By Christiana Lilly, Marie Speed and John Thomason
Oh the doughnut.
Once upon a time, it was a pastry you would purchase by the dozen at the grocery store or at any ol’ chain. But South Florida has done what it does best: We turned it gourmet. Go to any event around town and you’ll find decadent doughnuts covered in glitter, piped frosting, fondant figures and even microgreens and flowers. If you dare ask anyone for their favorite shop, you’re asking for a rumble to break out.
At Boca magazine, we decided to find out once and for all which shop in town creates the best doughnut delights. We invited five judges to our office for a blind taste-test of six very different doughnuts made by local bakeries. Who won? Keep reading.
NANI’S DOUGH was “sticky” (this was considered a positive), “very fluffy” and made our panel “three times happier.” DiPonio stated, “When I picture a doughnut, this is exactly what I picture.” Abrams said, “This puts the dough in doughnut.” Nani’s is now an order-only shop and claims all of its doughnuts, toppings, fillings and more are made from scratch and the dough is rolled out by hand. Even better, Nani’s promises that “doughnut classes are coming.”
Nani’s Dough, 601 N. Congress Ave., #406, Delray Beach, 561/303-1102; nanisdough.com
DUCK DONUTS (which advertises a “duck-zillion flavors,” including one with maple icing and chopped bacon) was the first bite of the day, and our judges were charmed by the plump, white-glazed pillow of fun presented to them. “It’s very moist,” Chef Vondell noted. “It tastes like an old-fashioned doughnut,” Abrams pronounced. “But not as sweet as it appears to be,” said Wick, approvingly. Then, clearly distracted by its liberal sprinkling of jimmies, Abrams extolled its very great “happiness factor.” But this was just the beginning.
Duck Donuts, 5030 Champion Blvd., Boca Raton FL 561/334-2115; duckdonuts.com
DOUGHNUT WORKS describes its doughnuts as “artisanal” which immediately places them in the doughnut-that-went-to-college category. These tiny dollops of dough were coated with strawberry frosting, and our judges noted that they were “very sweet, ” resembled a “Simpson’s doughnut” and, according to Wick, constituted a reasonable and “bite-sized guilty pleasure,” one perfect for bringing to board meetings, museum luncheons and other functions. “It makes you smile,” Chief Olsen noted. The shop features more than 40 flavors, as well as gourmet coffee, cachitos and empanadas as well as a brisk catering business.
Doughnut Works, 301 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, 561/808-7122; doughnutworks.com
The small DOUGHBOY doughnuts were cute, for starters. “Like little petit-fours,” Wick said. Everyone was charmed by the tiny hole, the fact they looked “stackable” and noted they would be perfect for a tea party. “These are way more dense,” Vondell noted.” Which means less yeast and more butter.” DiPonio noted the flavor was “almost like a pound cake” and Chief Olsen was transfixed. “We may have a winner here,” someone said. And so we did. Doughboy calls itself “gourmet-style” mini doughnuts and features a clean minimalist vibe and outrageous flavors.
Doughboy, 126 N.E. Second St., Boca Raton, 561/617-1887; facebook.com/godoughboy
This doughnut from PARLOUR VEGAN BAKERY confounded our judges. “Heavy,” said Wick. “Beautiful,” said Vondell. “It feels like a waffle,” said DiPonio. Everyone noticed the pungent spiciness, cinnamon smell, and the “cake batter-like” density. Not all were fans. When it turned out after the results were tabulated that this was, in fact, a vegan doughnut—it all began to make sense. No butter. No eggs. No fluff. Still, this was an interesting contestant. And virtuous.
Parlour Vegan Bakery, 415 S. Federal Highway, Boca Raton; 561/617-7144; parlourvegan.com
JUPITER DONUTS states on its website: “Donuts: The Solution To Your Problems.” We are not disagreeing here, nor did the judges. Chief Olsen said this was a doughnut of dichotomies: “Dense and fluffy at the same time.” Abrams said, “The doughnut monster would love this one.” DiPonio liked the texture. Vondell judged it “visually appealing.” At any rate this robust doughnut was an impressive contender, and may have earned its slogan, “out of this world.”
Jupiter Doughnuts, several locations, North Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale; locally, 266 N.E. Spanish River Blvd., Boca Raton; jupiterdonuts.com
Phillip DiPonio, general manager for the Wyndham Hotel, has been in the hospitality business for 22 years and was the recipient of the 2018 Boca Chamber Person of the Year award.
Delray Assistant Police Chief Maria Olsen will be up for the top job this year. She started her law enforcement career in West Palm Beach in 1982 and retired in 2014 at the rank of assistant chief. She was hired the same year by DBPD.
Steven Abrams is the new executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which operates Tri-Rail. He recently completed two terms as Palm Beach County Commissioner and served as mayor of Boca Raton from 2001-2008.
Kimberly Wick has designed wardrobes for professional productions of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “The Drowsy Chaperone.” She curates her family’s namesake Costume Museum, and when the mood strikes, you might see her onstage at The Wick Theatre.
Rachel Vondell is the director of culinary operations for E&M Culinary Events & Creative, where she creates sweet and savory delights. Previously, she was a pastry chef at Max’s Harvest and a pastry cook at Eau Palm Beach and the Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan and New Orleans.
And the winner is…
The miniature doughnuts at Doughboy proved, once again, that size doesn’t matter. After taking bites from six different doughnuts, the judges crowned the shop’s tiny delights the winner. Judges were asked to look at presentation, taste, texture and generally how happy the doughnut made them. With a total possible score of 100, Doughboy earned 87 points.
The Hole Truth: A Brief History of the Doughnut
For a dessert that owes its origins to the Dutch, the doughnut’s history is quintessentially American: patriotic, deep-fried and folkloric. Though fossilized fragments of what may be primitive doughnuts continue to be excavated from prehistoric Native American middens, it’s widely accepted that the doughnut dates to the olykoek, or “oily cake,” a Dutch treat which settlers brought to New York in the early 19th century. The fried dough’s familiar ring shape came later, and it evolved from the stuff of legend.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, in the mid-1800s, Elizabeth Gregory, the mother of a New England ship’s captain, used the cinnamon and nutmeg from the vessel’s cargo to spice her spheres of fried dough. By placing hazelnuts or walnuts in the center, she’s credited with coining the term “doughnut.” As for the eventual hole in the center, multiple theories persist: that Captain Gregory removed the center dough to skimp on ingredients, that he found a holey doughnut easier to digest, that he skewered one of his mother’s confections on his ship’s wheel and liked the airy result.
Gregory himself claimed, in a turn-of-the-century interview, that he created the first doughnut hole by cutting it out with the top of a round tin pepper box. It wasn’t until World War I, when American G.I.s stationed in France enjoyed the doughnuts served by volunteer bakers, that the dessert began its popular renaissance in the U.S. By 1934, doughnuts received their Silver Screen imprimatur, when Clark Gable taught Claudette Colbert how to dunk one in the Oscar-winning comedy “It Happened One Night.”
Corporate brands eventually helped spread the doughnut gospel (think Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts), giving way to the trendy designer doughnuts of the last few years—offering an adventurous alternative to sprinkles and glaze.