Doughnut Dolly and the New Generation of American Donuts

When donuts got cool again, back in the mid-aughts, they came all loaded up with kitsch and bacon. But a new wave of donut makers (LA's and a donut, Brooklyn's Dough) is taking a pass on jimmies and Cap’n Crunch to produce something simpler, smaller, and more accomplished. That’s true at Doughnut Dolly, a five-month-old shop in Oakland, California, where’s there’s just one type of donut: yeast-raised, a tender structure of air chambers sanded with sugar. The only thing that changes here are the fillings, which could be apple butter, plum jam, or a flavored pastry cream, piped in to order via machines that look like 19th-century meat grinders.

Owner Hannah Hoffman (pictured below) has what passes for a Bay Area food pedigree. Her late mom, Lisa Goines, spent 16 years in the pastry department at Chez Panisse, where Hoffman grew up amid the flour bins and stand mixers. Maybe that’s why Hoffman’s donuts have their roots not in the crullers and raised old-fashioneds of American strip malls, but in jam-filled Polish pączki and English donuts. Doughnut Dolly’s best-known filling is Naughty Cream, a crème fraîche custard Hoffman makes in honor of Heather Ho, the pastry chef who died on 9/11 in the Twin Towers, at Windows on the World. (It was Ho who named the tangy, vanilla-flecked custard; Hoffman’s version is thicker.)

Another Hoffman specialty: Bulleit-spiked bourbon cream (complete recipe here). It has a liquorous richness and the ghost of bourbon char. You never even notice the lack of bacon strips.

Photos and collage by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com

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