As regular readers know, every spring, I commence Doughnut Days, an eating extravaganza dedicated to the once humble doughnut. Given that I've been at this for years now, I've pretty much tapped all the great doughnuts of LA, so this year, I'm taking Doughnut Days on the road.
Being in New York City gave me a chance to visit the legendary Doughnut Plant. I'd been hearing about this lower Manhattan doughnuttery and its creative recipes for years; the tres leches cake doughnut and creme brulee doughnut are the stuff of doughnut lore.
Like any good food blogger, I mapped out my trip ahead of time. I hit Doughnut Plant 15 minutes after opening on a Tuesday morning (6:45 am). There was no line, just a few people milling about. I got a tres leches cake doughnut and a vanilla bean doughnut. I asked for one of the famous creme brulee doughnuts but was told by the counterperson that they would be ready in five minutes, so I went outside and stood next to two firefighters who were also waiting for the creme brulees.
While I waited, I munched. The tres leches was a good concept, a glazed cake doughnut with a soaked bottom just like the cake of the same name, but it was overwhelmingly sweet, so much so that the sweetness masked any other flavors. The vanilla bean, a yeast doughnut which was the closest thing they have to a traditional raised glazed, was also sweet and nicely chewy, though I would have liked more yeasty flavor. Overall, I found it unexceptional. Needless to say, while doughnuts generally make me happy, I wasn't finding these to be out of the ballpark; was this just another overhyped New York eatery?
The firefighters, who had not ordered any other doughnuts while they waited for their creme brulees, pegged me for a newbie.
"Have you had the creme brulee?" one of them asked. I responded that I hadn't and asked if it was good. His eyes widened.
"Fucking euphoric," he said, staring intensely at me. At that moment, as if on cue, I saw the counterperson pull out a tray of small round doughnuts with gleaming brown caps. She motioned for us to come in.
The creme brulee doughnut is quite modest in size compared to the rest of the Doughnut Plant lineup; it is a round, compact yeast doughnut which fits firmly in the palm of your hand. The top is hard, caramelized sugar, as per the namesake dessert, and the filling is a liquid, vanilla custard. Eating this doughnut is an explosion of flavor and texture. The chewy and still slightly warm yeast dough gives way to the sweet crunch of the caramelized sugar, after which the vanilla creme oozes out. The custard is perfect. It is a far cry from the gloppy, corn starch custard you traditionally find in a custard doughnut. It's more liquid with a purer vanilla taste, and it's not too sweet, not unlike the custard of a particularly liquidy creme brulees. All of these elements come together to create a moment of doughnut perfection.
As I walked out of the shop, I took a bite. One of the firefighters, now getting into his red car, looked up at me.
"Is that the best doughnut you've ever had?"
"Fucking euphoric," I responded without missing a beat, and immediately turned around, went back into the shop and bought another.
379 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002
What's that? You want pictures. Jeez, what do I look like, a food blogger? Well, if you must have them check out these beauties from the ever gracious BananaWonder.