Think you know your doughnuts? It’s time to take another look, as the traditionally sugar-coated category promises plenty of innovation in 2017

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You used to know where you were with a doughnut. They were round, possibly contained jam and were topped with sugar or icing.

Not any more! Doughnuts, like most baked goods these days, are ever-evolving and come in all shapes, sizes and flavours.

Take the churro, for example. This Spanish and Mexican snack was hailed as one of the hot foods of 2016 by Waitrose and was the inspiration behind the latest creation from Cronut inventor Dominique Ansel (see p42).

Doughnuts have come a long way from their earliest mention in the 17th century, and innovation has helped drive an 8.1% hike in sales over the past two years, according to CSM Bakery Solutions.

“Doughnuts are set to be even bigger in 2017,” says CSM pastry chef and global head of culinary Morgan Larsson. “Offering a variety of flavours to keep up with trends and excite customers is hugely important to driving sales of doughnuts.”

It’s a view echoed by Keri Cummings, category market manager at Scotland-based ingredients supplier Macphie, who says doughnuts “are the new cupcake”, and are set to rise even more in popularity this year. “They are the ideal blank canvas for toppings and fillings to match any trend or seasonal event. With toppings including icing infused with matcha green tea, edible flowers and even gold leaf, doughnuts have become an ‘instagram-able’ favourite and are taking over social media.

“All you need is some creativity, popular ingredients and finish with over-the-top toppings to draw in the digital diners.”

Furthermore, she says: “Loaded with fillings and dripping with indulgent toppings, doughnuts are also ticking the box for American-style ‘dirty’ food.” And they can even tap into the trend for contrasting flavours, with unusual ingredients including bacon or chilli.

Last autumn CSM launched an Oreo doughnut into UK supermarkets. It features cocoa dough, vanilla cream filling, with white icing and Oreo cookie crumble on top. CSM says: “Using a well-known brand in bakery products is a perfect union to attract the attention of customers and give added value to popular products. Oreo is an iconic brand, identifying strongly with young families and is the world’s number one and fastest growing biscuit brand.”

The total ring doughnut market is growing 6% year-on-year according to the company. Its consumer research for the Oreo doughnut showed 94% of those surveyed rated the product good or above, with 81% intending to purchase.

The influence of American doughnuts in the UK can arguably be traced back to October 2003, when doughnut giant

Krispy Kreme opened its first UK outlet. Based in London’s Harrods department store, it was the first of 35 UK stores to open at the time, but the company now has more than 1,000 locations and employs 5,000 staff. There are also self-service kiosks in around 500 Tesco supermarkets and motorway service stations.

The UK business sells about 50 million doughnuts a year, but last autumn Krispy Kreme chose to withdraw its planned £200m London flotation after announcing the 100% sale of its shares to US parent brand owner Krispy Kreme Group. Mike Dowell, CEO of Krispy Kreme UK, said at the time: “Krispy Kreme Group has

been very supportive of our progress and growth over recent years and we look forward to working more closely with them as we continue to grow the brand in the UK and Ireland.”

And grow it has, to a seemingly receptive market if the fervour Krispy Kreme openings continue to be greeted with is anything to go by. Just last month it opened stores in Ipswich and East Kilbride, with fans queuing for three hours to be the first in line.

Meanwhile, at London’s Borough Market, baker Justin Gellatly’s decadent American-style doughnuts – filled with bay leaf custard and salted honeycomb, or hazelnut and almond praline – sell out every weekend.

And last year doughnuts even hit the press as an alternative wedding option. Doughnut walls – a wall covered in doughnuts free for the taking – have been a thing for a while now, but in 2016 it was reported they were a full-on nuptial trend.

Last year it was also predicted we would be enjoying doughnuts as a savoury option – spicy ox cheek flavoured doughnuts went on sale at London restaurant Duck & Waffle; Nuno Mendes’ crab doughnuts could be found at celebrity hangout The Chiltern Firehouse; and Tesco unleashed its Weirdoughs in-house range including bacon and turkey & stuffing doughnuts.

At The Donut Kitchen in York they slow-cook doughnuts to order to form a light, fluffy texture. As well as offering traditional sugared doughnuts served with Belgian chocolate dipping sauces, the company sells the harder-to-find loukoumades, essentially the Greek answer to doughnuts. These little balls are served with a honey glaze and come with a nut and cinnamon topping.

Fried doughballs are popping up in outlets nationwide too – they originate from South America and are filled with chocolate or dulce de leche.

“Expect to see sweet potato ring doughnuts from Malaysia, Belgian dumplings, savoury Indian doughnuts, German jelly doughnuts and French Nuns Puffs making their way into the UK baking industry too,” says Larsson.

As for flavours in the year ahead, he points to sweet and savoury combinations, as well as savoury doughnuts used as burger buns or with eggs and bacon for breakfast.

 “Pistachio, coconut and tropical plants such as pandan are also key flavour trends to be aware of,” he adds.

“Indulgence is still prominent, so don’t forget dark chocolate ganache or salted caramel in your doughnut offering. Middle Eastern spices are also making their way over – think cardamom, cinnamon, aniseed, sumac or nutmeg.”

Alcohol-infused doughnuts are a real treat for adults, says Larsson. “We’ve seen Prosecco frosting, as well as Limoncello, Piña Colada and Mojito doughnuts.”

But why the resurgence and why now?

Much of the credit must go to St John, the Clerkenwell restaurant founded by celebrity chefs Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver, which started crafting its own doughnuts more than a decade ago, and still sells thousands every week.

Gulliver says: “When Fergus said to me we should start making doughnuts, I just thought, ‘hmmm…’. But they’ve been amazingly popular,” he adds. “From almost the first day we started selling them at Maltby Street Market, there were people sitting on the kerbside waiting and children bursting into tears if they didn’t have one. It just took off.”

In Scotland, meanwhile, at Fife-based Fisher & Donaldson bakery, the recipe for its fudge doughnut is such a closely-guarded secret that it is kept in two parts in five locations. It has its own Instagram hashtag (#fdfudge) and means the bakery gets through 10 tonnes of fudge a year.

But what next for the humble treat? Frankly it could be anything – in Nottingham last month, for example, they released unicorn doughnuts, complete with horns and ears.

In short, there’s big business to be had in these deep-fried delights, and you dough-nut want to miss out.

Ansel’s new angle

British Baker caught up with Cronut creator Dominique Ansel to talk about his ChurroDuo, launched late last year in his Tokyo shop, DAB Japan.

The ChurroDuo is a pastry made of two interlocking 3D churro pyramids, one flavoured with black sesame and black sugar, and the other with white sesame and cinnamon sugar.

“Churros are fried to order, so they’re crispy and warm,” says Ansel. “I wanted to create a new way of presenting churros, a different shape using local ingredients  inspired by our home-away-from-home in Japan.

“We decided to make two 3D pyramids that interlock and incorporate black and white sesame. They’re served with a side of salted caramel sauce.”

There are no plans at present to introduce the ChurroDuo to DAB London, but Ansel says “hopefully someday”, with a smile that suggests it won’t be long.

National Doughnut Week

National Doughnut Week returns from 6–13 May for another week of doughnut-themed fundraising.

Last year the week celebrated its 25th anniversary and bakeries and cafés created unusual and quirky flavours to raise money for The Children’s Trust, the leading charity for children with brain injuries. In 2016, the week raised £22,783 for the charity.

The week makes the most of the country’s love of the ringed treats and helps drive sales within the category all year round.

Bakers who register to take part in the week will receive a pack of promotional materials from sponsor CSM Bakery Solutions.