My last doughnut stop in Austin was truly a special one. It was recommended to us by the lady selling us macarons at La Boite and is called Mrs. Johnson’s Bakery. What makes it special is a variety of things, mostly that fresh, warm doughnuts are available after 9:00 p.m. in the evening. And so we waited until after the sun had set for my epic journey towards Fried Dough Ho’dom.
Driving through the streets of Austin, there was a PBS radio station on the car radio playing tunes of the 1950s and I felt as though I were in the George Lucas movie, American Graffiti; this was as much about the journey as the destination. When we arrived, I could already smell the aroma of hot sugar in the air and I spied the sign which indicated that Mrs. Johnson’s had been around since 1948 and the building helped confirm that sense of nostalgia. In the front window was a long machine which rolled out the dough and cut the slab into its octagonal shapes. I watched the worker deftly pulling out the holes from the freshly-hewn rounds. All this joy and wonderment and I was not even inside yet.
What I was faced with surprised me; the full production of doughnut manufacturing going at full steam. It was so oddly gratifying and heartfelt. I was giddy and my enthusiasm was contagious. Enraptured at the scene, I watched closely as one worker organized the holes while another was laying out trays of freshly-cut rounds to be risen. And then another grabbed a giant bowl of dough and it dawned on me that my camera had the video record function. So I am pleased to share my first personal recording of doughnut preparation on Fried Dough Ho:
They knew I was a die-hard enthusiast. Ordering a small selection to take home and taste, the guy behind the counter put an extra doughnut in my box as well as one in my hand before I left. A freshly fried and glazed raised octagon of deliciousness, the warm doughnut in my hand was light and tender. Oh — and did I tell you it was WARM? Other than full-on restaurant offerings, I can’t think of when I have ever had a warm doughnut. I know that was the big selling point for Krispy Kreme for all those years, but in California, I never tried one fresh, only old and cold and mediocre.
What came home to try besides the warm glazed raised was a jelly-filled, chocolate cake, plain cake, and apple fritter. Someone else recommended the apple fritter and sadly, it just did not stand up to my benchmark fritter, Randy’s doughnuts in Los Angeles. Here the apples were indeed canned and fake and it was over spiced with too much cinnamon. The two cake doughnuts however, were exceptional. With a tight, moist crumb, the chocolate was slightly oily but not in a way that I found derogatory whatsoever. Instead, it made it richer and headier. The same dough used in the raised glazed was also that in the jelly doughnut and again, I was perfectly thrilled with this smaller-than-usual sized doughnut. Intensely light and fluffy, the raspberry filling was undoubtedly canned and mass-produced, but not overly sweet and perfectly acceptable.
I have had many mass-produced doughnuts, but these were a cut above. Fresh and warm aside, there was an inherent quality in the knowledge of the fact that these doughnuts were hand-made and not entirely machine-manufactured. And that hand-made quality is discernible, providing a level of excellence and satisfaction. There is much to be said for the vintage atmosphere of the building, the equipment, and the surroundings. Perhaps it was the music I was listening to or hearkening back to an era of simplified goodness, but Mrs Johnson’s certainly helps give the consumer that passionate level of contentment with its doughnuts.
Pictures on Fried Dough Ho: http://frieddoughho.com/mrs-johnsons/