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Crafting the perfect donut
The lines of circular holed donuts with yellow and purple sprinkles are indistinguishable from each other.
And that is just the way Reed Burchard intended.
Burchard, 54, who is the baker at Dippity Donuts at 1540 SE Retsil Road in Port Orchard, strives for consistency in each donut, which ranges from Bavarian cream filled to apple bear claws.
His shift typically begins after midnight and runs for four hours five nights per week. At that point, he turns over the donuts to owner Sheri Collins, who does the decorative work, such as sprinkles.
“He does the hard work and I come in and do the pretty stuff,” Collins said, laughing.
It is not that Burchard, a 1976 South Kitsap High School graduate, cannot handle that work. He has more than 30 years experience in the profession and owned Village Bakery that had locations at the Perry Avenue Mall in Bremerton and Belfair.
“It was too much, too fast,” said Burchard, adding that he felt running more than one bakery was a significant factor behind both failing.
Now Burchard is a baker at night — he typically works 20 hours per week at Dippity Donuts — and a painter during the day.
Monday is an exception as Burchard comes in during the afternoon to work on an order for a sorority reunion.
Burchard already has finished some preparatory work, such as setting the oven, and now is checking to make sure the scale is set perfectly. He then measures three pounds of mix for cake donuts and transports it several steps to the Hobart mixer. Burchard starts the machine in first gear before moving it into third as he mixes in water. It remains there for 2 ½ minutes and will make about three dozen donuts.
At that point, Burchard moves them the donut hopper. Perhaps the most dangerous part of the process comes a few minutes later when the donuts rapidly shoot out into the fryer.
“You always get a lot of drops and burns when you’re frying,” Burchard said.
Given his experience, Burchard goes by the “eye test” to determine when the donuts are finished. He uses a pair of wooden sticks to flip the donuts, which always rest on top of the fryer. Burchard said some other submerge donuts into the fryer, but he thinks the product is healthier and tastes better by not doing that.
“That way they’re not going to get sogged with grease,” he said.
Once the donuts are ready, Burchard slides then onto a rack before inspecting them. He tosses three into the garbage can that do not meet his specifications. Burchard then dips each into glaze before sprinkling some cinnamon sugar on.
“It’s quite hands on,” he said. “If you don’t like to get your hands dirty, this is not the place to be.”
Burchard said there is a reward for that, though.
“People don’t understand how good they are right after they come out,” he said.
But there is not much to time indulge in donuts on the job. Burchard quickly is onto his next set of raised donuts. The next step might be his most important of the afternoon as Burchard begins to roll the dough.
“I want to roll it to have a nice, smooth surface,” he said.
It is just the first of several moves Burchard must perform correctly. Unlike the frying portion — where the eye test often is sufficient for him — Burchard said the dough must be rolled evenly and ingredients, such as water, must be measured correctly.
“Consistency is important because you can’t have a bad product,” he said. “Even a couple of ounces off can screw up a donut.”
Burchard then covers the dough with a plastic bag to keep it warm for 15 minutes. After that, he “pounds it down and breaks it into pieces” before rolling it to a smooth finish on the stainless steel table. Burchard finishes that by using a specialty utensil that keeps air out of the donuts.
Because Collins likes to sell larger donuts, Burchard cuts each individually with a circle that is 3 ½ inches across.
“When you cut them by hand, you get more of a round product,” he said.
Burchard said details are important when it comes to donuts. When he walks into a bakery, Burchard said he first examines the donuts.
“If a guy can’t make a good-looking donut, I’m walking out,” he said.
Once Burchard finishes that part of the process, the donuts are placed on a sheet and go into the proof box for 30 minutes. He is versed enough in the process that he can place multiple trays in the oven without using a timer to know when each is done.
After removing a tray from the oven, Burchard then pokes four holes into each donut and fills them with Bavarian cream. Collins later will cover it with a flavor.
“This is how people get carpal tunnel,” he said, laughing.
But Burchard said it is important for the filling to be plentiful.
“There’s nothing like biting into a Bismarck without filling,” he said. “You feel ripped off.”
Burchard then will use the scraps to make twists and other more rigid donuts. He said that is because the dough cannot be rolled into a smooth surface for a second time.
Once all of the baking is done and the donuts are prepped for Collins, Burchard cleans all of the instruments. He pays close attention to the fryer.
“As you’re frying, all the sentiments go to the bottom,” he said. “You don’t want a customer to bite into a burn speck.”
Meanwhile, Collins, who opened the donut shop in April 2011, is making the final preparations before taxi drivers and other early customers arrive. Dippity Donuts opens at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and 7 a.m. Saturday. It closes at 1 p.m. on each of the five days it is open.
She lines the glass casing with donuts — each specific donut indistinguishable from the one next to it.