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March 14, 2006

Mmmmm... Moto's doughnut soup

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Canadians are addicted to donuts.  Not only do we have more donut stores per capita than any place on earth, we have a slavish devotion to one brand in particular, Tim Hortons (a name that makes grammar police cringe, but Toronto Maple Leafs fans wax nostalgic).  There are more than 2600 Tim Hortons in Canada, almost double the number of McDonald's restaurants.  It's hard to understate the chain's importance or the homey feeling it inspires in Canadians, particularly in Canada's small towns, where the franchises serve as social hubs, or even outside of Canada.  Did you know, for example, that the Department of Defence recently asked Tim Hortons to open a franchise for the troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan?  It seems the generals realized that the best way to combat homesickness and improve morale was literally to provide soldiers with a taste of home.

Even though this national institution was taken over by Wendy's, the giant American burger chain, in 1995, the marketing of Tim's remains hyper-Canadian, with commercials that play on national themes:  hockey, curling, immigration, and hockey and immigration (to view some of the emotional pornography of which I speak, follow the "Click here to view the Proud Fathers commercial" link on this page).

In 2001, the Canadian donut market was r-r-r-r-r-rocked (sorry, but if you're Canadian, you'll understand) by the opening of the first non-US Krispy Kreme in suburban Toronto.  Despite breaking all sales records upon its debut, Krispy Kreme was eventually slaughtered by a combination of bad management, bad luck, and a pesky doctor named Atkins.  As a result, the company's previously robust presence in downtown Toronto has been reduced to a tiny rump of donut racks in gas stations.  Maybe those hockey-themed commercials really do work.

The near-death of Krispy Kreme is a damn shame, because I love donuts, and Krispy Kreme glazed donuts are the best donuts in Toronto, and the second best donuts I've ever eaten.  The best donuts, by the way, are at Doughnut Plant in Manhattan.  My first bite of their key lime glazed donut was a moment of culinary nirvana I will not soon forget.  The term "artisanal donut" takes some time to digest -- the combination of one word associated with a fast food icon and another synonymous with organic ingredients and thoughtful, handmade preparation seems oxymoronic -- but the donuts at Doughnut Plant are all the proof you need that even the humblest of foods can be made better through care and attention. 

I suppose the same logic applies to the theme of this post: donut soup.  I first heard of this dish while surfing the web for information about molecular gastronomy.  Though my love of donuts is not Homer-esque in stature, it is still substantial, so when I read the following description on At Our Table I was hooked:

Now, for the most delicious dessert you might ever have. We were presented with a cup of Doughnut Soup. Oh my goodness, doughnut soup. All night we had been seeing people receive these little white cups, take a sip, and immediately smile and start gushing over how good it was. So needless to say, we were very excited to get our own to try. Moto’s Doughnut Soup is amazing. It is a warm, rich drink that tastes exactly like a doughnut…probably most like a Krispy Kreme if I had to label it.

Donut soup is one of the signature dishes at Chicago's Moto, whose chef, Homaro Cantu, is one of the bright lights of molecular gastronomy.  I know much has been made about the inaccessibility of many molecular gastronomy dishes, and to some extent this is valid.  Not everyone can afford a Pacojet, or find inverted sugar, or devote the time necessary for some dishes. But many recipes are shockingly simple, and can be made by even the rawest kitchen novice.  Donut soup is one of those recipes.  The only equipment necessary is a blending device, a pot, a sieve, and a thermometer, and the only ingredients are milk, water, salt, powdered sugar, and, of course, glazed yeast donuts.  From start to finish the recipe takes at most forty-five minutes, and twenty minutes of that is letting the donuts steep in the mixture.  How simple is that?

If you want the recipe, click here or here.

How good is donut soup?  As a donut lover, I'd have to say this is one of the best things I've ever tasted.  First off, "soup" is a little deceptive; the dish is more like a traditional, warm egg nog, especially given its velvety texture.  The taste is distilled Krispy Kreme.  That last sentence was a test, by the way.  If it makes your mouth water, make the recipe now.  If it doesn't, I guess waiting for the weekend will do.

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Comments

Tania

Of course, I had to follow the links to the recipe. My favourite phrase? "For the stock, break 2 doughnuts into small pieces ..." Can't say I ever thought I'd see those words in the same sentence!

