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Doughnuts of the Upper Valley: The Best One Is the One You’re Eating

  • Uptown Bakery maple frosted doughnut. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Little Store lemon zest doughnut (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lou's Restaurant & Bakery Boston creme doughnut. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lou's Restaurant & Bakery cruller (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Meriden Deli/Mart sugared doughnut (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Fort maple-glazed cruller (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Muriel's Donuts cinnamon-sugar doughnut. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Brothers Donuts & Deli glazed doughnut (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Anne's Plainfield Country Convenience Store buttermilk doughnut. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Four Aces Diner cider doughnut (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jupiter Rising Bakery old fashioned doughnut (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



PHOTOGRAPHS BY JENNIFER HAUCK
Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Partly out of curiosity and partly to amuse ourselves during the long winter — and largely because we never met a snack we didn’t like — we at the Valley News decided to hunt up all the doughnuts made by local shops.

As journalists, we could explain this pursuit more fully, but the attraction of eating doughnuts is self-evident.

We set a few ground rules (you have to be rigorous about this kind of thing): Though some newsroom staffers argued for including chain doughnut shops and supermarkets, that would have made for a sprawling story. So, no Dunkin’, no Shaw’s, no Price Chopper and so on. We also left out Jolley Doughnuts, in Wells River, which we wrote about in June.

That meant we’d get doughnuts only at smaller, locally owned shops, made fresh and not packaged for stores. Did we miss some places? Probably, and if so, please let us know.

Many places sell doughnuts that look homemade but are in fact purchased frozen and baked. Fine in a pinch, but not what we were looking for.

The time of year worked for us, but not for a thorough scouting of the doughnut landscape. We missed all the cider doughnuts made in the fall at farms and orchards, the maple doughnuts at the Tunbridge Fair and all the doughnuts made by home cooks for suppers and bake sales. We’ll be applying for grant funding to do a full year’s research; contact Alex Hanson at ahanson@vnews.com.

We thought about ranking the doughnuts, but once we started sampling them, they seemed too dissimilar for meaningful comparison. Besides, the best doughnuts were the ones we were eating. We set the doughnuts out in the newsroom with a notebook bearing the admonition “You bite; you write,” and for the most part, everyone complied.

The biggest surprise of the whole exercise? The sheer number of places that made really great doughnuts. They are ubiquitous, various, delicious and (obligatory health warning) so, so bad for you.

Without further preamble, the doughnuts of the Upper Valley:

Muriel’s Donuts

Local doughnuts start and end with Muriel’s. We sampled these first, and the warm doughnuts caused a bit of a feeding frenzy. There was (and is) a red jelly stain on the newsroom carpet. We confess, your honor, we murdered those doughnuts.

Muriel’s, a Lebanon fixture since 1967, follows a simple formula: A single dough, fashioned into plain, sugar and cinnamon doughnuts, and crullers and jelly sticks. Served fresh out of the fryer, they are like ambrosia, or as one commenter wrote, “the beluga caviar of doughnuts.” (The same commenter also wrote “3 thumbs up!” so maybe he’s not the best source.) There’s a reason why Muriel’s regularly wins awards for New Hampshire’s best doughnut shop.

Uptown Bakery

This relatively new Claremont bakery sells a wide assortment of doughnuts, both cake and raised. The latter found more fans than the former, with some commenters suggesting the cake doughnuts were too dense, though one biter/writer wrote that the “cakey center is divine.” The raised doughnuts had, someone wrote, “just the right amount of chewiness and bounce.”

The Little Store

Marsh Brothers Deli at the Little Store, in Lebanon, sells perhaps the most charming doughnut in the UV. They’re petite, cakey and faintly yellow, as they’re flavored with lemon zest, and can be ordered either tossed in sugar or unadorned. Some tasters felt the lemon was too subtle, but for most it was just right; lemony enough to set these dainty little treats apart from the great mass of fat-fried dough, but not so strong as the lemon bars from the school bake sale.

Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery

The whole doughnut experience is here, on Main Street in Hanover, from Yankee cider-doughnut austerity to gourmet, chocolate-frosted, 500-calorie wretched excess. We got one of everything: The too-muchness of the full order of doughnuts is part of the deal. The plain cider doughnut is “a classic, made well and always pleasurable,” wrote one commenter who sounds like a Lou’s habitué. There are three cider doughnuts, four crullers and six kinds of gourmet doughnuts, including a maple doughnut with crumbled bacon, an artisanal Boston creme, a hazelnut Nutella doughnut and so on, all of them eminently Instagram-worthy. The gourmet doughnuts are pricey by Upper Valley standards, at $2.85 apiece. But they’re huge, so they could be shared.

