Downing a donut is a great way to get that sugar rush that'll get you through your morning at work. (At least until you crash and absolutely, undeniably need another donut an hour later. Oh. Darn.)
This week in Battle of the Dishes, we blind taste-tested vegan and gluten/dairy-free donuts to see if either one would be worth serving to our poor donutless friends.
In One Corner: Conspire
901 5th St. in Phoenix
Driving down 7th St. in Phoenix, it's hard to miss the white clapboard sign with a pitiful spray-painted red arrow advertising "Vegan Donuts" -- especially since it's mere steps away from the Krispy Kreme at Roosevelt and 7th. Even omnivores are enticed to follow the red arrow, if only to find out whether these donuts are being served out of a nasty food cart, a restaurant or some random person's kitchen.
Turns out they're made by Conspire, the coffee house slash vintage clothing co-op located in a funky, mural-covered historic house on the corner of 5th and Garfield.
The front room of the tiny shop is crammed with clothes, jewelry, art and other handmade goodies, with the rear of the room taken up by a miniscule espresso bar.
Vegan donuts go fast here. Guess it must be that sign...
We scored three of the white icing glazed chocolate donuts and brought them in to our unsuspecting co-workers for taste-testing. The donuts looked decent enough; traditional cake-style with white sugar glaze dripped over the top. We bit into the donut and cake crumbs were everywhere.
It was as if every drop of moisture were sucked out of the poor donut, leaving only a frail shell of cocoa powder and heaven knows what holding this mystery snack together. We know that vegan donuts prohibit animal-based oils, dairy and eggs, but veggie and plant oils are still in, so WTF?
"There's something missing," said our first taste tester, Jonathan. "It's just not chocolaty enough. The texture is really dry... and chewy, but like stale marshmallow chewy." His were the most positive comments. Ouch.
We thought the cocoa flavor was decent; weak but still enjoyable. The glaze icing was sweet but not cloyingly so. All in all, Conspire's "fauxnut" might've made a decent cake donut substitute had it not been dry enough to require several swigs of water just to choke it down.
In the Other Corner: Gluten-Free Creations Bakery
2940 E. Thomas Rd. in Phoenix
One of our Celiac friends passed along a tip about a bakery in Phoenix that is strictly gluten-free. Not a grain of wheat in sight. Apparently, Celiacs must be a privacy-loving crowd, because the GF Creations Bakery is so out of sight that it feels like some seedy, wheat-free speakeasy. Password please? NOWHEAT.
The small, bright yellow building is tucked behind a muffler store in a commercial swath of Thomas Rd. A sign welcomes guests with "you found us!" No kidding. Though the open sign wasn't lit, we tiptoed through the front door on a quiet Tuesday afternoon.
Inside, freezer cases were stocked with gluten free breads, cookies, muffins and more, and there was a rickety wooden counter with a register to pay at. All of the processing equipment was hidden in the back. We grabbed a 4-pack of gluten- and dairy-free donuts recommended by the guy behind the counter.
The spongelike cake donuts defrosted in about twenty minutes. The donut looked interesting, more like a circular cake with a hole than an actual donut. Seems nobody who makes fauxnuts around here actually fries them. (Damn these healthy people!) It was heaped with thick swirls of white frosting and topped with sprinkles.
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"The icing's weird on this one," said dining critic Michele Laudig.
That was our biggest problem with this donut. The sponge cake was moist, with a slight molasses and cinnamon undertone. It was just sweet enough to wake up the palate. The icing, however, tasted like sweet paste. Add a little powdered sugar to your kindergartner's jar of Elmer's and you'll get the picture. Next time, we're definitely going for the glazed ones.
The Winner: Gluten-Free Creations Bakery, the lesser of the two fauxnut evils.
[Not everyone agreed. One taste tester said the Gluten-Free donut tasted like "someone's underwear" while another was looking for a place to spit out the Conspire donut. We say try both if you can't have a normal, Krispy Kreme/Dunkin' Donuts donut. And good luck.]