The Blue Melvin Donut at Hotman’s
Every first Friday in June is National Donut Day. It may be another invented holiday, but who doesn’t love a good donut? We love celebrating birthdays with donuts at work.
But the man (or woman) behind the donut is seldom celebrated in the manner he or she deserves. The donut man is an artist – an early morning artist, to be exact. While we’re still dreaming of our favorite donut, he is up in the wee hours of the morning, making sure all the wonderful varieties of donuts are ready for the first rollers in at 5 am.
My grandpa was a donut man – a true artist. He learned the secrets from German bakers at the Cookie Jar in Newport, Kentucky, after serving in WWII. He was a Donut DaVinci, and a master of icing. I remember watching him ice a birthday cake for my mother. From scratch, he mixed and dyed a batch of icing. Then, curling a piece of looseleaf paper into a piping bag, he artfully created a bouquet of roses on the cake. I watched amazed, perched onto their teardrop-shaped, formica mid-century kitchen table. I thought Grandpa was a magician.
I have a wonderful poem my great grandfather wrote to him on Father’s Day about 1966, referencing all the types of donuts Grandpa made in the bakery:
Those golden donuts we love to fry
that make the housewives and children sigh
I will say again as I said before
pass them around for I want some more
Wither you dunk them in coffee or milk
they go down just as smooth as silk
the French donut so nice and round
a nicer one could not be found
when nicely iced with crumbs on top
and you start eating, it is hard to stop
the glazed, severts, squares, twists, and long johns too
we will try them all before we get through
no matter how tired and hungry you feel
just tickle those Taste Buds with a Virginia Reel
So what are we waiting for while the Parakeet (Peetey) sings
Get something nice and tasty at Ling’s
Mother and I are proud of our son
for the straight forward way that his business is run
I always thought that was such a lovely bit of history and a record of some old names of donuts, some still used around town.
There are basically ten types of donuts: yeast, cake, jelly, cream, old fashioned, cruller, long john, twist, cinnamon roll, and the fritter. The ubiquitous glazed donut falls into the yeast category.
Most local donut shops carry these varieties. And most also have a signature donut that is a mashup of one or more of these.
The Davy Crocket, for example is a name for a maple iced cinnamon roll, that sometimes has chopped peanuts sprinkled, which is also sometimes called a peanut roll. Stan the Donut Man in Westchester carries this breed, and my uncle used to make this donut – it was one of my favorites.
Country Cousins Bakery in Alexandria specializes in giant sprinkle donuts, which at other bakeries, like St. Lawrence in Price Hill, are also called Jimmy Rolls.
The Boston Crème donut is a yeast, vanilla crème filled donut with chocolate icing. It’s a mini version of the Boston crème pie. Another slightly varied version is the Bavarian Crème. Silverton Donuts, has what they call the Honeymoon donut – a yeast donut, fried, glazed and then filled with either lemon or Bavarian crème.
The Old Fashioned is a variety of cake donut prepared in the shape of a ring with tapered edges around it. Sometimes it uses sour cream in the dough, sometimes cider, or even pumpkin and chocolate. It is typically deep fried, may have a crunchier or crisper texture compared to other styles of cake doughnuts, and have cracks and pores on its surface. After being fried, it may be glazed with an unlimited number of icings and toppings.
The Virginia Reel referenced in Grandpa’s poem is a version of the French Cruller, which is a light eggy donut in a round twirled shape. It can be iced in a variety of icings. My secretary in my first post-college job loved the white-iced French Cruller, and it was an easy way to keep her happy!
Tiger Tails, are a version of the twist that includes two different types of dough twisted together – like normal yeast and chocolate yeast – so that it resembles the tail of a tiger. There are also chocolate twists, which can be found at St. Lawrence Bakery, and cinnamon twists.
Then there’s the fritter. It’s the closest to the donut’s early roots with the Johnny Cake. It’s a deep fried delicious mass of like 100 tiny donuts stuck together. It’s dense and heavily glazed. Most commonly it comes in apple flavored, but some local shops go crazy with flavors like pineapple, which I’m going to have to try soon. Busken’s has a fritter-like filled donut they call the cheese triangle, which probably has like a million calories, but is a decadent treat. Bonomoni has the Clunker, which is a deep fried cake-fritter mashup that’s very popular.
Some crazy versions of donuts can be found around town. The old Skirts and Johnston bakery at Findley Market used to carry an apricot-goetta Danish, which is a variation on the yeast dough. The cult-popular Holtman’s Donuts in Over-the-Rhine, carries what they call a Blue Melvin Donut – a blueberry cake donut (another of my favorites), which is chocolate glazed, blueberry iced and sprinkled with chocolate curls.
So whatever is your favorite donut, please patronize and thank your local indie Donut Artist today on National Donut Day!