Bring milk, cream and espresso to the simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk yolks, sugar and ½ tsp sea salt in a bowl until pale and creamy (6-8 minutes), add milk mixture, whisk to combine. Return to pan, stir continuously over low heat until mixture coats the spoon thickly (8-10 minutes). Remove from heat, squeeze excess water from gelatine and add to milk mixture with chocolate, whisk to combine. Strain, divide among eight 200ml serving glasses, refrigerate until set (3-4 hours).
Meanwhile, for rice puff topping, melt 10gm butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, add walnuts and stir occasionally until coated (3-4 minutes). Scatter over 20gm sugar, stir until sugar melts and nuts are glazed
(5 minutes), spread on a tray lined with baking paper and cool, then coarsely crumble. Stir remaining sugar and 150ml water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then cook until mixture reaches 114C on a sugar thermometer (8-10 minutes). Add rice puffs, stir continuously to coat (mixture will crystallise), then cook until light caramel (4-5 minutes). Stir in remaining butter, transfer to a tray lined with baking paper, cool, then coarsely crumble. Combine with candied walnuts and set aside.
For doughnuts, warm milk and butter over low heat until butter is melted, cool to lukewarm, transfer to a bowl, stir in 30gm sugar and yeast, then whisk in eggs. Combine flour and ¼ tsp salt in a separate bowl, make a well in the centre and gradually add egg mixture, whisking until smooth and incorporated. Cover and stand in a warm place until risen by half (1 hour), then transfer to a piping bag (no nozzle), seal ends and prove for 30 minutes (bag will become tight). Meanwhile, simmer dates, remaining sugar, star anise and 200ml water in a saucepan over medium heat until water evaporates and dates are very tender (8-10 minutes). Add brandy, simmer until almost evaporated, then process in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 5mm nozzle, set aside.
Meanwhile, for cardamom sugar, dry-roast cardamom until fragrant (2-3 minutes), then combine in a large bowl with sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
Heat oil in a deep saucepan or deep-fryer to 180C. Pipe in tablespoons of doughnut mixture in batches and deep-fry, turning occasionally, until golden and cooked through (2-3 minutes; be careful as hot oil will spit). Remove and roll in cardamom sugar. Pierce a hole in each doughnut with tip of piping bag, fill with date filling and keep warm.
To serve, scatter coffee creams with a little rice puff topping, pile warm doughnuts on top and serve.
This recipe is from the August 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.