Meriden Deli Mart

We tasted a lot of big doughnuts, but the size of the doughnuts at this Route 120 emporium made a statement. “A cross between a doughnut and a hula hoop,” one commenter wrote. These pleasantly spiced cake doughnuts were available in plain, sugared, maple-glazed and maple-walnut variants. The giant fried rings were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, just like a cake doughnut should be, and tasters noted that the maple flavor seemed authentic. “Wish I had a hot coffee for dunking,” wrote someone who could have gotten a coffee if it was that important.

Brothers Donuts & Deli

It came as a surprise to us that some of the best doughnuts available in the Upper Valley are made a bit farther afield. Brothers Donuts, of Franklin, N.H., delivers its wares to shops all over the Granite State, including several stores in Newport (we got our at Grazi’s Market). Shop owner Malverino “Mal” Rizzo III started the shop with his brother Ralph 36 years ago. Ralph died a few years later, but the name persists.

These are some serious doughnuts. The jelly and Boston creme doughnuts earned praise for not being cloyingly sweet, and a cake doughnut with chocolate frosting was just perfect, flavorful without causing an immediate toothache. The glazed raised doughnuts were particularly light and lofty. (Note: Brothers has the best hours for a doughnut shop, 3 a.m. to noon, and 2 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.)

Jupiter Rising Bakery

This Rutland bakery has been selling its doughnuts in the Upper Valley for eight or nine years, owner Tina Clark said in a phone interview. They’re available at Mike’s Store in Hartland, at Woodstock Farmer’s Market, in West Woodstock, and at the Evans Express at Exit 16 in Enfield. The raised doughnuts were as light and tender as cotton candy, “an airy, smushy, delicious bite,” as one commenter wrote, or, as another mused, “that fluffy doughnut — WUT!” Clark said about 80 percent of her business is doughnuts, though Jupiter also sends bread, rolls and pies to us here on Earth. She said she’d send more doughnuts to other Upper Valley shops, if she could recruit more drivers. As the “WUT!” commenter wrote, “More plz.”

Anne’s Plainfield Country Convenience Store

This shop pairs a gas station with a commercial kitchen that turns out some of the most amazing, if eccentric doughnuts we tried. They are big, brown, nubbly buttermilk doughnuts, available plain with a hole in the middle, or as squat crullers tossed in crunchy white sugar. They look like something to take on a polar expedition, or to slice up and fry in butter.

The doughnuts are crunchy on the outside and cakey on the inside, with a tangy note from the buttermilk. The crullers, made from the same dough, are less crunchy, unless you count the crunch from the sugar. Pro tip: Don’t eat the cruller in the car, lest you end up with a trail of sugar down the front of your scarf and parka. These doughnuts are, as they say, a wicked bah-ghin, at 75 cents for a doughnut and 99 cents for a cruller. Anne’s makes doughnuts only on Saturday mornings and for special orders.

Four Aces Diner

This West Lebanon mainstay makes two types of doughnut, a classic, sugar-coated cider doughnut and a massive maple doughnut. The former is meant for eating with coffee, the latter is clearly meant to be cut in half lengthwise and fried, which is indeed how the diner serves it. We ate the hulking maple doughnuts straight and they were imposingly dense and cakey. We bet they’re amazing fried, though.

The Fort

The Lebanon truck stop diner makes two kinds of cruller, glazed and maple-glazed, and both are massive. Cut the rounded end off one and it’s bigger than one of The Little Store’s doughnuts. These chewy, raised monsters were among the favorites in the newsroom. One commenter called the glazed cruller “a pastry-shaped antidepressant.” Another commenter wrote the kind of lengthy, rhapsodic paragraph that would never make it past an editor.

Muriel’s Donuts

See, doughnuts in the UV really do start and end with Muriel’s. We ate the first batch so quickly that we forgot to save one to photograph. Oh darn, another dozen it is. This second batch wasn’t fresh from the fryer, but they still won widespread praise as the Goldilocks of doughnuts: Not too big, not too sweet, not too crispy, not too soft. Just right.



Video via UV INDEX. Doughnuts will always be with us.