“What time is it?!” – Doughnut Time

One of the main reasons why we crave and adore sugar so much isn’t one of moral failure, or a lack of will. It’s buried in our DNA. Much, much earlier in history, before agriculture even, early humans foraged what foodages they could, with natural sources of sugar not easy to find. And if they did find any, what were the chances it was in scant supply, or not in season to begin with, or was starting to turn? As a digression, it has been hypothesised that before tools and weapons we acquired our food through savaging from other animals or the concept of ‘persistent hunting’, i.e. simply run at an unsuspecting animal until they collapsed of exhaustion, and then rip it apart for the whole tribe to eat, although this has been disputed. Left to chance upon in nature, sugar is a hard thing to come by consistently. Besides, who could blame our ancestors for not wanting to mess around with a beehive?

So, sugar is a lot rarer in nature. The thing is, we need it and we know that our ancestors ate fruit on the regular due to enamel erosion in teeth. So, it clearly was something we spent a lot of time working on. Consequently, this evolved our brains to crave sugar, because of that comparative, competitive rarity in nature. Our hunter-gatherer brains still haven’t moved on. (Is that why I’m always thinking about boo– actually, never mind.) When our brains signal to us that they want something sweet, they’re still thinking it’s going to be a few scant blueberries straight from the bush or an overripe banana still dangling limply from a tree. Our caveperson heads are not adapted for a world where sugar is so readily available.

“. . . It’s thick as all hell as even more jam on the inside pours out as you chew through. . .”

Should Adam Richmond ever come out of retirement I would recommend Man vs Food taking on the entire menu of doughnut time.

Now then, with all that in mind; Are you in the mood for something sweet? Well me too. I keep walking pass these places and keep rain checking a review. Well no more, I say! Doughnut Time kinda stick out. And they seem to be placed to colour contrast against their neighbours. Sometimes you want the delicate blends of umami to go hang so you can savour other kinds of taste. Like . . .sugar.

Keeping it basic.

The inners and setting are very brightly lit, and the colour of the shops are bright, bright teal. And with that amount of lighting on that colour, any speck of dirt stands out a mile. And taking no chances – and why the hell should they? – the whole counter and till area has a protective screen which makes me feel like we’re here to make a withdrawal from a magical confectionary bank. The service is a liiiiiiittle on the impersonal side. You certainly get the feeling it’s a shop that happens to sell food more than a eatery with real personality. I personally didn’t mind that but some people wanna chill, hang out. . . Not here.

So; Doughnut Time have fancy stuff and we’ll get to them, but first, they also have simple stuff and all of it is capped at £4.50. Starting off with the basic we have The OG. And, well, it’s a doughnut. You can really taste the baked dough, but let’s just say it. It’s incredibly sugary. The white icing is so sweet. It’s a full fat treat, what can I say? The next most basic thing is the Miley Citrus, which is the same thing but lemon. The zest glaze is so gawdam soft. So light, so very very sugary. That lemon taste stays in the mouth. It is a slippery, sugary mouthful. It’s more or less a vessel for citrusy sugar.

Apple Crumble. Remind me never again to edit a photo on my phone while wearing a pair of sunglasses.

The apple crumble’s dough is far, far thicker and consequently it is much more heavy and filling. The biscuit-crumb sprinklings on top go against the smoothness of the cream and glazing. And there’s large chunks of apple in a little of its own juice. Perhaps a bit of cream inside to round off the dryness? Or would that make it even heavier?

“. . .The dough is as gloriously sticky and messy as you’d want it to be. . .”

Gordons and Davids

So those were a few of the more basic in their range. Let’s go for some more complex ones. And you have to admit from these pictures, these guys know a thing or two about presentation! Juuuuuust look at this absolute scenage! Maybe one day we could write something about the instagramafication of commercial food, but I don’t feel that today is that day.

David Hasselhoff. “If type 1 diabetes had a epitome. . .”

The biscoff themed David Hasselhoff smells like the street Homer Simpson runs down. Strongly smelling of freshly baked, and so potently sugary. This one is a little more complex. Biscuits and cream and glazed icing. But the biscoff is soft, cloyingly sweet. The innards are filled with caramel, like a fancy éclair. For once in my life I threw something away on the grounds of being too damn sweet. The Bruno Mars doughnut follows the same sort of idea as the David Hasselhoff but it’s Nutella themed instead of biscoff. The innards are velvety and I’m gonna say it; with hazelnut/Nutella there’s a little bit more depth to play with the ratio is on between icing, filling and dough, thick, plenty of sugar to cover each mouthful. I’d say that the crunch – toasted waffle(?) – also helps the dynamics. And that centre of Nutella goodness oozes out. But points are passionately deducted for the Kinder Bueno being stale! I’m hoping that perhaps we just got unlucky but that Doughnut had clearly been sitting there for a while.

