Pistachio-Meyer Lemon at Do-Rite Donuts
Do-Rite puts an emphasis on continuously making their doughnuts fresh throughout the day, and this extra work and care is easily noticeable in the outstanding quality of all of their doughnuts. This was one place where it was hard to pick just one favorite. Their old fashioned buttermilk and all variations on the theme are great (especially lemon). But I love their pistachio-meyer lemon because so much attention has been paid to each component. The cake base is crispy, moist, and just a tad sweet, and they're generous with the gratifyingly crunchy hunks of pistachio studded throughout a perfectly lemony glaze.
Crème Brûlée at Glazed & Infused
Glazed & Infused was another spot where it was nearly impossible to choose just one of my favorites, but luckily Joe covered several others recently. I picked the crème brûlée because of its appealing and unusual array of textures. Substantial in flavor, but so insubstantial in texture as to be almost air-like, the vanilla bean filling is encased in a Berliner base, a chewy and spongy yeast dough. The top is sprinkled with sugar and then actually torched, so that a thin crust forms over the top: thinner and crispier near the edges and thicker near the middle.
Old Fashioned Buttermilk at Firecakes
The very recently opened Firecakes is already putting out several impressively well-made doughnuts. I tried an old fashioned doughnut at each shop where they offered it, and this was my favorite. Ideally an old fashioned doughnut should be sweet enough to counter the bitterness of a cup of coffee, but not so sweet that you can't eat it un-dunked either. A truly great specimen, like this one, also strikes the perfect balance between sweet glazed portions and still-crunchy unglazed portions.
Powdered Sugar at Beaver's Coffee + Donuts
Beaver's, which started out as a food truck and has now added a permanent stand in the Chicago French Market, is making a different kind of doughnut. Theirs is a diminutive two-biter that is remarkably pillowy and resilient while also maintaining a thin, crispy outer shell. They offer a variety of toppings, but the basic dough is so well done that you don't really need tons of extras. Though I'm usually a cinnamon sugar doughnut fan—and the cinnamon sugar is fantastic—the powdered sugar allows you to appreciate the crispness of the outer shell without any other textures getting in the way. The chocolate powdered sugar manages to taste exactly like a chocolate glazed doughnut just by being rolled in powdered sugar and cocoa.
Apple-Glazed Vanilla at Senza
Senza, the Lakeview-based gluten-free restaurant, has just started offering baked goods in the morning on Tuesday through Friday. One of their offerings is a spin on an apple cider doughnut for the gluten-intolerant among us. A sticky apple glaze covers a nutty and cakey base that's fragrant with cinnamon and vanilla. Because these doughnuts are wheat-free, they're baked first, then fried, so the result is a doughnut with an unusually tender crumb.