Sunday, December 13, 2015

Gourmet Doughnuts in London (and the UAE)

Dum Dum Donutterie

If you love your desserts and baked goods like me, you might have possibly noticed that the popularity of doughnuts has been steadily on the rise (pun intended) in the past year or so. I don't just mean any doughnuts of course, but more specifically gourmet doughnuts.

Sure Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts may just be the thing when you're looking for a sugary sprinkle topped treat for a few dirhams, but visit a special artisanal bakery and you'll find the humble doughnut made with honest, preservative free ingredients, and filled and topped with all kinds of imaginative combinations and creative ingredients that will make you wonder why doughnuts were never made like this before.

And why you ask did I decide to write about the current popularity of the dough baked good? Well, last year when I visited London in October (yes this post is pretty late in the making), I made it a mission of mine to visit all the gourmet doughnut hot spots in the city. I've also been fortunate to handle the social media of the UAE's very own gourmet doughnut spot, Love Doughnuts in Abu Dhabi, for over a year now. In fact if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you'll have probably noticed I post a lot about them already. Regardless, with the addition of a few more high-end doughnut offerings already on the UAE scene its clear that the region is catching onto the bug too.

When it comes to gourmet doughnuts expect to pay a little bit more than your average doughnut and if you haven't actually tried a one yet you're definitely going to want to after this post!

Crosstown Doughnuts

Although Crosstown Doughnuts now has a stand alone store in Soho, at the time I visited they had a concession in Selfridges and sold through weekly markets. I'd heard a lot of brilliant things about Crosstown and couldn't wait to try their offerings. I first visited them at the food hall in Selfridges (as this is also where St John's Bakery has a doughnut concession). It was the end of the day so a lot of their produce had already sold leaving me to only give their Vanilla Bean Glazed doughnut a go. This is their gourmet take on the classic sugar glazed doughnut and despite it being the end of the day, the sourdough bread was still soft, the glaze was still intact (how annoying is it when doughnut glazes melt away) and it proved to be a satisfying doughnut. 
However I was keen to try their more creative flavours and after a couple of days I visited their stall at Leather Lane Market in Holborn, where I managed to catch them early whilst a lot of flavours were available. I picked the Sea Salt Caramel & Banana Cream, and Spiced Apple and Pear Crumble doughnuts, and proceeded to a nearby park to enjoy my treats on a bench. Both flavours couldn't have been more further from each other and yet both deserve a mention. In fact even a year on I can still remember how good they were. 

The Sea Salt Caramel & Banana Cream is an ingenious combination of chocolate sourdough, fresh banana cream filling, and topped with sea salt caramel and chocolate 'soil'. Three words - I loved it. It's a doughnut I still dream about to this day. Ooey gooey banana cream, a lightly chocolate dough and that delightful hint of caramel sweetness.

I'm not usually one for warm fruity British desserts but I couldn't help but choose the Spiced Apple and Pear Crumble doughnut because of the time of year and for nostalgic reasons. I'm glad I did as the flavours pleasantly surprised me - the spices in the filling really came through and it tasted exactly like an apple and pear crumble actually does. 

The doughnuts from Crosstown Doughnuts were definitely memorable. The flavours were sharp, the dough was soft and bouncy, and the fillings were generous (something I enjoyed with these flavours). Looking through their website they have some incredible drool-worthy combinations which I can't wait to try more of in the future. 

Dum Dum Donutterie

I made Dum Dum Donutterie my first doughnut pit-stop upon arriving in the city. I visited their concession at Harrod's and opted for their Zebra Baked Doughnuts - a butter croissant dough, filled with chocolate buttercream, topped with chocolate and sprinkled with more chocolate. Essentially a 'cronut', it was quite frankly everything you could imagine and want in a croissant-doughnut hybrid. Crispy and soft layers infused with ample buttery chocolate cream which oozed out with every bite. I thoroughly loved it.

I didn't have space to try their actual doughnuts so decided to leave it for a few days later when I visited their branch at Box Park in Shoreditch. Unfortunately it was an unexpectedly cold and rainy walk from Liverpool Street station to get there and by the time I reached I already wasn't in the best of moods and craved a refuge spot. This time I ordered their Creme Brulee and White Chocolate & Pistachio doughnuts. In stark contrast to their cronuts I really didn't enjoy these. The Creme Brulee doughnut had barely any custard cream filling at all and was simply topped with crunchy caramelised sugar. Similarly the White Chocolate Pistachio had no filling and both doughnuts left much to be desired. I was pretty annoyed from my experience of these doughnuts, and although my mood wasn't great already I'm still not convinced this would have made a difference to my experience of them.

