You know that dream where you walk into a bakery and order one of everything? Well, Cake Gumshoe Leandra may not have quite lived that dream, but she must have come pretty close on a recent series of extensive taste-testing visits to NYC's Doughnut Plant, which she was kind enough to share with us (oh, all of the great photos are by her, as well). Read on:
Doughnut Plant – just the name alone conjures images of a secret lab where delicious, mysterious donut perfection is created. And it’s not really that far off from the truth. Descendant of pastry shop owner, Mark Israel began making his donuts with his grandfather’s recipe in a basement in the Lower East Side in New York City. His emphasis on quality ingredients, including seasonal fruit and fresh roasted nuts, has set Doughnut Plant on a level all its own in the donut and even bakery world. He actually created the method of filling a ring donut with cream or jelly.
Critical acclaim is splashed on every wall – Saveur, New York Times, Bon Appetit, etc. The peanut butter and jam donut is lauded as of one of Food Network’s “The best thing I ever ate” items. It could be said that the gourmet donut trend was started by Doughnut Plant. And the quality lives up to the hype.
A bright, colored chalk handwritten sign lures the crowds with an advertisement of the masterful flavors. Inside, their signs, bearing scientific descriptions of doughnut names, draw notice as well.
On my first visit, near the end of the day, nearly all the donuts were sold out. Not surprising. What was surprising is that there was still a line! My sister and I selected several doughnuts, with hopes to return a few days later and get a few more.
There they were, nestled in their wax paper bag. I love the sight of goods nestled in a bakery bag! Next to it, the counter, an artful ode to the doughnut – enhancing the experience.
What we chose: Vanilla Bean (yeast), Valhrona chocolate (yeast), Lavender (cake) and Carrot Cake (cake). Our thoughts:
Vanilla bean - simple perfection. Flaky vanilla glaze giving way to a delicious doughnut that has none of that “french fry” flavor doughnuts occasionally take on.
Valrhona Chocolate – while the doughnut it self is nothing overly special, you can actually TASTE the quality of the chocolate in the glaze. This is no Hershey’s, gang. So good.
Lavender – stunning. A soft, cakey donut encased by a sweet, salty savory fragrant glaze, with the lavendar flavor just strong enough. Incredible.
Carrot cake – a crumbly yet moist take on its non-donut relative – complete with cream filling. Rich flavor of spice. Phenomenal.
Ok – I had to return for one more. The frosty white Tres Leches called to me…
Tres Leches – an INCREDIBLY moist donut filled with rich cream that isn’t too sugary. Delicious, unique, everything a high-end donut should be.
My second trip to Doughnut Plant was in the morning. Ah, it was quiet and less crowded and the doughnuts greeted me with big happy morning smiles. I selected four more doughnuts: Blackout Cake (cake), Peanut Butter and Jam (yeast), Fresh Blueberry (yeast), and Creme Brulee (yeast).
Fresh Blueberry - oh my goodness – this donut is incredible. Sugary and fluffy with a crackly glaze of sweet blueberry perfect. I should not have selected this one first, as I am partial to blueberry and almost made myself sick on it when I had so many more doughnuts to officially test.
Crème Brulee – very good – hardened sugar glad that actually crunches like the real thing, thick custard that isn’t overwhelming. My friend Eunice’s favorite. She came with me and brought milk in a thermos. She rules.
Peanut Butter and Jelly – ah, Food Network, I am so sorry to disagree with you! In fact I hate even saying this, but I just did not love this doughnut. I love peanut butter, and the glaze itself was delcious. I love jelly donuts. But perhaps I am too low brow for this. I love the crunchy sugar and fake bright ooze of a classic jelly donut. This specimen…tasted like a sandwich. The strawberry jelly, the peanut butter, the heavy soft doughnut emulating bread, I just felt like it was lunch time. It was just a lot all at once.
Blackout Cake – again, hate to say it but was not thrilled. The cake crumbs on top were a bit dry and though there was a fudgy chocolate filling, which was great, it was just like a big old piece of chocolate cake. Nothing doughnut-y about it. But if you love chocolate, I suppose this is your choice.
The morning was young and our doughnut lust was not quenched, so I went back for 2 more (+1 lavender cake for Eunice, who had not had it), Lavender (yeast) Fresh Blueberry (cake)
I had tried their respective counterparts and now was interested to see how these (probably my two favorite flavors) fared otherwise. Note, I am normally a yeast donut fan all the way. Unless its like Entemanns…or…yeah ok I love donuts let’s leave it at that. (Yes, I realize the blueberry comparison has been..compromised).
Back to the action.
Lavender yeast – delicious soft doughnut with a sweet glaze that held less lavender flavor than the cake. If you are wary of lavender but want to try, this is the way to go. The cake one held more flavor and while more daring, was ultimately better in my humble opinion.
Ah, my #1 choice of the whole damn thing – Fresh Blueberry cake. I would have never guessed it, but this doughnut rocked my world. Sweet, flavorful glaze gives way to insanely moist, blueberry cake which will rival any muffin. This specimen is beautiful inside and out.
Of course, for drink offerings, you aren’t getting your run-of-the-mill coffee. There is Ronnybrook milk, chocolate milk and coffee milk, along with iced chai and organic iced coffee. Oh also, these donuts ain’t cheap, gang. Be prepared to spend $2-4 dollars per doughnut.Worth every penny.
Doughnut plant is a doughnut paradise. A doughnut lover's dream. Its unique flavors, high quality ingredients and great artsy vibe (opposite your regular cutesy doughnut shop) support it as an iconic New York Spot. It joins various places in the Lower East Side rich with history and local character, lauded as some of NYC’s best eateries. I LOVE DOUGHNUT PLANT.