Olivia Potts Olivia Potts

How doughnuts took over my life

Illustration: Natasha Lawson

For almost a decade, doughnuts ruled my life. When I first began baking professionally, I fell into doughnut-making. It was entirely my own fault: after graduating from culinary school, I decided the best thing I could do to improve my pastry skills was to bake regularly. So I knocked together a product and price list and went to my local café to tout my hypothetical wares. Unfortunately I offered up as one of my products big, fat, artisan doughnuts made from brioche dough and filled with custards and creams, jams and caramels, the kind that certain big bakeries are known for. You can guess which item on my natty little list caught the eye of the café owner.

The problem was that while I’d done a decent amount of baking by that point, I’d never made doughnuts, and I wasn’t 100 per cent comfortable with deep-frying. So I had a week to change that. I spent those seven days making doughnuts as if my life depended on it and, by the end, had a regular order for a couple of dozen a week. From there, things spiralled, and I began to make doughnuts for everyone: weddings, parties, leaving-dos.

Rich, sweet dough fresh from the fryer, rolled in sugar while still warm, is hard to beat

I filled them with every combination of flavours you can imagine: I made rhubarb and custard doughnuts, chocolate hazelnut doughnuts, eggnog doughnuts, whisky sour doughnuts, bitter orange doughnuts, mint chocolate doughnuts and birthday cake-flavoured doughnuts. I would make the dough late at night, shape them in the small hours of the morning, falling into bed at four or five. smelling of fairgrounds, for an hour or two’s sleep, before I’d be back up to pack and deliver them. It’s hard to say whether it was a high or a low point when I was ‘recognised’ on a travelator in a local Tesco by someone who shouted ‘Doughnut lady!’at me in extreme excitement.

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Olivia Potts
Written by
Olivia Potts
Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.

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