Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011
Every day when driving to the office I call up and ask my partner, “Is it doughnut day, today?” You see, there’s a Winchell’s Doughnut shop only a block or so away from the Chocolate Studio. I am a sucker, or at least a gobbler, when it comes to eating really great doughnuts.
When I was a kid, there was a Winchell’s at the midway point on my paper route. When I used to collect for the Los Angeles Times, I would divert a little of the dough to buy a lot of the dough. I could finish off a dozen chocolate-covered doughnuts by the time I pedaled home and my mother was never the wiser. That’s when and where I first became addicted to doughnuts.
Doughnuts are very inexpensive. In 1960 a baker’s dozen of the freshly-fried round things used to cost about $2.35. Today it only costs $7.50 and when compared to inflation doughnuts are ahead of the dollar and keeping up with gold pretty well.
When doughnuts are fresh, right out of the fryer, they have a distinctive crunch that can’t be duplicated in any other pastry. If they’re more then 4 hours old—forget it, they’re not worth the calories.
I was told that Vern Winchell (nicknamed the “The Donut King”), the founder of the company that still carries his name, opened one of his first stores with his military separation pay on Pico and La Cienega just a mile or so from Restaurant Row in Beverly Hills. He bought a second-hand Hobart mixer, a fryer, a couple of frosting racks and a display case—all for about $350. I don’t know if he thought there was a bright future in doughnuts, but the company started to grow until it seemed there was a Winchell’s on almost every corner.
I think people love doughnuts because there are so many wonderful flavors from which to choose. There’s warm glazed doughnuts—the flavor that made Krispy Kreme famous—frosted vanilla, cherry, strawberry, maple and even flavors with sprinkles and decoratifs. You can get a cruller, a cinnamon twist or even an apple fritter that is made with all of the extra scraps and pieces layered with canned apple pie filling. And then there are iced chocolate doughnuts.
The chocolate frosting is the cheapest form of chocolate you can buy. It is mostly powdered sugar, a shortening (something akin to Crisco) and cocoa powder. But no matter how cheap the ingredients are, the chocolate is still my favorite doughnut flavor. No matter where I go, Dunkin’ Donuts, Winchell’s, Krispy Kreme or Randy’s near Los Angeles International Airport, I always get the chocolate. You’ve all seen Randy’s. That’s the Coogie-designed building that looks like a huge two story doughnut on top of the small drive-thru through outlet.
Doughnuts hit a rough spot in US culinary history when low-carbohydrate and more healthful diets were in vogue. Doughnut vendors tried to fool us with bagels, but sesame seeds didn’t taste as good as old-fashioned chocolate. Even I—the world champion doughnut eater—spent a couple of years shying away from these doughy little masterpieces, but then thankfully I fell off the bagel wagon and got hooked on doughnuts all over again. I don’t think I can still eat a dozen at one clip, but one or two doughnuts once or twice a month still gets me going in the morning.
So why this sudden interest in doughnuts? At Choclatique we love to craft new flavors in new shapes. We created Moon Rocks for the 40th anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon, Napa Valley Wine Chocolates in celebration of Northern California’s grape crush and Decadent Desserts—an assortment of America’s finest after-dinner treats where Jelly Doughnut has a starring roll. And now we’ve created a special collection celebrating my favorite round pastry—the doughnut—with all your favorite flavors—strawberry, cherry, apple, maple and chocolate, of course; they will all be available after the first of the year.
A doughnut a day—now that a New Year’s resolution I can support!
Want to make your own doughnuts? Try out my recipe for Chocolate Cake Doughnuts here.