The Gordon Jamsay is as beautifully summery as you could imagine. Strawberry jam with light creamy white icing, you could totally sell this at Wimbledon and be on brand. It’s thick as all hell as even more jam on the inside pours out as you chew through. It seems to be inspired by those very old fashioned, English desserts, trifles and Victorian sponges, with red and white colouring, very nicely done, nicely done. Rich doesn’t come close. This is a full on dessert. Dread to think of the calories. But yes, it’s sweet. It’s sugary. I did start this post with the phrase “Sometimes you want the delicate blends of umami to go hang so you can savour other kinds of taste. Like . . .sugar.” And I tell you what, be careful what you wish for.

Gordon Jamsay. Genius name by the way. Naming a doughnut after the man himself.

But I’ve saved my favourite for last. 99 Problems is far better in my opinion because the ratio is cranked more in the other direction. The icing is minimised enough and it gives it enough room for that baked dough to come through and meld together with it into a singular taste. The dough is as gloriously sticky and messy as you’d want it to be. It’s sweet enough on its own. And you have to admit, it’s got as much colour and vibrancy as the Nottingham Hill Carnival. Sadly though, the cone on top was a real let down, having gone completely soft and stale! The icing inside was as sweetly opulent as ever but it felt like it was wrapped in an old pub coaster. Clearly had been sat there too long. That’s twice now that’s happened here. Sort it out.

I got 99 Problems but a pic ain’t one. . .

Let’s just take a step back now though; imagine bringing one of those primate humans to one of these places. Imagine the braingasm that would arise in that person’s head. There’s something to be said that we’ve triumphed so fantastically above our evolutionary needs to this degree. That we can proudly walk into shops and demand literally lethal amounts of sugar. Doughnut Time’s target audience. . .the Homo habilis.

The history of the sugar cane and it’s trade does follow a similar pattern too. (We’ll just be a typical white liberal and side step the whole slavery issue for a moment but we pinky promise we’ll save it for another post) Just to harp on this for a moment longer, imagine what an average worker in Victorian London would make of such opulence? Could you give a fit, buff Spartan a Mars bar and then his whole strict diet snowballs from there till he’s a fat mess? Maybe all Beethoven needed was a Snickers?

But this is really my only issue, and your mileage may vary on this, but in my opinion, Doughnut Time are frustrating. Because it’s. . . it’s. . . it’s just sugar. I don’t mean that in a “Argh! Sugar bad!” kinda way. What I mean is there seems to be the one dynamic. Sweet. Putting bitter salt crystals on your food increases the flavour because it gives the rest of the meal something to work against. There’s an extra dimension at play. Another example? Okay, how about putting juice of lemon in a chicken and mayo sandwich? That frisson of acid in amongst the fat of the mayo adds more flavour, makes its profile a little more complex, doesn’t it? Well, we don’t have that here. There is barely any flavour variety above differences of fruit. That’s probably why the apple and the lemon were that much more enjoyable for me, personally. They had an extra layer that sweet-biscoffi on sweet-chocolate on sweet-doughnut filled with sweet-cream didn’t have. Have a look at La Galateria and how they keep such a sugar filled menu varied. What some salted caramel here, shavings of walnut or leaves of mint there, or a pinch of nutmeg in the cream could have done and the flavours would j-u-s-t come that more alive. In a world where you’ve got tree flavoured ice cream and liquorice chicken you could accuse Doughnut Time of suffering from a lack of imagination.

The way I see it, there are two ways you could look at it. Either, Doughnut Time, (and other places like it,) fail because they don’t complicate things, there’s no dynamic or variety. It’s just very sweet cakes. Or you could see it as a roaring success because it gives people exactly what they want. No, sorry, what they need. And ultimately, its sugar: I didn’t hate it. You don’t need these on the regular, but for an occasional treat? For those low blood sugar moments? Doughnut Time really are fantastic at that. Or something. I dunno. I can’t tell you have to live your life. Argh this post has made me second guess myself. . .

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