ODE TO AN OLD FASHIONED....DONUT THAT IS
I think that I shall never see something so delightful as a donut. Okay, it doesn't rhyme but I feel I've made it clear me fondness for desserts, particularly those with heft, as I call it. And donuts fall squarely in that category. It is also my go to dessert when I have trouble figuring out just what I want. (The SO will tell you this happens often) Fortunately for me, there does seem to be a Happy Donut or its equivalent in most every neighborhood and corner of San Francisco. Many are 24 hours too, which is handy for late night cravings and you just don't want to drag all the way to Safeway and hassle with standing in line for a single donut. Not saying I haven't done that, just saying don't like doing that. Don't judge, just admit we've all done it at least once, whether it was a donut, ice cream, cookie or whatever treat trips your trigger. The donut (or doughnut) evidently has a disputed history of creation. Was it the Dutch in the 19th century? An American ship cook in late 1800's? An English dowager in early 1800's? Really, who cares, let's just give a kudos to whoever first thought of making a ring of dough then deep frying and covering it in sugar. And double kudos to whoever was first to add fillings and frosting. They should really get respect for elevating a basic dessert pastry. While there an array of choices, the one I always seem to gravitate toward is the old fashioned. Thus, herewith, my salute to a classic.
I used to be a donut snob, but not in the must be organic, artisan kind of thing. Growing up in the South your only choices were Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kreme. From my standpoint it was Krispy all the way. Sure, Dunkin' had some interesting flavors, but Krispy's seemed to be always hot and ready little fluffy rings with icing or better yet raspberry filling. We always looked for the "hot donuts now" neon sign to light up and pull in quickly. It was like a beacon in the night for the sweet tooth obsessed. It's kind of what happens when grow up with few choices, you pick and usually that is it.
To be honest, I'd actually never even seen an old-fashioned till I moved to San Francisco. Though my first encounter with it was not pleasant. The first time I wandered into a Happy Donuts, the first thing that popped into my mind was, ugh, they are like grocery store donuts. I was assured that wasn't the case. Scanning the case I saw this ugly, unglazed, ridged ring thing and was like, WTF is that. (At that time they evidently only had the plain version) Lady behind the counter, I think that was actually her name, said it was a buttermilk batter donut called old fashioned. Wasn't the prettiest looking thing. Looked like someone just spit a bunch of batter into a deep fryer and voila--donut. It kind of reminded of something old people get to dunk in their coffee so they don't have to bother with chewing. She offered up a sample and I was unimpressed. Tasted kind of dry, like a thick cakey pancake. Didn't taste sweet at all. I think I ended up getting a plain old glazed thing. Desperate times call for desperate decisions.
It wasn't till the next time I found myself in one of these places, somewhere out Judah way that I came across the full range of choices for an old fashioned, well 3 other flavors anyway. I actually got one of each because, that's what I do. One I discounted right away. It was a maple glazed one. Yowza, between the overly sweet glaze and the buttermilk batter it was like pancakes and syrup with an added cup of sugar thrown on top. Even for me it was a bit much. Next up was the standard glaze.
I know what you are thinking, wasn't this too sweet? Actually no. The sugar glaze here isn't that thick maple stuff. This is basically powdered sugar and milk drizzled over top. I was fortunate to get some relatively fresh ones. The dough was thick, cakey and a little moist, giving it the dense heft that makes me feel like I'm eating something. It doesn't just melt away like ice cream. I find I like to break off and eat the squared ridges first leaving the small ring in the middle to then be broken in half and eaten. It is a good basic thick donut with glaze. No bacon, no rose, no peanut butter, no banana, no hibiscus and most definitely NOT gluten free. It's a no pretense donut. Shockingly enough for me, I don't even feel the need to heat it up and butter. Not saying I didn't try it that way, just saying it doesn't need it. And while I like the glaze, I also am drawn to the chocolate.
Yes, it is thick like the maple, but the chocolate is dark and not milk chocolate sweet. It comes across more as frosting than chunks of thick sugar. Cake like donut and frosting, yum, didn't really need much convincing. They are also good when you get ones where the dough on the outside edges gets a little crusty crunchy leading to soft cake inside.
Over the years and the various donut shops, the sizes seem to go up and down, though the price has continued a steady rise up. From roughly .75 cents back when to $1.25 today. Fortunately, it only takes one of these to satisfy my need for sweet.
This isn't to say I don't appreciate those high falutin' kind of donuts with their fancy unique flavors, I mean, I am a fan of bacon, duh. But those are not always readily accessible and can run $3 or so. Thus, when desserts at a restaurant aren't cutting it or I'm having a late night, early morning, mid afternoon or whenever craving for something sweet, I always know in the back of my mind, I can run walk down a couple blocks and get an old fashioned. So far, I've been lucky, they've always had some when I go by. For that day when they don't have any, well, I'll just cross that donut bridge when I come to it.