FLARE‘s New Food Columnist Explores Her Love For Donuts

Our new food columnist—because what is more fashionable than food?—Leanne Shapton is an Ontario-born, New York–based artist, writer and style genius who cooks and bakes as an escape from deadlines. This month, she invites you to pop round for donuts

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The Hole Test: My first batch has the right "I see you!"-sized punch out
The Hole Test: My first batch has the right “I see you!”-sized punch out

Unsurprisingly, my recent obsession with doughnuts coincided with the second trimester of my pregnancy. My mother had craved doughnuts, too, and hamburgers, though she couldn’t keep either down. In my case I could, and did. Anxious about gestational diabetes, I limited my doughnut intake to Tuesdays and Thursdays, in between looking up doughnut recipes and tracking down doughnut shops in whatever city I was in. I developed a sharp radar for fried food.

Photo by Signe Langford
Photo by Signe Langford

In my most recent book, about swimming as a teenager, doughnuts featured heavily—usually Country Style or Tim Hortons as befits the Canadian highway and morning-practise landscape. But Toronto has sprung up with new, hot little doughnut shops offering eyeball-swirling flavours such as Elvis with Marshmallow, which I sampled at Glory Hole on Queen Street West. Paulette’s, on Queen Street East, serves up fried chicken with its doughnuts. While I waited for mine, Graham Bower, the resident doughnut Wonka, was experimenting with a pastel Rockets flavour based on the Halloween candy.

Calorie-Free Version: Cupcakes and Doughnuts, 2006, by Wayne Thiebaud, at crownpoint.com
Calorie-Free Version: Cupcakes and Doughnuts, 2006, by Wayne Thiebaud, at crownpoint.com

Why the doughnut-aissance? My theory is, like salt, which went designer ten years ago, doughnuts are reliable in their ubiquity, so they present a safe springboard for creative forays. Still, a doughnut should not be too involved. Back in New York City, I’m as happy to slum with a Chocolate Glazed from Dunkin’ Donuts as I am getting fancy with a Cashew & Orange Blossom Doughseed from the Doughnut plant.

California Dreaming: Stan's in Westwood, L.A.
California Dreaming: Stan’s in Westwood, L.A.

On a recent trip to L.A. (after sampling the peanut butter and fresh banana chocolate chips doughnut from Stan’s Corner Donut Shoppe in Westwood earlier that day), I brought a dozen doughnuts from the Big Jim’s in Glendale to the 40th birthday party of a woman I barely knew. They sat on the bar for a moment, before being devoured in a piranha-like frenzy during a break in the dancing. It’s not just cops and coaches, the McKenzie brothers and Homer Simpson who love doughnuts—everyone does. And if they say they don’t, they’re lying.

Photo by Leanne Shapton
Photo by Leanne Shapton

My Grandmother’s Doughnuts

My doughnut tastes were whet by my maternal grandmother. I got her recipe adapted from a Blue Ribbon cookbook, and made them with my husband. The nutmeg and sugar brought me straight back to her Etobicoke, Ont. apartment building, the three carpeted stairs leading to the living room where I’d watch episodes of Vision On and V.

  • 3.5 cups all purpose flower
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2.5 tbsp butter or shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • Cooking oil
Photo by Leanne Shapton
Photo by Leanne Shapton

1. Sift together flour flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Cream butter and sugar in a separate bowl. Add eggs and vanilla to butter mixture and beat until fluffy. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with milk until dough is stiff.

Photo by Leanne Shapton
Photo by Leanne Shapton

2. Pour oil into a wok to a depth of 3 inches. Heat to 375 F.

3. Roll out dough on floured surface to thickness of 1/3 of an inch. Cut with doughnut cutter. Lower into oil, one at a time. When doughnuts are browned, remove to drain on paper towel. Place warm doughnuts in a Ziploc bag full of granulated sugar. Seal and shake to coat.

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