Doughnuts. How can you go wrong with deep fried sweet dough filled with fruit preserves or pastry cream and sprinkled with sugar?
During decades of travel we have tasted some amazing doughnuts… Churros in Mexico, bombolini and zeppole in Italy, berliners in Germay, oliebollen in the Netherlands, loukoumades in Greece, petes de nonnes in France…
Canadians do love their doughnuts / bismarks / jambusters / burlington buns / paczek (regional names for the beloved of Homer Simpson). Doughnuts are right up there with maple syrup, bacon, smoked salmon, and poutine (for non-Canucks, that is French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds).
According to Dr. Wiki, Canadians consume the most doughnuts and have the most doughnuts emporia per capita in the world.
The largest doughnut chain in Canada is Tim Hortons
Tim Hortons (a.k.a. “Timmys”), is so popular that the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce issues a Tim Hortons Double Double Visa that helps you earn Timmys products (although we much prefer credit cards that earn travel rewards). For non-Canadian readers, a “Double Double” is Canadian slang for “coffee with two creams and two sugars, Please” – because Canadians are so very polite.
Generations of Canadians have grown up in Tim Hortons shops…. Where else can you get squeals of delight from children, have a super cheap date, get out of the cold, and find a clean bathroom, all for under two dollars? Even the golden arches can’t compare for a quick unhealthy snack at the price of sofa-cushion change. I have been to countless meetings where we survived on massive boxes of Timbits (doughnut holes) in various flavors. The chocolate always go first. So it is fair to say that doughnuts are a symbol of Canadian cheap eats.
This week we went on a quest in our beloved city in search of the best doughnuts to be had in the downtown area. We started our calorie-laden adventure at Timmys to get our bearings…
Size: small enough to entirely consume while waiting at one red light
Overall: A basic standard, not worth going out of your way for, but the price is right and the outlets are ubiquitous. Not for foodies.
Type: Boston Cream.
Price: $1.40 (including tax)
Freshness: stale – tasted like a day-old
Dough Quality: merely adequate – low on flavor and chewy, but not in a good way.
Size: a little bigger than Timmy’s – maybe a red light with a couple of bites left over.
Overall: Not a well-made specimen, the cream filling was leaking out the top, and the injection site was marked by a crop-circle in the icing. While it would presumably have been better when fresh, it was probably never much better than Tim’s.
Timmys and the Rideau Bakery set the inexpensive cheap eats doughnut yardstick that we used to assess five higher end municipal doughnut offerings…
The shop just recently opened and was featured in the Ottawa Magazine.
Type: Crème Brulee
Price: $3.00 each
Dough Quality: good elasticity and desirable chewiness, but low on flavor
Size: a solid production, worth pulling over for.
Overall: They have not been in business for a week; we will go back in a few months when they have got their bearings and try them again (in the name of science of course). In the meantime, a great place to get doughnuts for kids, who can have them topped any way they like.
Type: Lemon Poppy, Dirty Chocolate
Price: $3:00 each
Dough Quality: Excellent, with pleasant elastic chewiness, but low on flavour and fairly light.
Size: Large – find a place to park, or maybe just eat in the shop.
Overall: A very substantial and excellent doughnut, though with a tendency to the too sweet side.
Type: Berliner filled with lemon curd
Dough Quality: Excellent, pleasant elastic chewiness with a subtle but distinct vanilla sweetness
Size: not much bigger than a Timmy’s – one red light probably does it, but you should probably pull over so you can enjoy it better.
Overall: Among the best doughnuts in town, you have to get there early, as they run out fairly quickly and there are usually line-ups to get in.
Type: Killaloe Sunrise (topping: butter, sugar, cinnamon, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice)
Price: $4.75 each
Freshness: Fresh – cooked to order and piping hot
Dough Quality: the thin flat format means this confection is almost all crust, with little inner dough – but no-one is complaining!
Overall: Consistently yummy.
Type: Loukoumades (small doughnut balls, drenched in Greek honey and sprinkled with cinnamon).
Price: One dozen for $4.50
Icing/Filling Quality: Real honey and cinnamon, and tastes like it.
Size: Don’t even get in the car. You will want to eat this in the restaurant, while it is still fresh and hot. Make sure you take lots of napkins. These you eat slowly. While waiting (they take 20 minutes), you can have a great Greek salad or an amazing chicken wrap stuffed to bursting with real chicken breast.
Overall: The epicurean slow food of the doughnut world, this is our #1 favorite Ottawa doughnut.