“I love sprinkles, don’t get me wrong,” Troy Neal, the chef/co-owner of The Doughnut Project in New York City says.
“But you’re never going to have cereal and M&M’s on our doughnuts,” co-owner Leslie Polizzotto chimes in. “They’ll be balanced out.”
“Balanced out” in Neal’s hands looks like yeasted tufts of seed-speckled everything doughnuts, bone marrow-charged chocolate doughnuts and, most recently, steakhouse-inspired goat cheese and caramelized onion jam doughnuts (see the recipe).
This is more than just a dusting of flaky salt: Serious doughnut people across the country are flipping the script by making meaty, cheesy and altogether very savory doughnuts. Across the city, Mark Isreal stuffs puffs of dough with avocado and samosa filling at his outposts of Doughnut Plant. Then, there’s the chorizo and cheddar round boys and rosemary olive oil ones at Fonuts in L.A., and in the Windy City, you’ll find salt cod and crème fraîche doughnuts at Beacon Tavern and Tajín-sprinkled mango-pineapple yeast doughnuts at Glazed and Infused. Double-cheese (provolone and Muenster) Girl Next Door and the Elvis-inspired Chart Topper with Sriracha and peanut butter anchor the menu at Glam Doll Donuts in Minneapolis, and off in Burlington, Vermont, chef Doug Paine layers cider doughnuts with slightly torched, melty Grafton cheddar at Juniper.
“The inspiration was a cider-and-cheese pairing. Then I thought about cider doughnuts and how we could serve them for dinner,” Paine says. “We have run it on a few menus, and it is always a hit.”
Now, deep-fried dough swathed with salty sauces isn’t a novel idea—just bite into the nearly century-old kare-pan, or Japanese curry doughnuts, or look right of a hot bowl of jook for those wands of crunchy dough known as youtiao and meant for dipping into the meaty Chinese porridge. But it seems like we’re just seeing the beginning of the American spin on the savory doughnut.
The everything bagel-inspired doughnut put Neal, a former bartender, and Polizzotto, once a lawyer, on the map back in February. And they draw on Neal’s front-of-house experience and what the two have eaten for all their flavors, like the magenta beet and ricotta doughnut composed of the makings of one such Casa Mono salad but under a soft, squishy plate of yeasted dough.
“We’ve had a lot of positive comments about our doughnuts,” Polizzotto says.
“The best one was, ‘Am I having breakfast or dinner?’” Neal adds.
And that’s how the savory doughnuts are made.