I should note what makes Dum Dum Doughnuts different to the other gourmet doughnuts reviewed here is that they are baked, not fried. Still they've managed to take the London doughnut scene by storm and I'm hoping the next time I try them it will be much better. 

Recently Dum Dum Donutterie announced they will be opening a branch right here in Dubai soon on Jumeirah Beach Road. 

Bread Ahead Bakery

Bread Ahead Bakery is another gourmet doughnut offering I had heard a lot of good things about prior to visiting. Although primarily bread-makers, they've garnered a lot of attention for their doughnuts at their stall in Borough Market, just around the corner from their oven baking headquarters. When I visited the market on a Saturday there was definitely a lot of buzz around their booth. All you have to do is take a look at their doughnuts to know there must be something good about them. My friend and I decided on a Creme Caramel & Salted Honeycomb, and Hazelnut & Almond Praline doughnut. 

Although they are not topped with anything on the outside, there is no scrimping on the filling which purposely oozes out and forms the base for crumbled toppings. In fact similarly to Crosstown Doughnuts, the dough is literally just enough to encase whats within. The doughnuts are rolled in sugar and have a rustic, old-school baked look to them. Sticky chins are inevitable! What you're getting here is really dessert, and for that I personally couldn't complain. 
Just like Crosstown, I've been dreaming about these doughnuts ever since. 

Bread Ahead have since opened an eatery offering an array of bites in Old Street.

St John's Bakery

Conveniently next to the Crosstown concession in the Selfridges food hall I managed to catch the baker filling fresh doughnut's with vanilla cream when I arrived and I knew I had to try one. I also went for a fruit jam filled doughnut, although I can't remember now if it was peach or apricot filled. These reminded me very much of Bread Ahead's doughnuts, in dough taste, texture and style. 

I would call these gourmet in the sense that they've clearly been made with high quality ingredients and by an artisanal bakery which has earned a reputation for its baked goods. If you're looking for simple sugar-rolled doughnuts with a good dough and classic jam and cream based fillings then these are for you. 

Love Doughnuts

London and the States may be in full swing of the gourmet doughnut craze now, but the Emirates, where new food spots regularly open up with lots of media fanfare, has been surprisingly slow to catch onto the trend.
However one such offering which did catch onto the gap in the UAE market is Love Doughnuts. Based in Abu Dhabi, the family run bakery slash coffee shop and gelateria opened up back in 2013 and was definitely the first to offer creative doughnut flavours using locally sourced and high quality, honest ingredients. 

Handmade everyday Love Doughnuts has a variety of its most popular flavours which it sells on a daily basis, but also introduces two to three new flavours as specials every month. Some of the flavours they've had in the past include Red Velvet White Chocolate & Strawberry, Dark Chocolate Lotus, Date & Tahini, Earl Grey & Passionfruit, and Peach & Green Chilli to name but a few! 

And yes I may be biased, but having tried a countless number of their doughnuts, they naturally come highly recommended. The quality is uncompromised and each doughnut is lovingly made from scratch. One look at their doughnut counter is enough to have your taste buds racing. Personal favourites include the Honeycomb Chocolate and classic Boston Cream, and I'm also partial to their gelato scooped between a warm sliced doughnut and topped with Belgian chocolate!

Jam Bar

Another doughnut offering in the UAE worthy of note is Jam Bar, which opened up about a year ago with a stall in Dubai Mall, and has recently opened a second outlet in Kite Beach. So far I've only managed to try a doughnut ice-cream sandwich, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although I haven't seen them market themselves as 'gourmet' doughnuts they definitely do hand-made doughnuts made with real ingredients. Retro in style, their offerings range from the standard cream and jam filled, to the more playful Princess Jasmine - filled with rosewater cream, and topped with a rosewater glaze and pistachio praline. 

As I also mentioned above, Dum Dum Donutterie are due to open soon in Dubai. Although I didn't enjoy their doughnuts I'll definitely be visiting their branch here to give them another try, if not for their cronuts. 

Have you tried 'gourmet' doughnuts yet? 

Disclaimer: although I work with Love Doughnut's in no way are these opinions obligatory to my service to them. I chose to write this review and all views are my own. 
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