Once again, Rob, your blog is a source of gastronomic amazement! Well done!

jasmine

As usual, great post. I'm a devotee of Timmys and am lucky enough to have a kiosk just off the office caf. I have, of course, doubled my coffee intake for the promotion :)

What I find interesting is the IPO wrt Tims--the majority of shares are relegated to investors south of the border, which is putting some Canadian noses out of joint...

j

randi

We live in small town Ontario(4,000ppl), and Tim's is hopping. When my canadian partner came to visit me in Cali, I took her to Krispy Kreme, we waited in line, had our free donut and left. I find them way too greasy, but to each their own.

Bea at La Tartine Gourmande

Doughnut soup?? hmm, I have to be convinced! ;-) Do you need to be born Canadian to understand the doughnut concept? Just kidding! Great informational post, as usual!

Anita

Donut soup! Could this be gastronomic nirvana? I will have to try the recipe when I can stop by Krispy Kreme for a fresh batch!
Thanks for sharing!

Aoife

I'm an American, but I fell in love with Tim Horton's on a spring break trip to Montreal. Their chocolate glazed is up there with Dunkin Donuts'. I hear they've expanded into northern Michigan some, but we really need a few in New England.

Ivonne

Rob,

As always your post is so delightful to read! I actually have to agree with you about Krispy Kreme, I thought they were good. I am very jealous that you've tried a doughnut from The Doughnut Plant!

The soup looks incredible ... reminds of a recipe for "bread pudding" made with krispy kreme doughnuts, lots of cream and butter. How can you possbily go wrong?

rob

Tania, the stock is kind of cool to make. I started laughing about it while caramelizing donuts. They actually caramelize quite quickly.

Jasmine, I find the IPO controversy a little odd. I mean, Timmy's has been owned by a US company for a decade now, so why get our noses so out of joint at this juncture?

Randi, I can't disagree that Krispy Kremes are a little greasy. Every once and a while, however, a greasy piece of junk food really hits the spot.

No, Bea, you don't have to be born Canadian, but it does help. I think Canadians are more addicted to donut shops than donuts, per se, but when in Rome....

Anita, you do have to try this soup when you get the chance, especially if you're a donut lover (and it seems like you might be).

Aoife, I believe Wendy's bought Tim Hortons with the express intent of leveraging the brand in the northern US, it just doesn't seem like it ever really caught on. That's not suprising to me, at least. Tim Hortons doesn't make any one product exceptionally better than their competition, they've just created a brand that is second to none.

Ivonne, please email me the Krispy Kreme bread pudding recipe at your earliest convenience. That sounds unbelievable.

JP

Hey, just wanted to say this a great blog. I'm really impressed. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, I have to say we lack the kind of passion for doughnuts Canadians clearly have - and that's a damn shame. Sydney's a little health conscious you see, but what's teh fun in that right? I recently had a Maple Glazed at Tim Hortons and it was, as we used to say in Sydney in the 80s, TOPS! I think Australia could use a "Tim's". I might start a petition.

rob

Thanks, JP, it's nice to hear you enjoy this site so much. Have you ever considered opening a Timmy's franchise in Sydney? There must be enough ex-pat Canadians and donut-hungry Australians to make a go of it.

By the way, if you ever find yourself in Manhattan, go to the Doughnut Plant and try the best donuts in the world.

sarah

Hi! I just started reading your site a couple weeks ago (the liquid ravioli pulled me in and wouldn't let me go). This donut soup sounds like an ultimate indulgence! I also wanted to second your recommendation of Doughnut Plant. I had my first triple Valhrona chocolate doughnut at the Doughnut Plant in Tokyo, and it was DELICIOUS.

Atopijski Dermatitis

I just made this tonight and it was delicious! Thanks for this recipe. You can't beat how easy it is, plus it tastes great. Thanks again!

Dog In The Car

What a delicious sounding recipe! I'm printing this and going to add it to my fridge with a magnet for trying! Thanks again ...

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Moto's Doughnut Soup, hmmm, it makes my mouth water, is such a delicious soup.

atkinsdietind

I love Krispy Kreme, its taste is not comparable to any donuts plus this donuts soup, hmmmm... Sounds even better. You must have a sip on this guys.

atkinsdietind

I love Krispy Kreme guys especially the classic one.

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Don't know why, but this article reminds me about one exotic soup called borshch. It tastes very good, you know)

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