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Donuts Old School, Donuts New, Donuts Glazed, Donuts Blue

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Apr 06, 2015
Donuts Old School, Donuts New, Donuts Glazed, Donuts Blue

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player and subscribe in iTunes.

This week on The Sporkful we’re going on a cross-country quest. From wacky Voodoo Doughnut and artisanal Blue Star Donuts in Portland to old school Peter Pan Donuts in Brooklyn, I eat my way from coast to coast.

Along the way, I talk to donut eaters and bakers in hopes of answering one question: What’s the difference between a good donut and a great one?


We start in Portland, OR, at Voodoo Doughnuts, where the bacon craze hit early on. They put bacon on a maple glazed donut a decade ago (shown above). Tourists are still lining up to get their donuts, which are topped with everything from cookies and candy bars to Fruit Loops and bubble gum.

Of course those crazy donuts are amazing -- because if you can’t make a donut covered in cookies taste good, you really have nothing to offer society.

blueberry donut

Next stop: my friend Luke Burbank (of the TBTL podcast) takes me to Blue Star Donuts, a newer addition to Portland's thriving donut scene. The artisan shop offers flavors like Blueberry Bourbon Basil (shown above), Chocolate Ganache, and vegan Pistachio Cake with Raspberry Hibiscus (shown below) and prides itself on quality over quantity.

Head pastry chef Stephanie Thornton uses a classic French brioche recipe to make the dough for Blue Star's donuts.

"Our dough tastes fantastic all on its own -- with none of the bells and whistles," Chef Thornton says. "And then I have cookie cutters, and we cut them all by hand."


Luke and I talk donut craft with Stephanie, and we debate the merits of the different schools of donuts.

"There's something to me about a utilitarian, unexciting donut and  a cup of coffee that's just fine. That is part of the morning ritual to me," Luke argues. "It's almost like driving a Ferrari the six blocks to work in Manhattan. Sometimes you need to just get on the subway and go."

(Eaters, I'm a huge fan of Luke's podcast, TBTL -- be sure to check it out. He also hosts the public radio show Live Wire.)


Our last stop brings us back home in search of old school "comfort" at Peter Pan Donuts in Brooklyn. This beloved neighborhood shop has been a fixture on New York's donut scene for more than 70 years.

It's also one of the few places in rapidly gentrifying Greenpoint where you see older folks sitting next to bearded 20-somethings. If you spend some time at Peter Pan, you see that it sort of doubles as a community center:


Clearly Peter Pan is a special place, but my quest concerns donuts. So I pull back the curtain and watch co-owner Donna Siafakas and her son Peter work their magic in the kitchen.

"A good donut is made the right way...you let the dough relax, you let it rise properly...you really put good care into every little detail," Peter says. "But a great donut is you give the extra love to it."



And I eat -- oh do I eat! Peter Pan is famous for their homemade cream fillings and frostings. They're a crucial part of their cream crumb donut (shown below). It's a yeast donut topped with sweetened cream and a crumb topping made from other donuts:




I try one fresh from the fryer, and (as you can see in the photo below), the verdict is conclusive.

The Bard rightly noted: "Some donuts are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have cream and donut crumbs thrust upon them."


Eaters, I want you to experience this donut revelation, too. If I had the budget, I’d send every single one of you a cream crumb donut from Peter Pan.

But what I can do is go to Peter Pan one morning, buy a dozen fresh cream crumb donuts, and overnight them to one lucky Sporkful listener.

If you want to be that lucky listener, all you have to do is make a donation to The Sporkful to help keep us going and growing. Donate any amount by April 21 at 12:00 EST, and you will automatically be entered to win the donuts. (If you already gave as part of our recent pledge drive in March, you’re already entered.) Complete rules are available here. You don’t have to pledge to enter the contest, but we hope you'll help support our work.

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player and subscribe in iTunes.

Interstitial music in this episode by BWN Music:

- "Skinny Jeans" by Cullen Fitzpatrick

- "Mud Pile" by Jack Ventimiglia and Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

- "Main Drag" by Jack Ventimiglia

- "When You're Away" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

Photos by Flickr CC/Robyn Lee, Dan Pashman, Anne Noyes Saini, and courtesy of Blue Star Donuts

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