Erin McKenna and I have something in common: we were both in Cherry Bombe’s second issue. Okay, fine, she was on the cover, but it was nevertheless a good intro line to drop when I met her last month. Aloha, the protein powder brand, collaborated with McKenna (https://www.erinmckennasbakery.com/) on gluten-free brownies and banana donuts (https://aloha.com/shop/product/superfood-banana-donuts) and since my day job dips into the nutrition world, I was invited to meet her.
She handed me a banana and a masher while I handed the publicist my phone, and off we went mashing and posing–for the phone, for instagram, for this blog, for the realization that we looked like two women auditioning for the same part in a play or film. Before we knew it, the donuts and brownies were out of the oven and ready for tasting. The brownies were fine, but the doughnuts had me. The effing doughnuts. Erin then dipped one into Aloha’s melted dark chocolate, then placed a tray before me. I popped a warm bite into my mouth, then hoovered the rest of it down. Then another. Baked, gluten-free, packed with real banana, garnished with 60% cacao dark chocolate. Were they really doughnuts? Yes.
Donuts aren’t a big part of our lives, nor have they ever been. Before the McKenna afternoon, I struggle to remember the last time I’d had one. When I was seven or eight, my parents rented a ski house in Vermont for a few years, and we’d stop at a Dunkin’ Donuts off I-95 on the Sunday night drive back. My father would get an Old-Fashioned Plain, my brother got a Cinnamon Cruller and mine was a Chocolate Glazed. No bananas or fair-trade cacao in those babies, I assure you.
Pastries in general aren’t part of our food pyramids. Neither of us can recall ever gleefully screaming the words “Cookies!” or “Ice Cream!” when presented that kind of fare. Instead, we’d rather spend our shameful points on aged Gouda or freshly baked bread, but those donuts lingered in my memory like an indefatigable stray puppy. So, as we formulated our menu for dinner a few weeks ago, when Bertrand reluctantly asked, “Should we make dessert?”it was time to make the donuts.
Three days later, a box of Aloha Superfood Banana Donuts arrived, complete with all we needed except bananas, maple syrup, a tiny bit of sugar and vanilla extract. Easy. However, since this was uncharted territory, I decided to make them a few hours before dinner. As I was scooping the batter into my new, cool donut pan that afternoon, our overnight guests pulled into the driveway.
Michael’s eyes lit up when he put his duffle down and spotted the pan with molds that resembled tires for a toytruck. “Michael has a donut blog,” Betsy proudly explained. (http://doughnutnation.com/)
“Yes,” Michael shrugged. “I do love donuts.”
Doughnut Nation checks out and critiques the most touted deep-fried, sugary, powdery fare in various cities. If you are a fan of the food, check it out.
Twenty minutes later, as I pulled the first batch out of the oven, I realized how overzealous I’d been with the batter. The directions called for scooping 1/2 cup into each mold. Who measures thick batter?? The holes had been baked over and filled in, so I had six hearty round cakes, but not nearly enough batter for the six more that the box promised. Oops.
“Let’s eat one now, anyway,” Betsy jumped off the kitchen stool for a closer look. “We can split one at dinner. No one will ever know. Or I’ll just say I don’t eat sweets. Whatever! Hand it over!”
I placed the donut (right, foreground) on a plate and sliced it into four even quarters. We downed them like shots of Tequila.
Erin would have been proud. Of course, making something that’s mostly out of a box isn’t very purist, but you gotta love the very low margin for error. And granted, mine were fatter than Erin’s, but, man, they melted us. Most important, they weren’t full of deep-fried, sugary crap.
Later that night, the dinner plates cleared, six zaftig, hole-less mounds were placed on one table of guests, while the thinner, crustier paltry ones went to our conspiring foursome at the other table. Ever the healthnut, Bertrand passed on his. Betsy did the same. Hmm…maybe they weren’t as magical as I’d been led to believe. That didn’t faze Michael or me.
The following morning, we had brunch at the Prairie Whale (https://www.facebook.com/PrairieWhale), the best–and most popular–restaurant in Great Barrington run by Mark Firth, of Brooklyn’s Marlow & Sons fame. As we perused the menu, I chimed up. “We have to get the scone!”
Our friend Amy had turned us on to Prairie Whale’s rosemary scone a few weeks back, and we added it to our tiny list of sugar avoidance exceptions (the other being the vegan blueberry muffin at the Co-op down the street. Go early. They disappear fast.)
“We’ll split it,” Bertrand confirmed, and I felt my tail wag a little less avidly. Between the four of us? Again?
When the scone arrived, steam rising from it, accompanied by a fluffy mound of creme fraiche and a healthy puddle of honey, the waitress placed it in front of Bertrand, who swiftly moved it to Betsy and Michael’s side of the table. Aka, further from me. Betsy resisted. “Go ahead,” Bertrand insisted. “We’ve had it before.” I practically grumbled at his altruism.
When their forks finally hit a lull, I pounced. One bite, then it went back to our guests. They, in turn, passed it back after their second bites. One or two more and I was fully satiated. I felt mature in recognizing this fact. Usually Bertrand reaches that realization way before I do, if I even do.
But that’s how pastries should be eaten–or any sweets, for that matter. They’re better shared. Sugary stuff possesses an illicit element (hence, Christina Tosi’s aptly named Crack Pie) because it’s not healthy. So if you share the scone, or donut, or piece of cake, not only will you feel less contrite, your stomach will thank you later.
But let’s make more donuts soon.