Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Get in Ma Mouth: Pumpkin Edition

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Coffee and a pumpkin doughnut for the pumpkin-averse
  • Brad Kaplan
  • Coffee and a pumpkin doughnut for the pumpkin-averse
It's October, so it goes without saying that pumpkins are practically unavoidable right now. And I don't mean ACTUAL pumpkins, I mean pumpkin lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin beers, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin Pringles. It's enough to make me feel like pumpkin pukin'. (By the way, pumpkin is one of those words where you write it out, and read it, and just know that it can't be spelled the way it is. P-U-M-P-K-I-N. Pumpkin? Really??) I am generally a pumpkin avoider, especially when the pumpkin-containing product carries some godawful name like IT'S THE GREAT PUMPKIN (ARTIFICIALLY FLAVORED) PROCESSED AMERICAN CHEESE PRODUCT, CHARLIE BROWN!, which makes it all the more confounding that I would find myself at a counter purchasing a two dollar pumpkin mini-doughnut. What was I thinking??

Well, I was thinking... here I am at Empire State South, ordering a cortado, in need of something mildly sweet and carb-laden to complement the coffee, looking over the pastry table, seeing a glass dome-topped tray of thickly-glazed doughnuts, unable to mentally block my inner-doughnut-urges. What? They're pumpkin doughnuts? What the heck, I'm at Empire State South, surely it will be good.

Luckily, I was right. My little glazed pumpkin doughnut, of the cake variety, was very good. And what made it especially good was the subtlety of it, the un-pumpkin-iness of this pumpkin doughnut. First of all, it didn't smell like walking into whatever-that-candle-store-in-malls-is-called that inevitably overloads your senses with manufactured pumpkin and baking spice aromas each October. Second of all, it didn't TASTE like walking into whatever-that-candle-store-in-malls-is-called that inevitably overloads your senses with manufactured pumpkin and baking spice aromas each October (go taste one of the pumpkin white chocolate latte atrocities at Dunkin' Donuts and tell me it's not like consuming a poorly manufactured scented candle).

Beyond the subtle nature of the doughnut, I was also struck by how moist it was (ack, I hate to use the word "moist" when describing food, but this may have been the most moist cake doughnut I've ever had). I caught up with Melanie Durant, who has taken over as pastry chef at Empire State South since Cynthia Wong's recent departure, to get the secret to this doughnut's success. Like many kitchen secrets, it involves butter. Brown butter to be exact. Each and every doughnut gets a quick dip in brown butter that had been basking in the rays of a double rainbow. OK, I made up that rainbow part, but the brown butter does seem to impart some magical goodness to the doughnut.

Look for a rotation of yeast and cake doughnuts on a daily basis at Empire State South. The pumpkin cake doughnut will be served through November, a bit longer than your Halloween candy leftovers may last. Durant is also rolling out more savory items in the AM, and working on a line of French-style canelés (individual cakes with a custardy center and a crisp, caramelized exterior). Sounds good to me. I hope she makes a pumpkin white chocolate candle-scented canelé.


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Get in Ma Mouth is a look at delicious things around Atlanta. It all started with a fig and mascarpone donut "slider," but knows no bounds other than that of eager hunger - sweet or savory, solid or liquid, homemade or store-bought. Click here for an archive of "Get in Ma Mouth" temptations.

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