On most Saturday mornings, I like to sleep in and then lounge around until noon or so. However, this past Saturday, I had a very compelling reason to get up and get going: doughnuts. Now, these weren’t just any doughnuts. No, these were Doughnut Plant doughnuts. They’ve been featured in numerous lists ranking America’s best doughnuts, they have been written about in the NY Daily News, Vogue, Saveur, the New York Times, and bon appetit, and they’ve been featured on Food Network shows such as The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
The small, cash only “plant” is located in the Lower East Side – a 2.8 milk walk from my apartment. Since I planned on ordering 4-6 doughnuts, I thought it would be best to walk there… Thankfully, it was still mild outside at 8:30 am (although the heat index did reach 110 later that day). My walk took about an hour, and on that walk, I discovered some new and fascinating things. First, I stumbled across a few photo worthy sights, such as a 1970’s Dodge RV and the most ridiculous dress ever:
The best thing I came across during my lengthy walk, however, was Pinisi Bakery. The second of 2 locations, this bakery had a chalkboard sign outside advertising ghost chili cupcakes (which I nearly ignored). For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the ghost chili, it is the hottest pepper on earth. Surely, I thought, this is just a joke. There is no way that someone would be crazy enough to put ghost chili in a cupcake. Clearly, I had to investigate.
Surprisingly, this bakery was open at 9 am. I walked in and it was empty. I didn’t even care though. I made a beeline for the pastry case and, sure enough, in the midst of other flavors were two trays of ghost chili cupcakes. On the surface, they looked just like average devil’s food cupcakes. One tray had a swirled cream cheese frosting, while the other had a fluffy, whipped cream frosting topped with a strawberry. I started to ask the friendly girl behind the counter what they were like, and she quickly directed me to a plate of samples because I “had to try them to understand!” Because I abhor cream cheese frosting, I was happy to sample the cupcake topped with whipped cream. And it was simply remarkable.
Now, of course, the novelty of this cupcake earned it a lot of brownie points – but this was a genuinely tasty cupcake. First, the crumb was moist but light enough that it wasn’t “wet,” and it still crumbled a bit in your mouth. The moment the cake hits your tongue, it tastes like devil’s food – and then the spice kicks in. I really like spice, so I can sometimes downplay how spicy things are, but I really don’t think this is too spicy. Granted, it lingers in your mouth afterward, but in a tingly way instead of an “oh my god, my lips are on fire!!!” kind of way. The whipped cream frosting is the perfect complement to this cupcake. It’s fresh, fluffy, and only lightly sweetened – and the cream balances out the spiciness of the cake. These cupcakes are standard sized and $3 each, which is the average price for a cupcake in New York – and, unlike some cupcakes (I’m looking at you Magnolia Bakery), this cupcake is well worth the cost. Pinisi also offers gluten-free and vegan items, as well as some other interesting flavors, such as lavender, spicy chocolate peanut butter, “Rainbow,” dark chocolate rosewater, and pistachio – so it has broad appeal. (By the way, Yelpers seem to love their red velvet…) Basically, everyone needs to go there – 5 minutes ago.
After stuffing my mouth with spicy goodness, I continued on my walk to Doughnut Plant. I arrived at 9:45 and there was a line, but it moved quickly. When I got up to the counter, the girl working there was helpful in answering my questions about the doughnuts, even if she did have a very bored attitude (bordering on agitated) and monotone voice. Because I’m not a huge fan of cake doughnuts (I always find them too dry), I ordered the creme brûlée, the valrhona chocolate, 2 strawberry jam filled doughnuts (one with regular glaze and the other with peanut butter glaze), and one cake doughnut – the lavender. The latter came recommended over its yeast counterpart because the cake doughnut batter is infused with lavender.
I sat down at a small bar, arranged all of the doughnuts in front of me, and dug in. I started with the lavender doughnut. It was shockingly moist and had a strong but not soapy lavender flavor. I thought that the glaze was cloyingly sweet though. It was incredibly distracting and diminished the clean flavor of the lavender. The glaze was also crusty and seemed to have been sitting out for a while.
Next were my two strawberry doughnuts. I love the physical construction of these, because their square shape means that there is jelly in each bite – and I love jelly in doughnuts. Though the jelly is homemade, I found it to be too thin and sugary. I would have preferred a thicker jelly – something more like a strawberry preserve. Also, once again, the plain glaze was painfully sweet. However, the peanut butter glaze was excellent. It was far less sweet and had pieces of peanut mixed in, giving the doughnut a nice texture/crunch.
I then moved on to the valrhona chocolate. In terms of flavor, this was definitely my favorite. The chocolate was dark, rich, and not too sweet. The doughnut itself was very light and airy. Nonetheless, it could have used far more icing that it has now – it’s just that good.
Finally, I ate my tiny creme brûlée doughnut. This is a fantastic and super creative doughnut. The topping is perfectly caramelized and actually tastes like the crust on a creme brulee. The custard in the center was good and certainly plentiful, but not more outstanding tasting than the custard filling at Krispy Kreme. It would have been improved if they gave it a more unique flavor, perhaps a strong vanilla bean or lemon flavor.
Overall, I enjoyed these doughnuts but wasn’t blown away. I certainly think this place is worth trying out, but to trek all the way there and then pay $2.50-$3.00 per doughnut won’t be a regular activity for me. I’d be perfectly content going to Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts and paying $4 for 6 doughnuts instead of $13 for 5. I think the concept at Doughnut Plant is great, but they seem to have gotten a little cocky about their doughnuts and might, at this point, be relying on hype to bring in business as opposed to truly great doughnuts.