Dessert Trends: Artisan Doughnuts Take On the Culinary World

Do you remember your first crispy, chewy, mouth-watering doughnut? This down-to-earth pastry is an iconic part of American childhoods. You probably savored doughnuts at a greasy-spoon diner or while apple-picking at a farm, but lately, doughnuts have been popping up in an unexpected place: high-end kitchens. Artisan doughnuts are one of the hottest dessert trends around, and for good reason.

Farmers Markets and Artisan Shops

You've likely seen (and sampled) artisan doughnuts at your local farmers market. No longer a breakfast-only item, people looking for innovative versions of classic desserts flock to this sweet treat. And artisan doughnut makers have discovered that while sugar-covered and glazed doughnuts sell well, so do inventive versions like matcha green tea and bacon-covered doughnuts. Independent doughnut shops have popped up in almost every city, catering to everyone's favorite delight and with lines outside the door. Blue Star Donuts in Portland, Oregon and Doughnut Plant in New York, New York are wonderful options to check out on your next road trip.

A New Take on a Classic

The doughnut re-emergence is part of a new wave dessert trends — those that update nostalgic favorites in new ways. The Boiler Room in Chicago serves fried-to-order Drunkin' Donuts, which are made out of pizza dough. Thomas Keller's Per Se, which is continually rated one of the best restaurants in the country, offers high-end guests their take on doughnuts and coffee. His simple cinnamon doughnut comes with a small doughnut hole and a cup of cappuccino semifreddo. You could also serve a basket of doughnuts at apple-cider brunch, or offer brioche-based doughnuts with a set of dipping sauces. If you want another nostalgic take, check out The Cheat Sheet's round-up of cereal-based doughnuts.

How would you serve a doughnut to guests? Restaurant owners can start incorporating doughnuts into their menus by playing off traditional food memories — French beignets would work well in a Southern-inspired restaurant, and homemade Chinese doughnuts would bring depth to an Asian-fusion menu. There are infinite ways to serve doughnuts, and ultimately their success comes down to preparation and presentation.

Doughnuts at Home

With the rise in popularity of doughnuts in artisan shops and esteemed restaurants comes a natural interest from bloggers and food writers. You can try My Name Is Yeh's cheddar variety for a savory take on the normally sweet rings, bake the The Candid Appetite's salted caramel treats (topped with pretzels!), or flip through Mark Klebeck's hit book "Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts." That makes it easier than ever for doughnut fans and professional chefs to master the art of baking. Unlike traditional doughnut making, a lot of these recipes allow for baking rather than frying, which works better in a home kitchen.

If you want to dive into doughnuts, start with the basics. Open a cookbook or pop by a local doughnut shop to chat about best practices — like all pastries, the best doughnuts can be finicky and require a guiding hand. Once you've mastered the art and your treats are complete, make sure to savor and share them!

Photo credit: Flickr