A few months ago, early on a Saturday morning, I joined Nicole Taylor (aka Food Culturist) and other sweets-focused folks on a walk-about of donut places in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Nicole is also the creator of the radio program “Hot Grease” on Heritage Radio Network. Her shows, which are downloadable for listening via podcast, cover a range of topics related to current topics in food and sustainability. We’ve known each other for a while, but I’d had no idea that she was a such a donut connoisseur until I saw her boards on Pinterest.
We started our walk off at one of my favorite places Dough. Their stand at Smorgasburg is on my usual must-visit list (their Hibiscus is my favorite, in case you are buying). When I was growing up, there were two types of donuts in my world: dense, solid Entenmann’s and airy, light Krispy Kreme (yes, from the actual store that was the next town over). Now, with shops like Dough, Doughnut Plant, and other smaller bakers around the U.S. there’s more choice in texture and in flavors. It’s made me re-visit this childhood treat and I’ve become hooked on it all over again.
The light-as-air creations from Dough (“We Fry in Bed-Stuy”) come in dozens of flavors, put together by an amazing culinary talent, Fany Gerson (aka La Newyorkina). The Blood Orange glazed version is what some folks would call the best starter flavor, and is their most popular aside from the plain glazed one, with the tart-tangy, not-too-sweet topping working in perfect harmony with the pillowy, soft donut.
We also sampled the citrusy-spicy Lemon-Ginger glazed one which blended a mouth-puckering wallop of lemon (the perfect amount, in my opinion) with a hefty zing of candied ginger. One of these for breakfast would definitely get me up and going in the morning.
Not all of the flavors that we tried at Dough on our tour are currently available in their rotation. We had a sneak peak at a few upcoming releases. This Pink Peppercorn-topped one was definitely interesting, contrasting savory and sweet. It wasn’t, however, my favorite of the day.
That accolade goes to this phenomenal-tasting Olive Oil-Thyme-Sea Salt glazed donut. These were the last to arrive at our tasting, so they came to us still a bit warm from the oven with the fragrant, sweet-salty glaze just barely set, dripping over the sides. I picked up woodsy thyme notes as well as a hint of freshness from the fragrant lemon peel embedded in the dough. Topped with the silky perfume of the oil, greenness from the thyme and brought together with a pop from the salt, this was the perfect savory-sweet, herbacious treat. If you could capture the flavors of Italy in donut form, this is it. I’m definitely going to be on the look out for this one the next time I see Dough selling at the markets.
In some ways, I think it was unfair of all the other things that we tried during our exploration that we started off at Dough. On the other hand, having their treats as a benchmark for donut styles, gave us a baseline for our further sampling. Not too far away from our first stop, we visited a newcomer to the neighborhood, Brooklyn Kolache Co.
Loosely related to a Central European confection that has the same name, these hand-held creations are a rich, doughy, slightly sweet puffs. They have arrived here by way of Texas courtesy an ex-pat from the Lone Star State and can be found at this shop filled either with savory items or more sugary fare, like jams and preserves.
A couple of these with one of their coffees, and you would be completely set to start your day. I enjoyed the taste and texture of the pastry as a base for the rich, hearty, spiced meat, cheese, and peppers. Unfortunately, they were clean out of the sweet version by the time I went back to the counter that day. I’d definitely be up for another trip to explore some of their other flavors, especially if I could grab a table on their back patio while eating them.
Our last stop of the day was at Clementine Bakery, a vegan-organic spot that also offers gluten-free creations. At this homey-feeling cafe, we gathered around the table to try out their regular donuts topped with chocolate and coconut or sprinkles, which will change your mind about how delicious vegan baked goods can be. They certainly won over a few skeptics in our group. These donuts are on the more dense side of the fence without being heavy and were super moist and cake-like.
Clementine Bakery – Raspberry Jam-filled donut & Chocolate-Coconut donut
The jam-filled donuts came in red or black raspberry versions. These cakey confections had a lovely lemony lift to them whose tartness contrasted perfectly with the light dusting of powdered sugar and the sweetness of the jam. If my errands take me close by this spot in the future, I’ll make a point of dropping by here again for an afternoon break to see what other wonderful treats they’ve baked.
The next “Dive Into the Donut Renaissance” is actually scheduled for tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. After going through all of my photos from this tour, I’m tempted to sign up for it all over again. Note that we did share donuts on several of our stops so that we could maximize our sampling options without becoming overly full. There was also an opportunity to take home the leftovers that we been offered and couldn’t finish on the spot. This was a great way to find out more about the terrific culinary options in Bed-Stuy, which is a part of Brooklyn I don’t usually get to on my other jaunts. For more opportunities to explore this neighborhood through the culinary lens of the folks who live there, please follow @BedStuyCrawl on Twitter or Bed-Stuy Crawl on Facebook.