Monthly Archives: October 2014

Duc’s Vegan Donuts

[Note: this post was written by Laurel, although we did decide that Duc should get to respond to my comments and give his own rankings at the end.]

Duc and his wife run a little B&B operation in their house. Since their house is kept vegan, the breakfast is always vegan, so Duc has been working on vegan donuts to serve guests on some mornings.

And let me tell you, for a guy who doesn’t cook a whole bunch, Duc’s donuts are shockingly delicious.

Duc's Doughnuts Intro

Duc likes yeast donuts, so that’s what he makes, but vegan-style. The ingredients you need to replace in yeast-donut dough to make it vegan are essentially eggs and milk, which is pretty straightforward — however, we’ve tasted some pretty strangely-textured vegan donuts before. Why are these people struggling so much? Duc’s vegan donuts don’t show any sign of their lack of dairy products. So what’s the deal? Is Duc a secret genius? Vegan donut providers in Ithaca (we’ll taste them here soon), get your shit together!

The Tasting

Duc's Doughnuts Tasting

The donut smells sweet and yeasty — almost like a honey wheat roll, fresh out of the oven, that you’d dream of slathering in soft salted butter and a nice oozing of honey.

Texture

It’s springy to the touch, and feels pretty light. Duc likes moist donuts, so this isn’t surprising, but I find this a little too moist for my taste. This is likely coming from too much fat in the dough, or oil from the frying process seeping in, which is preventing a cakey fluffiness that I’d like. But it’s a welcome texture after all the much-too-dry donuts we’ve tasted.

Duc's Doughnuts 5

Overall, I think the texture is pretty compelling. Unfortunately you can see some of the fry oil seeping in, which is a little unappetizing. There isn’t too much of a crusty outside, but the texture of the glaze is nice and set, and crispy enough that I want to keep feeling it on my tongue.

Duc's Doughnuts Oily

Score: 4/5

Flavor

I’m pretty sure the dough’s flavor is more interesting than any yeast donut I’ve tried in Ithaca so far. You can taste a soft wheaty, yeastiness in the batter, which is extremely pleasant and matches the texture nicely. There’s a touch of sweetness but not a lot — most of the sweetness comes from the glaze (which is yummy and I could use more of, but Duc prefers a lighter hand with glaze).

Duc's Doughnuts

In general, it tastes pretty good. I have to knock down the score because I can taste the oil from frying, and it’s bringing an unpleasant flavor and overall greasiness that’s hard to get past.

Score: 3.5/5

Overall Thoughts

This was actually a bit of a learning experience for both of us, I think, making us realize just how important the temperature and time in the oil is. Without the extra oil, and the strange flavor that it brought, these would have been the best yeast donuts I’d had so far in Ithaca, without a doubt.

Duc’s Comments

It’s a little weird reviewing my own creation, but it’s an educational exercise. You can try my recipe right here and taste for yourself.

I basically agree with Laurel entirely. The maple glaze was wonderfully appropriate for the season while being more interesting than the simple sugar glaze I generally like so much. Yeah, I usually prefer a light touch with glaze, but in this case I think I should’ve coated both sides. The insides are fluffy and yeasty, just as I like ’em. I agree there’s too much oil inside, which is likely a consequence of the fry oil’s temperature being too low. Also, having made the doughnuts on a whim to reward some particularly friendly guests, I didn’t have an optimal supply of oil on hand.

All that said, my own doughnut was in fact the best doughnut I’ve had in a long time. I’m giving myself a 4 on flavor and a 4 on texture, because they’re both very close to my personal ideal and I have a higher tolerance for greasiness. My mission to get to a 5 in both categories includes using fresh peanut oil instead of old canola, frying at a hotter temperature to avoid oil seepage and glazing the entire doughnut. I’m sure we’ll revisit this again.

The most gratifying part of this review was when I asked Laurel what she missed from a non-vegan doughnut. She couldn’t think of anything.

Endicott Cider Mill

Our donuts today came from Endicott, NY — about an hour away from Ithaca but on the way to Binghamton, so presumably you might find yourself at the Cider Mill for a tasty donut treat. (The cider is great, too.)

The Cider Mill

The Tasting

The Cider Mill only makes cake donuts, and shockingly, the cake donuts aren’t apple cider donuts. We were pretty surprised by this.

Cinnamon Sugar

The powdered-sugar donut looks fairly standard from the outside, but packs a lot of flavor. The sugar coating intrigues us with more spices than just cinnamon and sugar.

Cinnamon Powdered Sugar

The dough is pretty delicious — a little sweeter than most donut batter, and spiced with apple-pie type flavors. Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon… these flavors are all coming through in the dough.

Chocolate Peanut

The toppings on this donut are immediately desirable. The chocolate tastes pure and the peanuts are crunchy and flavorful, and the two complement each other incredibly well.

Photo Oct 01, 12 47 55 PM

Chocolate and peanut is a classic combination with a lot of potential, and this donut really showed that potential. Duc actually said, “It hit those notes perfectly.” Perfectly!

Maple Glazed

The maple-glazed donut is a little softer than the others, which we assume is because of the wetter glaze. It tears differently, and is a little moister, which Duc prefers.

Cider Mill - Maple

The glaze is sweet (maybe a little one-note) and its texture is wet and thick without being too sticky. We’re pleased.

