Photos and Words by Jill McKeon
The artisanal doughnut trend has been sweeping the nation over the past few years as many culinary pioneers are reinventing an American classic with modern twists. At Blackbird Doughnuts in Boston’s South End, doughnut flavors like the ‘everything bagel’ and the ‘blackberry currant’ are drawing locals and tourists alike to the cozy shop on Tremont Street.
As I walked into the shop on a Sunday morning with friends who were surprisingly eager to get up early just for doughnuts, the smell alone was enough to know that it was worth the trip. With simple decor, no seating, and a very simple menu, Blackbird makes sure that its doughnuts are in the spotlight. One corner is dedicated to cake stands of doughnuts on display so that you can pick your flavors, but they look so appetizing that you will probably want to order one of each.
Even with all of these ingenious and modern flavor combinations, the key to the longevity of any food trend is using quality ingredients. Blackbird Doughnuts go back to basics with fresh local ingredients and simple techniques. For their yeast-risen doughnuts, Blackbird uses staples like flour, sugar, milk, and eggs to create its airy brioche dough. For their old-fashioned cake doughnut, they make a basic cake batter and add sour cream and buttermilk for additional decadence. Doughnuts are then fried in soy oil and topped with inventive glazes and fillings that give these modest pastries their crave worthiness.
The first doughnut we tried was the blackberry currant. Due to its vivid color, my eye was drawn to this doughnut before I even saw the name. The tartness of the blackberry glaze with flecks of currants complemented the airiness of the raised doughnut. The glaze tasted like fresh fruit, and it was clear that this was an authentic and quality-driven creation.
One of my favorite doughnuts, surprisingly, was the marshmallow coconut. I am not usually one for coconut, but the combination of the marshmallow-covered doughnut rolled in coconut flakes was delicious. The Boston cream doughnut was filled with a rich vanilla custard and topped with thick chocolate ganache. Surprisingly, this one was my least favorite despite its being a classic doughnut flavor. I preferred Blackbird’s creative new flavors better than the classics, but that’s not to say that this doughnut did not live up to expectations in terms of quality.
The most creative and interesting doughnut in the group was the everything bagel doughnut. It is as confusing as it sounds, but somehow it works. This is a savory doughnut, topped with typical everything bagel ingredients like poppy seeds, garlic, and sesame seeds. The thing that brings this doughnut to the next level is the fact that it is actually filled with whipped cream cheese. It has the texture and look of a regular yeast-raised doughnut, with the flavor of a savory bagel with cream cheese. While this might not satisfy your craving for doughnuts, it is certainly a creation that is worth trying out.
Doughnuts may be one food trend that is not overrated, and Blackbird has shown that they mean business with their respectable pastries. I highly recommend getting to the shop early in the morning so you can get your pick of the doughnuts before they sell out for the day. I have yet to find a rival doughnut shop in Boston, and it seems that if Blackbird Doughnuts continue their devotion to quality ingredients and inventive flavors, they will be drawing crowds for years to come.
492 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116