Last Friday was one of those dreamy foggy days that makes everything feel a bit cozier and more fall-like. We spent a quiet early morning at home and then drove out to Venice for the opening of Blue Star Donuts (the first Los Angeles location for the famous Portland, Oregon-based company). The overcast weather set the perfect setting for sipping a cup of coffee with a thick cinnamon-sugar donut and savoring the start of the weekend. G typically favors a chocolate cake donut, while I prefer an apple fritter, and we both agreed that Blue Star boasts the best donut -- all-around -- we've ever had. After sampling an embarrassing number of flavors, we got the chance to speak with the founders, Katie Poppe and Micah Camden, about what makes their donuts better than the rest. Though driving to Venice can be a trek from where we live, I can easily see it becoming a tradition to head west for a box of these donuts on dreary days.
On the brioche base: [Micah] - "Katie and I went to Europe for three months for it. It's an 18-hour process. Most donut places use a mix. Even if they're making it fresh, they're just doing like a quick milk-flour raise, like something you can make in an hour-and-a-half. We actually make the dough, put it in the fridge, let it retard, let it ferment for about 24 hours. It builds character. It's like a sourdough that would do that. Lots of eggs. Lots of butter. Lots of milk. Not like, flour-water-yeast. It makes a huge difference. If you just ate the dough itself it would be good."
On using rice oil for cooking donuts: [Katie] "Rice oil has a lower cooking point so we don't end up burning and oxidizing the brioche dough, so we're able to get more of the dough taste and less oil taste. Also it's not as absorbant, so the dough isn't absorbing all of that oil and becoming really heavy and greasy. It's a good showcase for high-quality dough. Rice oil is more expensive, so most donut places use traditional cooking oil."
How the unique flavors are conceived of: [Katie] - "Micah is a chef and he has a fine dining background. He has opened a bunch of fine dining restaurants in Portland. His palette is super sharp - he's very innovative and good at combining things like alcohol and herbs with fruit and fresh flavors. So he's the genius behind all of our flavors."
The most popular flavor: [Micah] - "Our best-selling donut is the blueberry bourbon basil. Some of our best flavors are cocktails from my other restaurants. The blueberry bourbon basil was a Manhattan that we turned into a glaze. A lot of what we do here is cocktails turned into glazes. If you add enough confection sugar to any sweet liquid it becomes a glaze. My personal favorite is the passionfruit. And the apple fritter."
The key to a killer donut: [Micah] - "No chemicals. Our donuts are like a fresh bread. Bread tastes best the day you get it -- not with some extender or some chemical that makes it last. Once we make our donuts, if we don't sell out of them we give them away at the end of the day. It's a fresh piece of bread. It's a brioche bread. And you don't have brioche served the next day. If you're making a really nice meal, you're not going and getting bread the day before for dinner the next day."