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What’s cooking in Bryan Widener’s small Oak Park kitchen?
Hundreds of donuts a week, with variations like “The Dude,” a white Russian Bavarian cream filled with white Russian glaze; a spicy cinnamon chocolate glazed, chocolate blended with cinnamon and chili flake and a maple bacon donut, which has bacon pieces mixed into the donut dough, glazed with maple syrup and topped with a small strip of bacon.
He and wife Dannah O’Donnell began baking donuts in May 2010 and called their joint venture Doughbot. The couple is fascinated with donuts and robots.
Widener attended the Institute of Technology’s culinary school in Roseville and graduated in 2006 from the culinary arts specialist program. He has been working as a chef since 2002. He first started at Streamers Cafe in Old Sacramento then he went on to Fat City Cafe and Enotria (on Del Paso Bouleverd) as the Sous Chef for two years.
The couple makes about 100 donuts at a time, two or three times a week, Widener said. Their equipment takes up most of their kitchen.
“We have a giant mixer, which is about three or four feet tall, and it weights around 200 pounds, ” O’Donnell said. “We have a proofing box – it helps the donuts to rise – it is about six feet tall. And we have a huge commercial deep-fryer.”
They both grew up with donuts being a regular part of their lives.
O’Donnell, 26, said her grandpa would always bring a donut for her when he picked her up from school.
For Widener, 25, it was a weekend tradition.
“Saturday or Sunday mornings my mom would drive down to Marie’s on Freeport Boulevard to get donuts and surprise me and my brother,’’ he said.
There are 20 different donut varieties, and the couple isn’t afraid to experiment, Widener said.
“I occasionally come up with an idea,” O’Donnell said. “He does the recipe, I try to help in the kitchen as best as I can. It truly is trial and error, but everything we have tried has been OK. It has not been too outrageous.”
Widener said, “At times I have struggled, and the dough has not worked at all. Worst mix-up I attempted was a blueberry cake donut. The dough was too soggy, dense and oily, so that was yuck.”
They have vegan donuts and although they do not make their own chocolate or bacon, the donuts, fillings, and topping are made from scratch, Widener explained
“We only use almond milk and egg replacer on the vegan donuts,” O’Donnell said. “Our donuts are unique because we make everything from scratch. It is not packaged or premade like that of most donut shops.”
Widener added, “We try to cook as healthy as we can.”
The couple finds inspiration by visiting other donut shops and sampling desserts. A crème brûlée donut may be in the works.
Courtney Fujita, 27, a friend of the couple and co-worker of Widener, said she thinks the ideas of the donuts are exciting and creative.
“Their donuts are not typical,” she said. “They use local food as inspiration, and because the fruits are seasonal, it is always different”
Ideally, the couple said they would love to have their storefront in the Midtown area or on K Street near 17th Street.
Widener and O’Donnell, both Sacramento natives agree they have outgrown their kitchen.
For now, Doughbot is a “passion project.” Widener works at Magpie Cafe and O’Donnell works for Sacramento County.
“I am hoping to make this a sole business,” Widener said. “There is a lot of funky ideas I would like to do eventually, catering for parties. I want to get a beer and wine license, arcade games, old-school game machines and eventually serve brewed coffee.”
O’Donnell added that they want to feature new flavors once a week.
“Once Doughbot becomes financially stable, I plan to be fully dedicated to it,” O’Donnell said.
Widener and O’Donnell cannot sell donuts but are able to make donuts for donations. To contact them about sampling their donuts, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/doughbotdonuts or view their Tumblr account http://doughbot.tumblr.com.