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The Perfect Doughnuts – Felicity Cloake

The inspiration for this post – or, I should say, series of posts – came partly from cycling past a sign for ‘Polish doughnuts’ outside Polsmak on my way to work. Seeing that sign got me thinking – Polish doughnuts? How are Polish doughnuts different from any other? And if Poles have their own variety of doughnuts, then how many other incarnations of the sugary, fat and carb-laden joy are there on offer in this fair city? I made a decision, there and then, to try a handful, at least. I must confess this wasn’t entirely just in the name of research… I also have an eternal, undying love of such deep fried dough balls.

BBC recipe for doughnuts

There’s nothing glamorous about them – in fact, they’re the antithesis of the beautifully-crafted, styled-within-an-inch-of-their-life pâtisseries you see in shop windows. (Indeed, if this year’s ‘back to basics’ restaurant openings are anything to go by – Dirty Burger, Tramshed, Bubbledogs, Chicken Shop, I’m looking at you – surely somebody somewhere has to open a decent doughnut shop soon?) And there’s absolutely no way to eat them politely. No nibbling on a corner, no pulling apart into little bite-sized pieces – no, you have to go all in, with the same reckless abandonment as attacking an oversized burger. Except this one is often covered in sugar, which will inevitably end up everywhere. In fact, the perils of eating a doughnut are so pronounced, that Wikihow have deemed it necessary to write a How-to guide. I particularly like their warning: ‘Eating too many, will put weight on you easily.’ It is, after all, a well-known fact that the humble doughnut was Renée Zellweger’s weapon of choice when she had to put on 2 stone in 6 weeks to play Bridget Jones. Anyway, I digress.

First, I had to set a couple of ground rules. It seems like while the method of deep-frying dough is fairly ubiquitous, the actual style, shape or size varies wildly around the world. I decided to include doughnuts of all shape, size and filling. They should be, at their essence, dough – deep fried. For the means of research, I might try to track down a ‘healthy’ (gluten-free, baked) doughnut but it’s questionable as to whether it would really qualify (or, indeed, whether such a thing exists). Vitally, for my health, sanity and wallet, all the doughnuts must be available ‘to go’. I’m sure the Bomboloni di Ricotta (Italian ricotta doughnuts) at the authentic Ponti’s Kitchen, Oxford Circus are excellent, but I might get a few odd looks if I just walked in and demanded a doughnut.

Nor will I be attempting to cook them at home – I have a mild aversion to deep fat frying… I tell myself it’s because it’s unhealthy, but given the fact that I’ll quite happily eat duck confit, baklava and sticky toffee pudding sauce by the jugful, the truth is I’m probably just scared I’d set fire to the kitchen. Besides, Felicity Cloake has already gone to all the trouble of finding The Perfect Doughnut recipe, so I don’t have to.

No, all I have to do is eat.