I grew up in a large town in the state of Virginia, USA, and from an early age I had a special taste for donuts. My early memories are founded around them; from Dunkin’ Donuts at sunrise with my dad, to greasy fingers eagerly reaching into a box of donut holes on road trips, to the joy of waking up to the smell of fresh donuts from our local bakery, Paul’s. Paul’s Bakery – perhaps one of the best bakeries on the eastern seaboard and in my opinion baking the best donuts in the world – is a heavily air-conditioned unit with plastic seats and chipped tables. The exterior is a rutted parking lot, with craters the size of small children, and packed from dawn with a combination of rusted pickups and gleaming Toyota’s. It welcomes you in with a blast of cold air and a little tinkling bell to rows upon rows of donuts, 100’s of them, of different sizes, shapes, fillings and toppings.
From this utopia, we moved to the middle of an Indian Reservation, where a donut conjures up an image of a powdered, dry, 50 cents sized bit of “dough” which came in a pack of 5 wrapped in cellophane. From there we relocated to Scotland which was even more of a disappointment – their take on a donut was a piece of twisted glazed dough called a “yum-yum” – and usually, they were far from their namesake. I still managed to track down the best yum-yum’s in Scotland, approximately 6 years after moving there, in a little corner side bakery in the Westend of Glasgow. I consumed so many donuts that year, averaging 2 yum-yum’s daily, that the old lady at the counter admitted to me they had actually increased their daily order to accommodate my addiction. A move out of Glasgow and a gain in 2 dress sizes was the wake-up call I needed. When I returned to that bakery a few years later I found that shortly after I’d moved they had gone bankrupt, the coincidence is slightly concerning.
So imagine my delight when I move to Australia, a land rife with country bakeries and donuts the size of my head! However, as seen in Glasgow when it comes to donuts I’m as bad as a cocaine addict. I can go at extraordinary lengths to wrap my lips around a fried piece of sweet dough, to take in a large sniff of fresh yeast and powdered sugar. For the first few months in Australia, I used to revel in days off when my husband would be at work and I could sneak down to one of the many local bakeries for my sugary hit. And I wouldn’t stop at one, frequently 2 was the minimum consumption on any given day. My addiction wasn’t well hidden with multicoloured sprinkles left on the driver’s seat, stuck between couch cushions, or scattered across the bed.
So, I can raise my hands and admit I have a problem. I have a big donut problem. It started young in the years of youthful metabolism but has continued into my adult life. They give me a sweet high and a whiff of nostalgia. However, my standards have slipped. I will go for any donut; be it fresh from the bakers, or in a pre-sealed plastic coating from Coles. No longer am I having a donut for sheer pleasure and exquisite joy – but just because it’s a donut. This reality took hold of me a few months ago and prompted the idea for the search for the best donut in SA. A donut that would be worth the calories, the wait and the effort to obtain it. A donut worth running a few miles for, eating healthy for a week for, a donut to be had in moderation, not gluttony. A donut that would not promote guilt but relive the giddy feeling you’d get as a child with a well-deserved treat.
So, through SA I will search. To keep the playing field as level as possible I will have the same type of donut at every bakery. A circle donut with either chocolate, vanilla or strawberry topping and sprinkles. There are 4 criteria to meet: Aesthetics, Dough, Topping and Texture and all rated on a scale of 1-10. Simple concept with delicious consequences and hopefully it won’t be long until I have found my holey grail.