Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Flavor Battle: Chicago's Autumnal Doughnuts

The season's best:
Do-Rite's Pumpkin and Apple Caramel from Glazed & Infused
A few years ago, I did a survey of the pumpkin ice cream/gelato/frozen custard around Chicago. Now I have done the same with the pumpkin doughnuts in the Windy City. (If you need to brush up, you can also read a complete review of Chicago doughnuts and brief history.) For gluttony's sake good measure, I also tried other autumnal doughnuts that are available. Here they are, in order of favorite pumpkin doughnut to least favorite:

Do-Rite Donuts - Pumpkin cake doughnut with cream cheese dollop and pumpkin seeds
The cream cheese dominates each bite it is in, but Do-Rite uses it sparingly, unlike its competitors. This is a wise decision since there are so many other noteworthy features to this doughnut. The pumpkin seeds add a fabulous textural element. The doughnut itself is springy like a cider doughnut. The pumpkin is a constant, subtle presence carrying throughout under the glaze, but it isn't overtaken by typical spices of cinnamon and nutmeg. All of these factors make it easy to say that Do-Rite's pumpkin doughnut is the best. They're also offering Carrot Cake doughnuts with a cream cheese dollop in the middle. They are tasty, but completely overshadowed by the Pumpkin doughnut.

Firecakes - Pumpkin cake doughnut with pumpkin mousse and caramelized pecans
This doughnut most resembles the pumpkin doughnut holes my mom would fry up on fall mornings. A simple pumpkin flavor with a soft exterior, rolled in cinnamon-sugar. The pecans are the perfect autumnal topper for the chilling air. Add their texture to the granulated sugar and the smooth, soft mousse and you've got decadent attention to detail. Everything is good about this doughnut, but the pumpkin flavor isn't popping out as much as I'd like, which is surprising. The mousse in my doughnut, which should serve that function, instead had a coffee aftertaste. Firecakes is also offering Banana Goat Cheese Walnut, whose existence I've ignored due to the presence of the enemy fruit.

Endgrain - Pumpkin cake doughnut
Buried underneath that thick layer of glaze might be a superior doughnut, but I would never know. The texture is superior: dense without being heavy, airy without a touch of staleness. Also available is Salted Caramel, which has all the tasty stickiness it implies. These guys know butterscotch and caramel and apply it generously.

Glazed & Infused - Pumpkin chocolate chip cake doughnut with cream cheese frosting and vanilla glaze
As a whole, the treat is good, but is it pumpkin? The pumpkin flavor is not strong enough to be noticeable under the cream cheese and glaze. The chocolate is a nice touch but it would have been a nicer touch if it were in tandem with a strong pumpkin flavor. As for the rest of the menu, Glazed & Infused changes its menu each season and among the new doughnuts, none is as good as the Apple Caramel cake doughnut. With bits of apple in the dough, a gooey dark caramel, a cinnamon glaze and peanuts, Glazed & Infused's Apple Caramel is the best seasonal doughnut of all, beating out all of the pumpkin doughnuts.

Dunkin' Donuts - Pumpkin cake doughnut
A very bright, artificial orange. I taste the spice, but not the pumpkin. A light glaze to sweeten the deal. A solid reminder to go local.

West Town BakeryPumpkin Cream Cheese Doissant
The flavor is good: lots of cinnamon sugar, a few pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top, flaky dough and cream cheese. There are downsides, too: the pumpkin taste isn't much of a presence and the drizzle of white (frosting?) clashes with all the other flavors. But the main issue is I felt I had consumed my weight in grease, something I've felt about all of West Town Bakery's doissants. Also offering an apple butter doissant, which I will not be trying. I'm not sure I'd survive another drowning by grease torpedo.

Krispy Kreme - Pumpkin doughnut & Pumpkin Cheesecake doughnut
Each year I tell myself to ignore Krispy Kreme's pumpkin doughnut. There is a significant amount of spice in the doughnut--more than most "pumpkin spice" concoctions one finds this time of year--but the glaze is so thick it leaves me grabbing for a beverage to kill the sugar burn in my mouth. This year they also featured Pumpkin Cheesecake, a filled doughnut with white frosting and gingersnap cookie crumble. Not terrible, but the filling had two distinct moments that didn't overlap: the sour cream cheese beginning and the pumpkin spice ending. Verdict: the only item worthy of getting at Krispy Kreme is the original glazed...which is still plenty reason to go.

Dunkin' Donuts - Pumpkin Pie doughnut
A mere two bites contained any filling, which was pumpkin pie colored, textured like marshmallow fluff and tasted like room temperature plastic. Like many Dunkin' Donuts, it had far too much cloying frosting, but at least it got the horrible taste of the filling out of my mouth. This was by far the worst doughnut I ate and is among the worst doughnuts I have ever consumed.

1 comment:

Jess W Buha said...

I laughed out loud at the Dunkin' Donuts' Pumpkin Pie doughnut review. Also, your mom used to make pumpkin doughnut holes? Whaaaaaaat? Amazing.

Great roundup of some most intriguing doughnuts. Can't wait to get out to Do-Rite!