Texture

Duc: The texture was pretty good but a little too dense for my taste. I know cake donuts are denser than yeast donuts, but I have had fluffier cake donuts, so I know it’s possible. The moisture level is great — it’s easy for cake donuts to get dry, and these are not, which I really appreciate.
Score: 3

Laurel: I would’ve liked more fluffiness in the dough. I agree that it’s not dry, which is particularly impressive. Even the powdered-sugar donut — which I usually find not worth eating due to the texture issues of having dry cake and dry topping — elicited more than a few bites. I think these donuts really point to the message of — do one thing, and do that thing really well.
Score: 4

Flavor

Duc: They were all excellent. The Chocolate Peanut was particularly well-balanced. Toppings are easier to do well, so my score is more about the flavor of the dough. It’s slightly sweeter and more complex than many other cake donuts I’ve had, and it certainly didn’t have any of the weird aftertaste that I’ve been tasting in donuts sometimes. It has flavor, period. That’s not always true for donuts.
Score: 4

Laurel: The dough tastes great, and I think you have to assume that they are using fresh oil to fry the donuts (which is a great thought to have while eating a donut) because both the dough and the crust taste the same. As for the toppings, the Chocolate Peanut stood out, for sure. The maple glaze, on the other hand, was a bit too sweet — it could have used some additional ingredients to make the maple flavor stand out more, maybe even just a little vanilla or salt.
Score: 4

Final Scores

All gone

Averaged out, looks like the Endicott Cider Mill gets a score of 7.5/10 — that’s pretty high! Well done. The score seems well-deserved.

As Duc said, “I generally don’t seek out cake donuts. But this donut I would seek out.”

Tim Horton’s

It was a beautiful fall day, so we did the review at our somewhat regular lunch spot on the Cayuga Lake inlet, which just so happens to be two blocks from our office.

The Tasting

Honey Dip

Tim Horton’s plain yeast donut is called the Honey Dip, which is clearly just Tim Horton’s trying to make it seem fancy that they use honey in their glaze. (We’re skeptical already.)

Tim Hortons - Honey Dip

The donut is soft and delicate on the inside, but the dough is very bland. It has a faint flavor of yeast. The glaze is very sweet, and has little to zero honey flavor. We’re also fairly turned-off by its appearance. Despite being very fresh, the glaze has already cracked and looks unappetizingly dry.

Sour Cream

Tim Horton’s Sour Cream Donut (Old Fashioned Donut) looks pretty standard. Duc is excited by what looks like a lot of potential moistness.

Tim Hortons - Sour Cream

The cake is much more flavorful than the yeast donut. The sour cream brings a faint richness and you can taste the vanilla. The crust is holding its ground, although it could be crustier and the cake could be cakier, lighter, fluffier. Duc notes that the many nooks and crannies hold lots of glaze, while Laurel notes that clearly her favorite kind of donut is structured intelligently.

Chocolate-Frosted Cake

Tim Horton’s doesn’t have a lot of interesting options, at least not today, other than a seasonal pumpkin donut whose star-like shape and grungy, bright orange gunk in the center makes us run fast in the opposite direction. We pick the chocolate cake donut for our wildcard.

Tim Hortons - Double Chocolate

It feels great — Duc notes an excellent “preliminary cakiness” — but when it comes to flavor, it’s pretty rough. The dough straight up tastes bad, leaving the frosting to carry the full weight of flavor duties. Unfortunately, the frosting tastes like fake chocolate, which is dissatisfactory, to say the least. We don’t eat a lot of this one.

Texture

Duc: The Plain Yeast Donut was very soft and delicate, but I would have liked more moisture. The Chocolate Donut was moister and pretty cakey — it wasn’t bad. The Sour Cream Donut was super moist and generally pleasant, although a little heavy for me.
Score: 3

Laurel: Texture can make up for lack of flavor sometimes, and that didn’t happen with the Plain Donut. On the other hand, I kept wanting to eat the Chocolate Cake Donut even though it tasted terrible, because the texture was compelling. The Sour Cream Donut was fine, pretty average.
Score: 2.5

Flavor

Duc: The Yeast Donut was very, very bland, and there was a bit of a bad aftertaste. The glaze was OK and made my few bites non-horrible. The Chocolate Cake Donut looked chocolatey — you expect chocolate flavor, but that’s not happening here. By comparison, the Sour Cream Donut was awesome — the dough was flavorful and the glaze tasty.
Score: 2.5

Laurel: Although the flavor of the glaze of the Plain Donut was ok, it wasn’t worth eating the outside when you still had to taste the inside. The Chocolate Cake was just awful. It didn’t even remotely taste like chocolate. The glaze sort of tasted like fake chocolate. It was just bad. The Sour Cream Donut had some of the rich vanilla flavor I expected, and it was definitely comparatively delicious.
Score: 2

Final Thoughts

We are both surely capable of eating 1.5 donuts each, but we couldn’t force ourselves to eat more than this:
Tim Hortons - Leftovers

Duc: It’s all kind of meh, and reinforces that I’ve never been excited to get Tim Horton’s stuff.

Laurel: What are we going to do with these nasty donut scraps?

Duc: Should we feed them to the birds?

Laurel: Done.

Tim Hortons - Discard

Final Scores

Our two overall scores combined to 2.75 and 2.25.

So, 5/10. Look at you, average Tim.