St John, Go Nuts for Doughnuts!
In the past, I was never that crazy about doughnuts and though I can appreciate the pop sensibility of Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kremes that I encountered in America with their infinite permutations of sprinkles and coloured icings, I never wanted to eat them.
Disenchantment set in at an early age. From the works of Richmal Crompton and other favourite childrens’ authors, I learnt that doughnuts were something completely delicious that all children loved to eat, but then my expectations were crushed once I actually tasted one. It was horrible, a greasy sticky lump of sponge filled with synthetic cream and a squirt of sickly red syrup at its heart. Like Proust with his madeleine, I can remember it now, only I should rather forget.
But then last week as I was buying my daily loaf at St John Bread & Wine in Commercial St, one of the waiters dropped a hint that Mr Gellatly was baking doughnuts at the weekend and my curiosity was piqued. I decided – in the interests of keeping an open mind – to give doughnuts a second shot. On Sunday on the dot of ten, opening time, I was there at St John to inspect the doughnuts, a pile of freshly baked custard-filled ones nestling together like eggs in a basket. Even as I paid for mine (£2 each), another customer arrived and went straight for the doughnuts, so I knew something was up.
Once I got home, it all went into slow motion. The world dissolved as I bit into my doughnut and the intensity of the moment of consummation exploded to fill my consciousness entirely. In that first bite, there was the delicate nutty flavour of the outside mingling with the feathery sponge of the inside and then both of these mixed with the rush of delicious custard. It wasn’t too sweet, and the texture of the sponge was ideally contrasted with both the sugary exterior and the creamy custard interior.
Then I woke, as if from a dream, the world came back to me and I realised my face and hands were covered in sugar. Now I understand what all the fuss was about. Now I know, this is what doughnuts should be like!
Be warned though, Mr Gellatly has a strict baking regimen, he only bakes doughnuts on Sundays and from the beginning of December, these will be replaced by mince pies – which means you have just six opportunities left this year to get your hands on a St John doughnut.