Here's why so many Toronto restaurants are making donuts right now
Not only have restaurants and bars been transforming into fast food joints, they've also become bottle shops, markets, cafes, butchers and of course, bakeries.
"We're a brewery, and in the 'before times' we were running a full restaurant and a retail store, but selling primarily our beer through it. When we had to close the restaurant due to the pandemic, we needed to figure out a way to pivot, like everyone else, to stay in business," Avling Brewery owner/operator Max Meighen told blogTO.
"Adding meat from our butchery, produce from our roof, and baked goods allowed us to provide one-stop shopping for our community. People were doing more and more of their grocery shopping with us to avoid big, crowded grocery stores and keep it local. Adding baked goods seemed like the natural next step."
They're currently doing just one style of donut that's filled with custard and dusted with sugar, and they've been selling out regularly.
"They're inspired more by European bakeries, so they have softer dough and are a little fluffier than what you might see in a Canadian donut shop. We would love to play around with a malted custard or a maple sugar in the future and are already experimenting. Either way, it looks like we have a new brunch staple," says Meighen.
"My recipe isn't all that different from other donuts out there, but the real differences are the quality of the ingredients we use, which all come from our trusted local purveyors. Stirling butter, Homestead eggs, milk from Hewitt's, all the way down the list," Avling pastry chef Joe Siu told blogTO.
"The other real difference is spending the time to make the donuts properly. For example, I let each batch of dough proof for three, maybe four hours, and that's something that other bakers perhaps don't want, or don't see the importance in spending that amount of time on the details."
Since Avling's restaurant program was intended to be produced in house as much as possible even pre-pandemic, Siu already has the versatility to bake everything from sourdough to pizzas to burger buns. His deft hand with donuts has made his custard-filled creations popular.
"We open our doors at 11 a.m., and that's when we start to put out all the fresh-baked goods every day. It's not uncommon to have lineups. Now that we've added the option to preorder donuts ahead of the weekend, it's been a lot easier to get donuts to as many people as possible," says Meighen.
Pizza shop Fourth Man in the Fire has also been selling donuts under the moniker Harry and Heels, and has a similar formula for success, offering a style of donut not commonly seen in Toronto while still keeping it simple.
"I make the donuts I grew up on in California. Harry and Heels is a California style donut shop. Picture softer than Krispy Kreme, three times the size, with way more flavour," Fourth Man owner Shant Mardirosian told blogTO.
"Just the classics, no over the top flavours. So far people really really like them. We are sold out every day by 3 p.m. most days."
Their selection is a bit more varied than what you'll find at Avling or Harry and Heels, and even if donuts sell out quickly it's unlikely you'll walk away empty-handed.
"Donuts run out quickly. A secondary baked good usually goes out in late afternoons, for example fudge brownies or carrot cake," Botham's co-owner Ben Wilkinson told blogTO.
"We started making doughnuts because they're fun. We always have the classics like Boston cream and chocolate glaze. But we like to play around. We also put out Nutella filled, orange vanilla glaze, chocolate brownie, maple matcha, blueberry glaze. Donuts are available Wednesday to Sunday starting around 1:30 p.m. until they run out."
While all these donut makers share a passion for baking, these fluffy circles of dough are appearing at restaurants for the same sombre reason behind many other changes: the bottom line.
"I've wanted to do donuts for a couple years, COVID just accelerated the decision," says Mardirosian. "It's probably because people are just trying to maximize revenue."
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