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Time to make the doughnuts!

To quote Homer Simpson: "Mmmmm, doughnuts. Is there anything they can’t do?" The fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth comfort food – apropos for cops and truckers, church-basement gatherings, and even presidents (Bill Clinton reportedly is an avid doughnut fan) – are consumed by some 10 billion doughnut eaters a year.

Maria Delios, head baker at Kane’s Donut, tends to agree that doughnuts can do no wrong. She works the graveyard shift at the iconic Saugus landmark, frying up hundreds of homemade classic New England jelly, Boston crème, and of course, those famous honey-dipped.

In a region where it seems there’s a doughnut franchise on every corner, Kane’s Donut bucks the trend by being an independent, family-owned operation where time stands still: local fishermen straddle the counter seats, slurping black coffee while discussing the day’s catch. The Delios clan took over the operation of Kane’s in 1987, and today, continue to church out establishment’s trademark hand-cut doughnuts. “It’s my dad’s secret recipe and I can’t give it out,” says Maria Delios, who grew up hanging up around the shop, chatting with customers, and eventually working the cash register.

With an affordable price (about $1.25), easy commuting size, and tasty snack flavor, doughnut sales have had staying power, despite the economic downturn. Krispy Kreme and other manufacturers are offering non-trans fat doughnuts, and Kane’s claim to fame are local ingredients, using honey from a local beekeeper and fresh whipped crème from nearby farms.

No two donuts are alike, says Delios, who rolls out the dough to the proper thickness, cuts each piece, lets the yeast rise, then fries them in 400 degree oil until they turn a golden brown. After the doughnuts are cooked, they’re placed on wooden dowels, and smothered in glaze. “If a doughnut breaks, we fight over who gets to eat it,” says Delios.

Q: Your entire family is involved in the business – was there every a time that you didn’t want to be making doughnuts?
A: I did work other jobs – I was a mom and also a hairdresser at one point – but I always worked at the store as well. It’s a happy place; people come in and they’re in a good mood, and we have some customers who are real characters. As a family business, the shop has enriched all of our lives. I learned all the people skills you’d ever want to know, since you’re constantly dealing with the public.

Q: The profit margin is very high on doughnuts as a food product; what are the downsides of the business?
A: Like any proprietor, we’re married to our jobs. We’re not just making doughnuts; we’re taking out the trash or fixing an overflowing toilet. It comes with the territory.

Q: It gets crowded and hot in the kitchen – another downside?
A: I do get my annual ‘kiss’ from the oven now and then, especially when making Thanksgiving pies, when I’ll get a few burns.

Q: What do you do with the doughnut hole?
A: We take it and mix it back with the dough.

Q: How many doughnuts do you eat a day?
A: I definitely eat at least one doughnut a day, but sometimes more. Those hot honey-dipped or chocolate doughnuts are just sitting there and look so darned good. I’m a little chubby, I must confess.

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