Mmmmm... Moto's doughnut soup
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?
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.