From Berlin’s Berliners to Polish Paczki, fruit-filled fried balls of dough are a hallmark of springtime, owing in large part to the Lenten tradition of clearing out sweets and fats from cupboards. Religious traditions aside, these colorful treats come in a variety of fruit flavors, so for this season’s doughnut roundup, instead of deciding which bakery makes the area’s best jelly doughnuts based on a single offering, we collected two apiece from the five shops that put out racks of jellies. Ya jelly?
As in roundups past, I mercifully received assistance—and commentary—from six others including young children and young-at-heart adults. The reviews appear generally in order of our consensus of deliciousness in this blind taste-test, but plot twists abound, starting with the fact that the top-scorer and the cellar-dweller both came from the same shop!
The Dough Nut
Imagine our collective gasp when we discovered that our favorite jelly doughnut—a raspberry confection with a unique peanut butter glaze for a delightful twist on the PB&J—came alongside the group’s least favorite—a nearly identical doughy pocket of raspberry jelly but topped with powdered sugar—are both the creations of Midtown’s The Dough Nut. These weren’t even sampled side by side, so it’s extra interesting to see how much that peanut butter glaze (an interesting departure from ones that inject a glob of chewy peanut butter or use that powdered peanut butter stuff) enhanced the otherwise humdrum version. $2.25-2.50.
Richard’s Donuts & Pastries
The surprises kept rolling when the group discovered that Richard’s lemon-filled was far better received than its cherry-filled. While you never see lemon jelly in the jelly aisle, it’s a sunny staple of the jelly doughnut world. It must be the combo of sweet and sour. Words like “delightful,” “enjoyable” and “delicious” were tossed out while one comment was simply, “It puts you in a good mood.” By contrast, the cherry jelly version was deemed too sweet and a pale comparison to a cherry pie $2.
The haul to Sisters for these tastings always proves worthwhile as the nearly-identical delicacies received nearly identical scores for strong third and fourth place showings. The secret, ostensibly, is the mixed-berry compote found in both the plain-glazed and sugar-topped doughnuts. Both were far less sweet than most and even the latter uses sugar in the vein of finishing salt (or in this case, finishing sugar). When much of the collective jelly matter is artificially colored and flavored corn syrup, the fruit in the center of these shines in center stage. $3
When faced with options including blueberry, lemon, raspberry and apple, the last two were purchased to have the style’s most popular jelly flavor (raspberry) go head-to-head with an uncommon and unexpected flavor (apple). In both cases, the bites were good but somehow suffered from an abundance of the respective fillings. But the chunks of apples were appreciated. $2.35
While Sweetheart’s cherry-filled doughnut was met with an altogether tepid reaction across the board (the one better-than-average score was awarded for its fluffiness and custard-like texture in the middle), the visually appealing heart-shaped, blueberry-filled doughnut went over instead like a lead balloon. What it offers in cuteness it lacks in a large-enough center to allow sufficient jelly, so when it’s served astride nine others that sometimes suffered from being stuffed with too much of a good thing, this one wasn’t anyone’s jam. $2.50