Exotic flavors at Amherst's gourmet doughnut shop
AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — Elvis Presley loved banana and peanut butter sandwiches, so a doughnut featuring those flavors bears his name.
Another doughnut is covered in maple glaze and strips of bacon, a treat that some customers have described as a complete breakfast.
A chocolate salted caramel doughnut is inspired by a popular variety of Starbucks coffee.
They are among the more than 50 flavors, some conventional but many eclectic, being turned out each day by the owners of a new Amherst doughnut shop.
‘‘What we’re appealing to is people’s desire to indulge,’’ said Keren Rhodes, who runs the Glazed Doughnut Shop with her husband, Nick Rhodes. The business opened in October at The Carriage Shops at 233 North Pleasant St.
The Rhodeses, graduates of Amherst Regional High School, high school sweethearts and professed Food Network junkies, recently returned to town to open the shop.
‘‘Doughnuts are the new cupcakes,’’ said Keren Rhodes. ‘‘With doughnuts, people are just happy. It’s a fun business to be in.’’
The store’s colorful display of doughnuts stands in stark contrast to its white walls, white ceiling and white floor tiles. About 25 flavors are available each day. On a recent morning the selection included mochaccino glaze, chai glaze and chili-infused honey glaze doughnuts, along with monkey bread muffins, apple fritters and beignets.
‘‘We watch Food Network endlessly and get great ideas for flavor combinations,’’ Nick Rhodes said. ‘‘If we hear about something that’s interesting, we say, ‘Let’s give that a try.’ ‘‘
Keren Rhodes’ favorite ice cream, for instance, is mint chocolate chip. ‘‘I said, ‘I can make that into a doughnut,’ ‘‘ she said.
They make the doughnuts in the evening, in a kitchen area that’s in full view of customers coming into the 500-square-foot store.
At around 9 p.m., the dough is processed in a mixer, then spread on a workbench for kneading. Beneath the bench there are bins of doughnut toppings. A nearby shelf holds spices like ginger, cloves and red pepper.
Nick Rhodes kneads the dough with an oversized roller before prodding it with a tool called a docker to prevent air pockets from forming when the doughnuts go into the fryer.
After he hand cuts each doughnut, he places them on a rack that goes into a proofer, a machine that uses heat and humidity to help the dough rise. When the doughnuts are ready, he drops them two dozen at a time into a fryer filled with palm and soy-based oil. Two minutes later the doughnuts are done, and ready for toppings.
Keren Rhodes dips some of the hot doughnuts into a bowl of vanilla bean glaze, covering every surface before allowing it to set.
For other varieties, like chocolate glazed, the doughnuts need to cool before Rhodes can coat them. Then they are garnished with toppings like coconut, crushed Butterfinger bars and Oreo cookies.
‘‘The fun part of the job is we get to play with buckets of chocolate frosting and sprinkles,’’ Keren Rhodes said.
The Glazed Doughnut Shop serves coffee and loose teas from Esselon in Hadley. It also carries chocolate chip cookies from Pasture Patty’s in Hadley.
‘‘We try to use as much as possible local products,’’ Nick Rhodes said.
Keren Rhodes, who graduated from Amherst Regional in 1998, and Nick Rhodes, who graduated the following year, got into the doughnut business a little over three years ago when they decided to close the cellphone accessories kiosk at Eastfield Mall in Springfield that they had run for nearly a decade. The cellphone market was getting too competitive, they say.
‘‘It was not a stable way to make a living,’’ Keren Rhodes said.
Nick Rhodes also worked at a Sleepy’s mattress store in order to get health insurance for the family. The couple have two preschool-age children.
The economic downturn in 2008 pushed them in a new direction. They were living in Enfield, Conn., and decided to open their own independent operation called Mini Donut Factory at the Shoppes at Buckland Hills in nearby Manchester, Conn.
The product is akin to the tiny doughnuts sold at fairs like the Big E in West Springfield. ‘‘The concept is to have a fresh, hot doughnut all the time,’’ Keren Rhodes said.
They purchased a machine that could make up to 1,200 mini doughnuts an hour. The venture was quickly profitable, and about a year later they opened a second store at the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside. The machine they purchased for that location — bought from a former Boston Bruins player — can make up to 2,400 doughnuts an hour.
Making mini doughnuts laid the foundation for the more esoteric flavors featured at The Glazed Doughnut. The Rhodeses began experimenting with a range of toppings, enlisting family members as taste testers.Continued...