For five Sundays and one Friday over three months this winter/spring I staged at 62 Restaurant & Bar in Salem during their Sunday Doughnut Bar. While there will be more on stages in a later post (I promise, I will get to it soon!), the short version is I worked for free while gaining valuable experience in mixing, rolling, cutting and frying doughnuts, along with how to make interesting, flavorful fillings and glazes. The doughnut bar was a labor of love by a fellow Erin, a talented pastry chef who also worked as the front-of-house manager at 62 (follow her on Twitter & Instagram, cookin_sweets). Erin would arrive at 3 am, or earlier, and get things started. I arrived between 4 and 4:15 am to take over the rolling and cutting. There would usually be three or four different types of dough; brioche, old fashion cake, chocolate brioche, pate a choux for crullers (regular & gluten free) and for two special weeks a vegan cake doughnut. One magical Sunday there was peanut butter brioche. Almost too good, especially after filled with Erin’s homemade triple berry jam and finished with powdered sugar. Once all the dough was rolled and cut, the frying would start and go for about two hours; first the crullers, then the old fashion cake and finally the brioche. Fryolators were a huge fear of mine. Dropping solid, slippery pieces of dough into oil at temperature of 350 degrees and above results in a certain amount of splatter and slipped fingers. The burns hurt for sure, but like most other kitchen situations you put on your big girl pants, confront your fear, get burned once and realize it’s not as bad as you had imagined. You also learn how to work with the oil and treat the process with respect. Makes you faster, more efficient and safer to yourself and others. Once everything was fried they were filled, glazed or rolled in cinnamon or vanilla sugar. Erin had worked for five years to develop the perfect brioche dough and it was amazing, delicious and fluffy with just the right amount of chew. Having perfected her dough, Erin had the freedom to concentrate on the fillings and glazes and offered quite a large selection each week. She was careful to keep in mind her north of Boston, suburban customer base and was sure to include a kid friendly option, or two, each week but also allowed herself the creative freedom to explore more “exotic” flavors for her hipper, more adventurous doughnut bar devotees, including several honest-to-god hipsters. At 9 am the doors would be unlocked and the customers would file in to sit at a table, at the bar or take a box to go. Things got a bit more interesting at 10 am when the bar could start serving alcohol, from mimosas and bloody marys to boozy milkshakes and coffee drinks for the Sunday Funday crowd. Espresso drinks, coffee and juice was available for those who were so inclined. That was it, just doughnuts and drinks. Ingenious way to do brunch, small kitchen and dining room staff, low ingredient overhead and who doesn’t like to indulge in doughnuts and drinks?!?!
Sunday Doughnut Bar menus:
Erin has moved onto Marini Farms as their head baker but may return some Sundays this fall and winter to do pop-up Sunday Doughnut Bars at 62. If she needs help and I’m available, I may help out. The hours are early and frying is about as glamorous as it sounds but I’d love to learn more techniques and flavor profiles from Erin, get more practice with the doughs and most importantly, share the doughnut love/life with others.
In the meantime, the best Sunday doughnuts are at Sofra in Cambridge. Worth the trip, but get there early. The sour cream doughnut with dukkah crumb is outrageously tasty as is the tahini-brown butter doughnut with salted caramel ganache.
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