Every Donut is a Snowflake

Apr 26, 2010 at 9am

Ethan Kanat 

makes some dough

Sara Spearin rides up to the curb on a sturdy looking bike covered in flashing lights. She quickly introduces herself and then we head inside to the kitchen at the back of Dynamo Donuts & Coffee, where Spearin is owner and head chef. When she flips on the lights, I see silver bowls and measuring cups laid out precisely on a long wooden table. Sara consults briefly with a sheaf of laminated recipes, then begins a high speed ballet across the kitchen. Bags of flour, yeast, and sugar have been carefully measured the night before. They now make their way into the mixing bowls, along with a host of other ingredients measured out on a digital scale. It's like a scene out of American Gangster, only the product here is way more addictive.

Sara moves quickly and methodically around the kitchen for the first hour and a half without stopping. Her goal is to get all the dough started and rising before 4:30. Only then does she allow herself a cup of coffee - which she doesn't even drink. Instead, she instructs me on the fine art of zesting oranges and guiding 25 lbs. of chocolate dough off the table and into a bucket 4 feet below. I also get to fill the deep fryer, which is like being in a karate match with a block of butter the size of a microwave.

Soon we are joined by two of Spearin's assistants and we begin the process of turning the dough into donuts. The trick here is to treat the dough like a naughty lover; first you caress it and rub it with flour. Then you spank it a little. Once you've established who's boss, you roll the dough out into a wide flat sheet and use a metal form to cut out a bunch of circles. These are placed in a tray and then a smaller form is used to cut out the holes.  All of this is done by hand. It takes forever, but it gives each donut its own individual shape and heft. At one point I miss the center with the hole puncher, which Sara assures me is ok. "Every donut is a snowflake," she says.

One of Spearin's partners is fond of telling her that there is a machine to do a lot of the things she does by hand. Of course, that would defeat the point. When you're making a masterpiece such as the bacon maple apple donut, you don't cut corners. I mean, Leonardo could have gotten himself a set of finger paints and just sat out in the yard drawing flowers. But that's not how you get a Ninja Turtle named after you, is it?

After frying the donuts, it's time to add the toppings. This is the second best part of the whole morning. Dipping warm donuts into a tray of gooey orange glaze over and over again is as close to zen as you can get without shaving your head and moving to Tibet. Sara notices that I seem to have retreated into myself and suggests I have another espresso drink. Reinvigorated, I get one of the high honors of donut making at Dynamo: I get to apply the bacon.  

Freshly fried and drained, the bacon sticks beautifully to the maple glaze. The finishing touch thusly applied, the donuts go onto the rack along with several other impossibly delicious flavors: a candied ginger orange donut, a spiced chocolate donut, a vanilla rosemary donut. Which brings us to the best part of the whole morning: tasting. Spearin and her staff taste a donut from every single batch, and today that includes me. Which means I get a chocolate rose donut, followed by a vanilla bean donut, followed by a sticky bun, followed by more coffee, followed by more donuts.

At 10 am I am practically delirious with fatigue, but Sara and her cohorts have yet to slow down. I'm slumped in a corner chewing on what must be my 14th donut while they keep frying, glazing and experimenting with new flavors. A green tea donut appears momentarily, but is tossed due to its greenish hue. Other recipes are bandied about, while Sara simultaneously preps for the following day and greets a constant stream of friends and customers. She'll be there for another 2 hours at least, and she probably won't take a break.

I, on the other hand, am hallucinating due to a combination of sleep deprivation and having consumed enough sugar to kill Chris Farley again. I hand Sara my apron and mumble something about bed and a deep fryer. Sara dismisses me with a smile, but not before sticking another half-dozen donuts under my arm. Outside it is bright and foggy, and people line up to taste the fruits of my labor. I take my donuts and head up the street, my footsteps swallowed up by the morning crowd in front of the city's most amazing donut shop.

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