Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Lexington Donut Challenge

by Erin

About a week ago, Xani blogged about National Donut Day (or rather, it's mysterious reappearance after we already celebrated it back in June?), and a reader named Kalee commented with a simple question: "May I ask if you know of good places to get donuts here in Baltimore?"

I began to reply to Kalee but realized that there were only two donut places in all of Baltimore that I could even think of for donuts: the old favorite Dunkin' Donuts, and the MD chain called Fractured Prune, which I associate with the beach since that's where it got started, but apparently they are now located all over Maryland (and elsewhere).

Then, I remembered one of the fondest memories of law school: exam snacks. In the midst of stress, lack of sleep, too much coffee, and the elements of second degree murder swimming through our first-year heads, the Maryland Law Alumni Association always provided snacks for students on exam days. Afternoon and evening snacks were just lame packaged crackers and cookies, but morning exam-takers got the best of the best: coffee and some of the best donuts I've ever had! And these donuts were from the famous Lexington Market, just up the street from the law school.

With this memory recalled, my co-workers and I got to researching the bakeries at the Lex to see if we could find the one that had provided our exam donuts. Unfortunately, there were FIVE bakeries in the Lex that sold donuts - how would we ever determine who had those great donuts?! There was only one way: a donut tasting. (Recall that this was not my first donut tasting; we had a glorious donut tasting experience in NYC with Doughnut Plant donuts....mmm square donuts...).

A reminder of the Doughnut Plant tasting of '08

Early the next morning, co-workers Ray and Bianca joined me on the quick trip to the Lex where we planned on buying donuts from several bakeries to bring back to the office for a blind taste test. We ended up getting donuts from Harbor City Bakery, Donut Delite, and the Berger Bakery (maker of those irresistable, classicly Baltimore cookies: Berger Cookies).

We tried to get similar flavors from each bakery for better comparison. We also compared prices. Here was the breakdown:

Harbor City Bakery: $2.25/doz ($.19/donut)
Donut Delite: $1.90/half doz ($.32/donut)
Berger Bakery: $3.25/half doz ($.54/donut)

So clearly, there is a price discrepancy. But how did they taste?? We set up the conference room table in a grid formation, where each column was a different bakery (they were anonymously labeled A, B, and C), and then the rows were the different flavors of donuts. As you can see, we didn't have a perfect flavor match-up between the three bakeries. Ah well.

Flavors included a chocolate-glazed cake, a glazed raised, a pumpkin spice, double chocolate, boston creme, and sour cream (sometimes called sour dough - any thoughts on this discrepancy?). Everyone from the office came to try a taste of each kind.

Surprisingly, many people loved Donut Delite, but lots of folks also preferred the Berger donuts. I personally thought Berger blew everyone else out of the water - the sour cream was phenomenal, and the chocolate glazed cake was extra special because it had a regular glaze on it in addition to the chocolate glaze. A-mazing. As a donut connoisseur, I can tell you these were outstanding donuts, to rival even the fanciest donut shops.

Doubly-glazed Berger chocolate-glazed cake donut...drooling now...

Sour cream donut, ready for taste-testing

Glazed donut, ready for taste-testing

Chocolate-glazed cake donut

Another hot topic of conversation was the boston creme donut: the group was seriously split about which was the best, partially because there are so many components to analyze: dough, creme, and frosting. The group never quite came to a decision on which was better, but Donut Delite and Berger were the two everyone was talking about. Sorry Harbor City...

Berger Bakery Boston Creme donut

Donut carnage

By the end of it, we were all in a sugar coma and trying to kill time until the afternoon when several of us in the office were to receive our highly-anticipated bar exam results. I'm happy to report that later in the day, I found out that I PASSED!!! Thanks to all my friends and especially the BCD family for helping me and putting up with me during the bar - I truly couldn't have done it without you. And to say thanks, donuts for everyone!! :)

Thanks to Ray, Bianca, and Dave for helping me with the Lexington Donut Challenge, and thanks Kalee for your comment - it turned into a delicious experiment! And, to answer your question, I recommend the Berger Bakery donuts in the Lex. Soooo good...

Happy donut tasting,

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