Popular again, donuts make full circle

Barbara Hootman

Sweet news to many, donuts have been popping up all over the Swannanoa Valley.

Dunkin' Donuts in Swannanoa just celebrated its first anniversary. Traditions Bakery behind the Black Mountain Police Department plans to open by Labor Day. Black Mountain Bakery added donuts to its pastry lineup only recently.

The downfall of many a dieter, donuts have been around for centuries. Archaeologist found petrified fried cakes with holes in the center in prehistoric ruins in Southwestern United States.  The Dutch get the credit for making the first donuts in Europe. Donuts were known as "olykoeks," or oily cakes, in mid-19th Century.  Pilgrims from Holland brought the first olykoeks to America.

By mid-morning, Stacy Cleary sells out of nearly all her newly popular donuts at Black Mountain Bakery.

During World War I, the donut was a favorite snack but not yet a breakfast staple. Adolph Levitt created the first donut machine in 1934.  During the 1940s and 1950s, Americans fell in love with the donut, and chains like Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts became popular. Donuts, long eschewed by people hoping to lose weight or eat healthier, have been enjoying a renaissance of late. Creative bakers nationwide have been adding artistic touches to recipes that all begin the same, with flour, sugar and oil.

Black Mountain Bakery introduced 15 flavors of donuts to its menu in the past two months.

“Customers ask for them,” owner Stacy Cleary said.  “I was hesitant to add donuts because of the addition of new equipment to prepare them, and donuts involve deep frying. It meant spending a lot of money on equipment. But it was the best idea we’ve had."

Downtown merchant Scott Counce is a regular customer at Black Mountain Bakery.  When he discovered he could have donuts in the morning, he put the news on Facebook, giving the bakery a big endorsement. 

"Scott really gave our donuts a boost," Cleary said.  "I brag about them on Facebook also."

Making donuts means Cleary’s day starts at 3 a.m. The work takes about two hours.

“Those made with yeast dough have to have time to rise," she said. "The cake donuts are easier.  The donuts are put in the deep fryer, and then they get a coat of glaze. The old-fashioned glaze donuts are a favorite.  The orange creamsicle and the cream cheese and herb are popular.  The double fudge is another favorite.  We have new flavors weekly.”

Ready for the bitter bite of a stout cup of coffee, chocolate-covered cake donuts at Black Mountain Bakery are temptation waiting to happen.

Donut lovers can expect to see a lemonade donut with raspberry whip cream soon.

“People tell me about donuts they have eaten and asked me to try them, and I do,” Cleary said.  “If it is popular, it stays on the menu.  Donuts are made fresh every morning, and when they are gone that is all for that day.

Mariah Melton, assistant manager of Dunkin' Donuts in Swannanoa, said demand for their donuts has increased so much that they introduce new flavors about every two months. "The consistent favorite donut for our customers is the Boston Cream," Melton said. "We have daily customers that start their day with our donuts."

Jennifer Marsh shares a bite of a Black Mountain Bakery donut with friend Eleanor Moffitt, while Emily Kleive watches. the tasting.

Traditions Bakery will have "scratch-made yeast donuts from a generations-old recipe" created by "a crazy Cajun and a tough old German," said baker Charles Martinez, taking time out from getting the bakery on West Street ready. He apprenticed with the pair outside of New Orleans, which explains the New Orleans touch he'll bring to his bakery.

He'll offer King Cakes, oyster patties (a pastry), Napoleans, eclairs and other French- and New Orleans-influenced tasties to the cheesecakes, brownies and bread he'll whip up every morning. "If it's been in a bakery, I'll just about be sure to have it," Martinez said.

That includes donuts.  "Every day I'm working at the shop, we usually get three or four people stopping by and asking when the donuts will be ready," he said. "'Each batch from scratch' is my slogan. I'll be in (the bakery) each morning by 3:30 a.m. making them fresh."