Deviant Donuts brings ingenious creations to Mystic
Walk into Olde Mistick Village’s Vault Coffee Roasters on any weekend morning, and you’ll witness rows of doughnuts made to perfection in enchantingly deviant forms. Doughnuts piped with peanut butter cores are smothered in a mauve strawberry glaze. Others, drenched in a salted caramel glaze, are covered in coconut shreds. Some are showered in a glittering sheen, while others, smeared with a chocolate ganache, are pinned with a pipette of kirsch on top. Oreo cookie bits and a swirl of malted-milk buttercream decorate another row; doughnuts with a merengue swirl caramelized to a golden brown beckon customers with their lemon-filled centers.
These are the confectionary masterpieces of Deviant Donuts — an up-and-coming doughnut business that is currently run out of Mystic’s Vault Coffee Roasters café. For anyone with a semblance of a sweet tooth and a love for doughnuts, a simple stop into Vault is like every holiday tied into one.
Deviant Donuts is the latest project from Stefan Ambrosch, who also owns and manages Mango's Wood-Fired Pizza and Homemade Ice Cream as well as Vault. After a friend suggested he sell doughnuts out of Vault last year, Ambrosch figured he'd give the idea a whirl.
“I’m a perfectionist,” he says, while sitting for an interview in Mango’s Pizza earlier this month. “I knew that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it right.”
To see the idea through, Ambrosch created a team of bakers, which now includes: Dede Smith, a long-time baker for Vault; Kourtney Stoy, a culinary and pastry graduate of Johnson and Wales University; and Sam Covington, a culinary graduate from Florida’s Valencia College.
Whether Ambrosch will take the business to its own storefront remains to be seen. But from all accounts, this seems like a good possibility, considering the intense demand for the doughnuts since officially launching in late January.
Thinking back to that first day, Ambrosch says, “We wanted to start out with just 100 to see how it went. Then I got a call from my baker half-an-hour after opening saying, ‘Stefan, we sold out.’ That’s when I knew this was going to work out.” At the moment, the doughnuts are available only Friday through Sunday (in batches of 400-500) and are typically gone by noon. “I want it to be a weekend treat,” Ambrosch says. “It’s something for people to look forward to.”
It’s 6 a.m. in the kitchen of Mango’s Ice Cream, and Deviant’s three bakers are working in conveyor-belt fashion. One rolls and cuts pre-proved dough, while another fries the circular white globs. The third, tasked with decorating the golden rings with various toppings, uses an ice-cream scooper to drizzle glazes over a freshly fried batch.
“We all balance each other out, so we make a perfect group,” says Smith, flipping doughnuts in a fryer. “We are all different and come from different culinary aspects. I’m the home baker … Kourtney tries to keep us in check. Sam is spinning stuff and doing tricks.”
The goal of the trio? Make excellent craft doughnuts — one of a kind creations, made from scratch, in mind-bending flavors that are sure to make anyone do a double take. Tiramisu, Crème Brulee, Butterbeer, Raspberry Truffle, and Unicorn are just some of the delights that have been flying off the shelf in recent weeks.
“For a good doughnut, you want something that will stand on its own without toppings and glazes,” says Stoy. “When we first started experimenting with recipes for our dough, the first tries weren’t bad. But (the dough) needed something that would help it stand by itself.”
Butter, Stoy says, is the key ingredient needed to make their classic brioche-style dough. Fermented over a 24-hour period, the traditional French pastry, similar to that of enriched bread — white, fluffy, but with some chew — is made only with high-quality ingredients (butter, eggs, sugar, flour, etc.), and never with fillers.
“It was mainly the texture that needed tweaks, at first,” Stoy says, explaining how they came to their signature dough recipe. “If (the dough) isn’t made right, it can be really dense, or spongy. So we had to play around with it a lot to figure out the proving time, batch sizes, mixing time, mixing temperature. All of that affects the crumb of the doughnut.”
