In certain urban centers – I won’t name names - locavorism has almost become an affect, in the, “I’ll have the Hudson Valley Squab with pickled ramps grown on a roof in Queens and fertilized by ambient heirloom pigeon crap,” kind of way. (Fine, I’m talking about Chicago) But in Vermont, local-sourcing feels natural and refreshingly un-preachy. It’s expected. Assumed. And the quietly fervent regionalism extends to the often un-local donut. Which is why I’m pre-empting my remaining Pacific-Northwest coverage for a quick note on our Green Mountain donut encounters.
Mrs. B and I set out last Wednesday to celebrate our fourth anniversary by sitting in a cabin and toying with the notion of catching our own trout. It was essentially our twelve-year mark if you count the extended courting period and we didn’t catch a thing. Our cabin was 20 miles outside of Montpelier - the only state capital without a McDonald’s - and there were no donuts and no people, except for a friendly woman named Penny who arrived in a pickup one morning bearing towels. There were also lots of huge freaking spiders. It was awesome, but the donuts didn’t happen until we hit Burlington, where we spent our last two days eating, drinking and making jokes about Phish and weed.
Our first morning we trawled the farmer’s market downtown, discovering that Vermont donut dough is incredibly soft. Maybe it’s the water, or the hippies, but every donut we sampled – three vendors total – managed an incredibly soft, pillowy, easy-going dough. And unlike the hippies, all without a greasy residue.
First there was a kind old Church bake sale-type lady selling baked Vermont maple cake donuts. Baked donuts are generally incorrigibly turd-like. But not hers. Imagine the soft dough from above smeared with a smooth, sugary frosting mixed with real Vermont maple syrup. Plus a few sprinkles to distract from all the brown. It had all the flavor of a fried cake but with a lighter disposition and a toasty, caramel-y flavor which tasted totally natural, unlike the artificial tang of most “maple” donuts.
Shelburne Orchards. Again, super soft and light, though with a slightly firmer fried exterior. There was a nice subtle apple flavor from the homemade VT cider and the cinnamon/sugar coating was in perfect proportion.
Dinky Donuts is headquartered in nearby Middlebury, but on the weekends also sets up shop at the market where they sell out quick. With the exception of the sugar, every ingredient in their donuts - the flour, the eggs, the fillings - is locally sourced. We sampled a cinnamon-sugar cake and a plum-filled raised.
The cake was, as expected, perfectly soft and impressionable, but with enough body to fight back. Like our apple cider, the cinnamon and sugar ratio was dead on and the small stature made it an ideal appetizer to the fruity main course.
I should mention that the Burlington farmer’s market is lousy with plums. Like Subarus, they grow lots of them in Vermont, some of which ended up inside our donut. The plum-filled was enormous with the inflated appearance of a maxed-out balloon. The firm, browned exterior gave way to a soft and airy dough which was heartier than most raised donut dough. Somewhere in between a typical raised and typical cake really. The filling tasted like, well, plums: surprising given the cloying nature of most donut innards. In all it was tart, fruity and mildly sweet; and it almost tasted healthy in a fried sort of way.
The plum was so good, a trip to Middlebury was in order. Next up: a visit to the brick and mortar Dinky’s to feed from the source.