they almost double in size, about 30 to 40 minutes
While you wait for the donuts to rise, heat a heavy-bottomed pot with at least 2 inches of oil until a thermometer registers 360˚F. Keep an eye on that thermometer! It’s very easy for oil to overheat, so you may have to adjust the dial on your range to keep the heat at a steady temperature.
Carefully place the cut donuts in the oil. Fry donuts for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until a light golden color is achieved. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Let cool.
Combine butter, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla in medium saucepan and warm over medium heat until butter is melted. Decrease the heat to low, add the chocolate, and whisk until melted. Add the pinch of salt.
Turn off heat, add the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Allow the pan to stay on the warm stove eye while you dip the doughnuts.
*The corn syrup adds shine to the glaze. It can be omitted if desired
Transfer the pastry cream to a piping bag fitted with a large plain pastry tip. Place the tip inside the doughnut and squeeze about 2 tablespoons of cream into each pastry. You should feel the doughnut expand slightly in yourhand.
Dip the tops of each doughnut into the glaze and allow the excess to run off. Let each donut stand for 30 seconds to 1 minute before topping with the streusel. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired.
Keep assembled doughnuts in an air-tight container. On assembly day, doughnuts can stay at room temperature for several hours, but do not exceed 12 hours. These are best eaten fresh, but you can refrigerate leftovers and gently re-heat doughnuts in the microwave before serving.