Few things are more sinister than doughnuts. They may be soft and fluffy, but nix the glaze and creamy filling and doughnuts are really just a piece of deep-fried cake.
Those looking for an alternative to sugary-sweet breakfast pastries, however, could end up dealing with diet foods that can be almost as terrible. With a chemistry set for an ingredients list and a taste somewhere between cardboard and hand cream, most diet desserts fall criminally short of their full-fat counterparts.
Those who despair of ever having their cake and eating it too, meet Holey Donuts!. These New York–based little creations are a great way to satisfy a doughnut craving without the deep-fried aftertaste or the diet food dry mouth.
Holey Donuts are handmade and never touch a deep fryer. Although the exact cooking method is a well-guarded company secret, the company’s founder, Frank Dilullo, spent time in the family’s doughnut business before developing a new way of making them — one that left him with low-fat, far healthier doughnuts.
“[A doughnut] doesn’t have to be this sinful treat you have once a month and feel bad about,” said Brook Baskin, Holey Donuts’ head of customer care. “What makes our doughnuts different is we use all the same doughnut ingredients as everyone else, we just cook them a different way.”
Currently, Holey Donuts come in four basic varieties: traditional ring doughnuts, doughnut holes, filled doughnuts and cinnamon buns. The filled doughnuts have the widest variety of flavors — from lemon graham cracker to coconut cream pie — but the results of Dilullo’s recipe are in the numbers.
For a quick comparison, a Chocolate Crumb Holey Donut has three grams of fat, nine grams of sugar and 149 calories. Its mainstream twin, a Krispy Kreme Chocolate Iced Glazed doughnut, has 12 grams of fat, 21 grams of sugar and 250 calories.
“We’re trying to bring to people the best-tasting doughnuts in the world, ones that people can eat without worrying about putting so much fat into their bodies,” Baskin said.
Unlike Weight Watchers and other diet food systems that use miniscule portions to get away with low numbers, Holey Donuts are full-sized and, as such, don’t eliminate the fat, sugar and calories of traditional doughnuts as much as reduce it to a manageable level.
“Frank wasn’t really trying to create a diet product, he was trying to create a doughnut that happens to have a lot less fat and calories,” Baskin said. “That’s why we get such rave reviews from our customers — people are so used to low-fat or lower calorie foods tasting like cardboard.”
Make no mistake, then; Holey Donuts are healthier doughnuts, not “healthy doughnuts.” Some of the fillings have high fructose corn syrup, but at least they don’t fall back on taste-deadening artificial sweeteners or fat substitutes. Through retooling the traditional doughnut recipe, Holey Donuts have produced an authentic, yet far more sensible doughnut, one that might put off zealous health nuts, but will please those just looking for a lighter alternative.
“The company has taken off in the last year,” Baskin said. “We went on QVC and sold about $30,000 worth of doughnuts in six minutes.”
Holey Donuts are shipped to customers (and Daily Trojan food columnists) in a box of dry ice. To achieve doughnut goodness, however, a 20-second stint in the microwave is recommended. Shining in half-melted chocolate, my Chocolate Crumb awaited its doom.
It was surprise at first bite. Somehow, this slim little creature tastes freakishly similar to its fried cousins, and the texture is spot on. Fried dough has a unique taste that Holey Donuts cannot quite mimic, but its donuts do come close.
For all its doppelganger glory, my heart was not smitten. The Chocolate Crumb tasted just like a regular doughnut — not an amazing doughnut, not a bad doughnut, just a doughnut. Some might be happy with just getting the taste and texture right, but I say no excuses.
Then I tried one of the filled doughnuts, the Boston Cream Oreo Cookie. A big puff of doughy goodness, swathed in vanilla and Oreo crumbles, the doughnut dripped with tangy-sweet cream filling and my mouth knew bliss.
As for the cinnamon buns, these bad boys trump any concoction from the Ralph’s bakery, and with only 240 calories, it’s a great alternative to a hulking food court Cinnabon.
Though delicious, Holey Donuts are not perfect. Because they lack much fat and undergo freezing, these things dry out fast. After microwaving, they need to be eaten quickly, meaning no leisurely breakfasts or sneaking one into the library.
The second problem is getting ahold of them. Because you can only order them online with a minimum purchase of three boxes, they are not a cheap treat. Each box of six is around $11.95, making a minimum order $35.85. And because they are frozen, shipping can run as much as $50 — though they will last a long time in the freezer. The company soon hopes to open actual Holey Donuts stores as well as reduce shipping costs. But at the moment, Holey Donuts are high-rolling desserts.
Because they are not health food, Holey Donuts do not taste like health food. And that’s a good thing — in whatever their form, doughnuts are treats. To make them commonplace, that bite into chewy dough and the burst of warm cherry filling would be far less satisfying, low-fat or not.
Mimi Honeycutt is a sophmore majoring in print journalism. Her column “Gingersnaps” runs Wednesdays.