Filling the Doughnut Hole
Modern takes on an old classic
Pumpkin pie donut with cappuccino at District Donuts. Sliders. Brew
Photographed By Sara Essex Bradley
It was 1978, and 13-year-old Andrew Fox was desperate for funds to secure the all-in-one Soundesign Hi-Fi he was eyeballing at G.E.X. department store on Veterans Highway. This would allow him to absorb the doctrines of Led Zeppelin and the King Biscuit Flour Hour at mind-numbing decibels and perhaps morph him into the suave, debonair gent he knew he was destined to become. Emboldened by desperation, he glazed over his age to land the midnight to 8 a.m. weekend shift at a Metairie doughnut shop but soon discovered that measuring and dumping ingredients into a mixer then squirting blobs of goo into hot grease provided little room for creative expression. Notwithstanding the young doughnut maker’s aspirations to introduce flavors such as nacho cheese and Captain Crunch-inspired varieties to the shop’s line-up, management remained unconvinced.
“The flavors were always the same and nothing ever changed,” Fox says. “So I routinely put five babies in every one of our Mardi Gras King Cakes – which were just gigantic glazed doughnuts.”
Despite Fox’s efforts to inject a bit of pizzazz into his profession, New Orleans’ doughnut scene remained solidly devoted to the classics until 2011 when Brandon Singleton , Dennis Gibliant and Ronald Laporte opened Blue Dot Donuts in Mid-City and set the midnight to 8 a.m. kitchen staff free to introduce peanut butter and jelly , pumpkin spic e and sweet pot at o and banana cream-filled with Nutella topping to the lineup of three dozen glazed, cake, buttermilk and filled varieties.
“Success came right away,” Laporte says. “People were hungry for this.” On December 7, Blue Dot began offering savory doughnut and wine parings every other Saturday afternoon for $15. “We plan to partner with chefs to create some interesting varieties,” he says. “They will be small and unglazed because you would look really stupid standing around eating a big old doughnut with a glass of wine.” As of press time an oft-delayed Uptown offshoot location was scheduled “to open any day now.”
Liz Hollinger , pastry chef at the rec ently opened District Donuts. Sliders . Brew is on- site producing hourly batches of from-scratch mainstream standards as well as se asonally inspired craft creations: Crispy-edged glazed numbers with fragrant nutty brown butter and toasted pistachios; toasted five-spice with Sriracha-chile glaze; Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk-pastry cream filling, coffee glaze and tapioca pearls; and airy orbs filled with impossibly light passion fruit cream topped with chocolate mousse and flecks of cocoa nibs.
“I have free reign over creativity,” Hollinger says, “and a million ideas.”
Each week she trots out a homage to the home team with a black-and-gold variety, such as a balsamic-caramel glaze and a topping of cracklins. A face-off between the Saints and the Atlanta Falcons inspired a sweet treat topped with fried chicken skin.
“We’re going beyond the maple-bacon doughnut thing,” says Chris Audler, a partner in District. Considered a cutting-edge culinary offering when Blue Dot first opened, the shop’s popular maple-bacon long John became popular for a reason. With its fluffy, tender interior, rich, thick maple glaze and generous topping of crisply fried, thick-cut smoked bacon, Blue Dot’s maple-bacon long John remains the shop’s proud signature offering and it seems to have found a permanent place in the local culinary canon.
After securing an assorted box of Blue Dot doughnuts to share, on the drive home I was unable to resist a peek within. The generously-sized, rectangular Maple Bacon Long John beckoned irresistibly and I tore off a small corner. It lost another at a red light a block away. Further up the street another one bit the dust. Weaving and now a public menace, I just pulled over and scarfed down the whole thing.
If experimental doughnuts leave you scratching your head, Dwight Henry’s classics from the Buttermilk Drop Cafe & Bakery are the way to go. At once tender, crisp, sweet and tangy, the shop’s namesake drops are a 69-cent trip to Nirvana, and his daily soul food plate lunches are cooked with love.
Blue Dot Donuts: 4301 Canal St., 218-4866, BlueDotDonuts.com
Buttermilk Drop Cafe & Bakery: 1781 N. Dorgenois St., 252-4538, ButtermilkDrop.com
District Donuts. Sliders. Brew: 2209 Magazine St., 570-6945, DonutsAndSliders.com