Once a solid dough recipe was put in place, the bakers could then start experimenting with flavors, toppings and ingredients. Aside from things like sprinkles and glitter, Stoy says they make everything themselves in the days preceding the weekend. Jams and compotes are derived from real fruit, and glazes are typically mixed with a powdered-sugar base, creating an easy-to-work-with texture. A peanut-butter glaze, for example, won’t meld your mouth shut with a sticky consistency typically associated with the spread. Added toppings, such as cookies and biscotti, are also baked by the trio. “We even make each individual unicorn horns to top our Unicorn doughnuts,” Stoy says.
Besides a staple of six doughnuts (Vanilla Glaze, Boston Cream, jelly filled, fritter-style, Samoa, and a chocolate cake doughnut), the weekly menu also includes four specialty flavors (ones that have been tried and tested with success), and two other new flavors developed in the days leading up to the weekend release. Seasonal flavors are also occasionally thrown into the mix. Think: a Saint Patrick’s Day doughnut covered in an Irish-crème glaze; a Peeps-topped marshmallow doughnut for Easter; or a raspberry lemonade doughtnut to get psyched for summer. One can only imagine the concoctions the trio will come up with for Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Feeding the craze
Specialty doughnuts, with their bizarre compositions (think Portland, Maine’s potato-based Holy Donuts) and wacky toppings (Providence’s PVDonuts garnered national coverage after Frosted Wild! Berry Pop-Tart look-alikes hit the shelves) hold the fascination of the world at large. Only in the last decade has pimping out traditional pastries such as croissants, muffins and, of course, doughnuts (perhaps fueled by over-the-top bake-off competitions seen on the Food Network) become a sort of strange fascination frowned on by baking traditionalists. Smothering a doughnut in a mélange of sweet toppings can, after all, quickly sully what would have otherwise been a good doughnut. But at Deviant, the trio of bakers are experts at making sure that line isn’t crossed.
“We do a lot of tasting to make sure it doesn’t go overboard,” Stoy says.
The Unicorn doughnut, besides being Deviant’s best-seller — “It’s every little girl’s dream doughnut” — is one of those creations that looks, at first glance, overwhelmingly sweet. Piped with a cotton-candy-colored coif of pink and blue swirled marshmallow buttercream, the deceptively simple doughnut is sprinkled with sugar pearls and topped with handmade unicorn horns. A base glaze over the doughnut is not necessary in this case.
“The marshmallow buttercream on top is sweet enough,” Covington says.
Other popular flavors? Boston Crème and Samoa. And strangely enough, a colorful, eye-catching Fruity-cereal flavor with a sweet-milk glaze. “That doughnut is so simple, and so many people just went crazy for that one,” says Smith.
“We get our inspiration from everywhere, and we are looking out all the time,” says Smith, who has a Pinterest board to organize new flavor ideas. “You can tweak existing ideas, you can see cupcakes, you can see someone on a cooking show and go, ‘Oh, they did ginger raspberry. Oh, let’s make a doughnut for that.’ Your inspiration comes from everywhere.”
Other creations to look forward to? A medley of cake doughnuts that will include a Chai Latte vanilla cake doughnut and the “ultimate chocolate old-fashioned doughnut.” Ice-cream doughnut sandwiches are also in the works, as well as a wide offering of fruit-inspired flavors for summer — not least of which could be a Maine blueberry jam.
“The visual element of (Deviant’s doughnuts) are nice, and that’s what initially catches your eye,” says Ambrosch. “There are a lot of people who will go and buy one because they see it in the village or on Instagram, and they’ll eat it. Ultimately, though, after you take that bite, it comes down to how good it tastes, and that’s what makes these stand out.”
If you go
What: Deviant Donuts
Where: Vault Coffee Roasters in Olde Mistick Village, 27 Coogan Blvd, Mystic
When: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or until sold out Fri.-Sun.
Contact: (860) 415-5045; www.facebook.com/vaultcoffee; Instgram @deviantdonuts