I remember when Dunkin’ Donuts first started to do breakfast sandwiches maybe twenty years ago. Back then, they would actually crack an egg into a little paper tray and put it in the microwave, most always shooting you hateful looks because you were the arsehole who just ordered an egg sandwich.
Those baleful glances were actually far preferable to the factory-made over-easyish egg-shaped monstrosity they serve these days, which reminds me of those long tubes of hard-boiled egg manufactured to facilitate perfect slices for salad bars*, only much worse. At least those tubes have just egg whites and egg yolks.
For the morbidly curious, here’s their reduced ingredient list for the “egg” part of their sandwiches:
egg whites, water, egg yolks, modified corn starch, natural sauteed flavor (soybean oil, medium-chain triglycerides, natural flavor), salt, artificial butter flavor (propylene glycol, artificial flavor), xanthan gum, citric acid and coarse ground black pepper
I also and even more distinctly remember further back, when I was a kid and my family would stop at the local Dunkin’ Donuts after church every Sunday. Our goal was simply a dozen donuts – six honey dipped and six chocolate honey dipped, decades before they abandoned “honey dipped” for “glazed” during their race to the bottom. In winter months, DDs were almost tropically steamy inside because they were actually making donuts in the back for several hours running, on Sunday mornings especially, and smelled strongly, warmly, and gloriously of coffee and donuts frying. Chances were very good on Sundays that the donuts you bought were still going to be warm.
Now there are just a handful of Dunkin’ Donuts in the US that still make their own donuts – only three dozen were left eight years ago. The other shops get their “product” from regional factory bakeries and their premises smell of the definition of forlorn.
This story originally ran in the Boston Globe in 2009 – I’m pasting it here because it’s been behind a paywall for some years now while its accompanying photos (at the link above) are strangely not, but I saved the web page eight years ago. That’s right, I’m an ornery, rule-flouting SOB.
Doughnuts the old-fashioned way
At Weymouth Dunkin’ Donuts, in-store bakers keep the confections fresh and the customers very happy
October 6, 2009
WEYMOUTH – By 8:30 a.m., baker Russ Glod is four hours deep into his doughnut dance. As classical music plays in the background, Glod pirouettes through the small kitchen, rolling, frying, and frosting hundreds of these circular concoctions for the busiest Dunkin’ Donuts store in the nation.
Glod is a rarity in the Dunkin’ empire. Only three dozen of the more than 2,100 shops in the Northeast still make doughnuts from scratch in the stores. Most franchisees have their baked goods delivered from a commissary, and the art of making doughnuts on site has nearly disappeared from the chain, famous for its classic 1980s “Time to Make the Donuts’’ tagline.
But the craft lives on in the wee hours at this Weymouth store on the corner of Route 18 and Park Avenue, where bakers cook through the night.
Lynne McLaughlin and Sharon Holdcraft, the sisters who own and run the shop, refused to part with the tradition after taking over the store from their father 11 years ago, even though most other franchisees were outsourcing doughnut making.
“We think it gives us an edge,’’ McLaughlin said as she proudly showed off the kitchen, the sweet smell of cinnamon and sugar wafting throughout the store, which is so popular that the owners put in a two-lane drive-through – and even that isn’t enough to keep traffic from spilling out on the road.
The sisters say keeping the baking in-house has made the shop more agile in the recession, giving them better control over expenses and the ability to cut down quickly on production when business slowed. It has also allowed them to feature an expansive selection of more than 35 doughnuts, compared to 20 varieties typically available at Dunkin’ shops. Unique offerings, like blueberry cake munchkins and glazed jelly doughnuts, have helped the sisters cultivate a fiercely loyal following and have attracted customers who would rather drive here than buy the doughnuts at the Dunkin’s in their own towns.
The success is in the numbers: It is the busiest shop of more than 6,300 Dunkin’s nationwide, serving up more than 1,000 doughnuts a day on average, compared to about 700 doughnuts at a typical Dunkin’ store.
“I wouldn’t go to any of the others. They have the best jelly doughnut out there,’’ said Mary Crowley, 77, who makes the daily trip to this Dunkin’ with several of her church friends, rather than visit shops closer to home on the border of Hingham. Crowley tried several other Dunkin’s when the Weymouth one was closed for renovations years ago, but she has remained loyal ever since it reopened the doors.
Stuart Morris, president of QSR Consulting Group, said baking primary menu items on site is a rarity in the quick-service restaurant industry. Mrs. Fields, a gourmet cookie chain, and Wetzel’s Pretzels are some of the few other companies whose store owners bake on site, according to Morris.
“Doughnuts are an indulgent and ‘sinful’ purchase that we all love,’’ Morris said. “Having them made fresh is a statement of quality to the product and a reward to the consumer. It is no wonder that this Dunkin’ Donuts is among the busiest in the country.’’
The movement to central bakeries across the Canton chain was intended to help franchisees simplify their operations while ensuring fresh product is delivered each day to stores, according to Dunkin’ spokesman Andrew Mastrangelo.
This model allows franchisees with one store and those with multiple locations to share baking resources and generate economies of scale. Shop owners usually pay an upfront cost – some starting at $15,000 – and then have ongoing expenses, including the cost of goods and transportation. Most Dunkin’ stores get at least two deliveries a day of the doughnut rings and shells, which are then frosted and filled on site by employees.
In the kitchen at the back of the Weymouth store, Glod, the soft-spoken head baker who has worked here for more than 25 years, appears unaware of his doughnut dexterity. Wearing a white apron splattered with oil, a faded Dunkin’ baseball cap, and a sweat-soaked T-shirt, Glod smiles meekly, “It’s a job.’’
He turns back to his post at the frialator – a huge vat with 150 pounds of oil. With the deft, swift touch of a magician, he flips 36 golden doughnuts using wooden drum sticks that barely touch the rings.
Minutes later, this doughnut wizard is sliding his creations through a tunnel of white glaze, where the gooey white mixture drips off the sides like wax.
Across the kitchen, two assistants are using pastry bags to inject cream into doughnuts and completing the rings with sprinkles, frosting, and other treats.
On any given weekday, Glod spends at least eight hours a day making hundreds of doughnuts – along with dozens of bagels, muffins, and other baked goods. He nearly doubles that output during busy weekends when families trek out to the Weymouth store from across the South Shore. Every few months, Glod will get instructions and photos for a new item Dunkin’ is introducing, most recently the “Toffee in Your Coffee’’ doughnut, which is topped with crushed Heath bars.
“It’s not that hard,’’ Glod said. “You just follow the instructions.’’
Despite Glod’s modesty about his mastery, there’s clearly something about his doughnuts that sets them apart. In a recent taste test organized by the Globe with true connoisseurs of the fine art of doughnuts – 12 officers from the Quincy Police Department – goods baked by Glod consistently beat doughnuts delivered from a Dunkin’ commissary to a Quincy store.
The officers described his creations as moister, fluffier, and more consistent. They were larger and had more filling. Side by side, Glod’s doughnuts won out in nearly every variety: Boston Kreme, jelly, butternut, strawberry frosting, and glazed.
“It was definitely fresher and it just tasted better,’’ said Quincy Detective Leo Coppens, a self-described “doughnut aficionado,’’ who said his doughnut had more jelly and a better sugar coating. “I would know.’’
*Here’s how some places achieve such perfect hard-boiled egg slices. Google “long egg” or “egg loaf” to learn more.