As the great Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe once said, “less is more.” Now, while he was talking about minimal approach to artistic design, his logic can also be applied to donuts. Doughnut Project, the all women-run and owned shop located in the West Village, makes some of the best donuts in the city and they range from simple classics to stunning collaborations with other brands that result in eye-catching creations of the most unique varieties.
While these collaborations and other novelty donuts are indeed excellent, I think Doughnut Project best succeeds in their most simple creations. Their take on a Boston Creme, aptly called a Manhattan Creme, is glorious, the Maple Bacon bar is also nearly perfect, but to me, nothing can beat their Maple Crueler. Everything from the appearance to the taste is about as good as it gets and one of the best takes on such a classic as I have ever tasted.
The outside is exceptionally flakey with a perfect crunch to reveal an incredibly soft and chewy interior where the flavor bursts with each bite. The crispiness is absolutely ideal and rich with freshness that can only be topped by the magnificent flavor the fills your mouth as soon as you bite into the treat. It’s a perfect, twisted ring that is drizzled with sugar to such a high-level degree that it looks as if every single donut is made to be Instagram-worthy. However, while so many of their other donuts are a bit overboard in appearance (luckily they’re never overboard with taste and execution), this one is picture perfect in its simplicity.
It’s easy to gawk at the latest creation that feels more like it was made to be photographed rather than consumed as a meal, and while those creations are sure to get a lot of likes (online and otherwise), the Maple Crueler is almost better just by being so delicious and unassuming. It’s the kind of reassurance that gives Doughnut Project the added confidence to go above and beyond with some of their more out-there options. They can take risks with more adventurous concoctions since they’ve already perfected their standards. The Maple Crueler is a masterpiece.
Yes, you read that title correctly. For better or worse (verdict at the end, of course), I tried Doughnut Plant’s new Cacio E Pepe donut. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “but why?” and you’re not wrong to ask that question. I too was not initially intrigued by this donut, but after several friends DM’d me posts about it on Instagram, I told them all I’d try it out and report back.
Well, I’m here to say that as different and as unlike a donut as it tastes, it was much better than expected. However the key factor is that you can’t think of it as a donut. Instead, it’s an extremely savory and satisfying pastry (perhaps like a croissant) which serves a different function than a sweet treat. I’m not sure it’s something I’ll ever crave regularly, but it’s a fun and unique way to enjoy one of my favorite foods.
To start, this is one of Doughnut Plant’s sourdough donuts, which means it’s a giant yeast pastry with an extra crispy-ness to it that gives it a nice, subtle crunch upon each bite. The sourness of the dough is an incredible match for the savoriness of the cheese that is crumbled on top and, like so many of their other exceptional donuts, this one has ingredients (in this case, pepper) mixed right into the dough which gives each bite a heightened sensation. The flavors on this one are perfect and you’d almost think you’re eating a lovely appetizer from a hip Italian restaurant rather than a donut shop. When you get right down to it, it’s a soft, flakey pastry that’s super fresh and perfectly topped with grated cheese – you’d almost want a dab of olive oil to really take it to a new level. It’s not something that I’d necessarily pair with my afternoon coffee or look towards as a sugar-rush pick-me-up (there is no trace of sweetness), but it’s a satisfying snack that really finds its own groove.
A wonderful novelty donut and something different and exciting, a nice differentiator from the Plant’s typically sweet line-up, the Cacio E Pepe can spice up a spread and add some funkiness to platter of otherwise sugary treats. While I don’t plan to order it on a regular basis, I can say that it opened my mind towards the thought that donuts can be served beyond a breakfast or dessert offering, and that gourmet, savory donuts as a new kind of treat would be a welcome addition to my future snacking habits.