I'm not much of a doughnut eater, or even a sweets eater in general, but I blame that largely on the doughnuts, not on my lack of a sweet tooth. But this is a doughnut worthy of a drive-by special report.
The brunch at Craigie on Main in Cambridge, MA is no joke. Think beef cheek hash, perfect ricotta pancakes, thick, custardy quiche with seasonal vegetables, and a burger high in the running for best ever.
But that doughnut, damn, that doughnut. Freshly fried cake doughnuts dusted in sugar are kind of a New England thing. You can get them at every farm stand and apple orchard during the fall. But those cider doughnuts, even at their best—when they come fresh from the conveyor-belt fryer, wrapped tight in a brown paper bag—don't hold a candle to Craigie's brunch doughnut.
Delicately flavored with a fine, moist crumb, their greatest feature is their formidable crust, which comes from being fried to order, each doughnut babied in the fryer one at a time to ensure a substantially thick, even, and golden brown crust. Peanut oil, with its high saturated fat content, provides a thicker, crunchier crust than any other type (save an animal fat, that is. Dare I suggest duck fat doughnuts?), and you can taste the difference.
It comes on a plate doused in a creamy confiture du lait[sic]—a rich caramel sauce originating in Normandy. It has the mild, buttery flavor of the best dulce de leche, but with a spoonable, dippable texture.
Yeah, it's a five dollar doughnut, and there's no way to get around folks thinking that's pricey, but in the context of a lovely sit down brunch with impeccable service and a killer Bloody Mary or two, it doesn't seem so steep. Once you taste it I'm sure you'll agree.
Craigie on Main
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.