It's been a few years since doughnuts overtook cupcakes as the dessert du jour. So many, in fact, that it's no longer surprising to see a couple forgo their wedding cake in exchange for towers of tiny frosted creations or parents celebrate their little one's birthday with a pegboard covered in iced dough rings on hooks.
Runaway doughnut shops, like Portland-based VooDoo Doughnut and Round Rock Donuts near Austin, are major foodie tourism draws. Voodoo Doughnut opened an outpost at Universal Orlando Resort's CityWalk in 2018, and it's not abnormal to see the line wrapped several times out the door and exhausted park-goers heading back to their hotel rooms with the signature pink boxes in tow.
These spots may have invented the sweet-but-savory combos that blew foodies' socks clean off a decade ago, but a whole new crop of doughnut shops are taking the torch and frying up innovative flavor combos that are testing palates and winning hearts. Enter the savory doughnut — more a meal than a dessert, and packed with unexpected flavor.
Is it a bagel? Or a doughnut?
Everglazed, a doughnut shop located at Walt Disney World's Disney Springs retail and dining area is another doughnut hotspot. Their signature move, pairing beautifully-decorated doughnuts — like the Peanut Butter Explosion — with signature milkshakes, iced lattes and cold brews.
But Everglazed is also known for pushing doughnut lovers a bit out of their comfort zone, daring ambitious foodies to enjoy savory-meets-sweet combinations like doughnut breakfast sandwiches, grilled cheeses and cheeseburgers. And most recently, Everglazed chefs are dressing their doughnuts up like bagels.
"What can we say? We're a doughnut shop that likes bagels," says Patrick Steele, corporate executive chef for Everglazed. Steele says the doughnut-parading-as-bagel combo wasn't necessarily inspired by a trend, but they did notice savory-sweet combinations popping up in shops all over the country.
From day one, their grilled cheese doughnut was a hit. "We opened Everglazed with the option to substitute our classic glazed yeast doughnut for the rolls that usually hold our burgers, breakfast sandwiches and chicken sandwiches," says Steele. "As we developed new concepts, the doughnut grilled cheese's success was top of mind."
Bold and a little mind-bending, the Everything Doughnut looks like something that should appear on Netflix's Is It Cake series. To make it: a glazed doughnut is topped with a buttercream icing spiked with savory herbed Boursin cheese. Steele admits, "it took a while to perfect."
"It was important to make sure the herbal notes and garlic balanced effortlessly with the sweetness of the buttercream," he explains.
The doughnut also sports a sprinkle of everyone's favorite everything bagel seasoning and is topped with freshly chopped chives. "Getting that chive proportion correct took some time as well," says Steele. "Too much and it overly enhanced the onion-garlic notes in the Boursin. We did a lot of internal taste testing to work these equations out."
When the team released the doughnut, reactions were mixed. Steele says he suspects the push-back came mostly from people who aren't into salty-sweet combos. "They probably aren't fans of the [original] sweet-savory doughnut combo: maple and bacon," he says. "But the foodies got it right away and keep coming back for more."
Baking with ... brisket?
Kolaches are a traditional fried dough pastry from the Czech Republic, usually filled with fruit or poppy seeds. Kae Roffman, marketing manager for The Salty Donut says when their team first tried kolaches, it was love at first bite.
"When our director of pastry innovation, Audrey Sheib, introduced kolaches to our team, we were hooked," she tells Yahoo Life. "We sat down and went through a few variations, started spitballing ideas and the Brisket and Cheddar Kolache was born."
Since The Salty Donut launched in Miami's artsy Wynwood neighborhood in 2015, sweet-and-salty flavors were always on the menu. Their maple bacon doughnut is a 24-hour risen brioche topped with pure maple syrup glaze, in-house candied bacon and a porter beer reduction.
Savory doughnuts are here to stay
Roffman says the concept of sweet-salty doughnuts has been around for a long time, but it's how you put those flavors together that can make or break a combo.
Steele agrees: He first saw the savory doughnut trend coming around 2016, when he started reading about it in trade magazines and seeing it on menus. "Creative people are constantly pushing the envelope with flavors and textures," he says. "This trend is a natural culinary evolution."
Steele points out that the Smoke and Donuts BBQ food truck, located just north of Disney Springs in Orlando's Milk District neighborhood, offers the option to add their signature barbecue burnt ends as a topping to their yeasted doughnuts. They also offer a special pan-fried scrapple and doughnut slider kit with savory house made sauces like lowcountry mustard, Piedmont spicy vinegar and toasted guajillo chile sauce.
"Most specialty doughnut shops have some version of the maple-bacon combo on their menu, too," he adds.
Roffman says The Salty Donut still has some secrets up its sleeve for savory doughnuts that push the flavor envelope. "We have a secret savory doughnut on its way for Father's Day," she says, "and some even bigger sweet and savory collaborations for all our other shops."
Same goes for Everglazed, especially in the "out there" category, as Steele puts it. "I can't reveal those combinations, but creating surprises for our guests is key to our continued success," he says. "There will always be a base of classic doughnuts, but delivering 'wows' on an ongoing basis sets us apart."
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