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The Best Dozen: Stewart's

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By Daniel B.

Donuts are convenient. I like to think of them as delicious energy pillows. They make a good breakfast treat, and you may also want one any time you have a cup of coffee.

Stewart's Shops is one of the more popular places for coffee around the Capital District. In some ways this regional convenience store is the heart and soul of the area. And it just so happens that they sell donuts, too.

What kind of donuts can you expect from a regional institution better known for its milk, eggs, and ice cream? Are they as good as the award-winning Philly Vanilla ice cream? Or are they a little rougher around the edges, like Stewart's Mountain Brew Ice?

The only way to find out was to eat them all.

About the shop

There are Stewart's everywhere in the Capital Region. So to determine which location to visit for the evaluation, I reached out to Gary Dake, president of Stewart's Shops. While theoretically all shops should have all flavors, Mr. Dake explained (via Twitter) that the shop on Route 50 past the Wilton Mall is the highest volume store in the chain.

Calling ahead, I learned there were six flavors to choose from, and they were happy to set aside two of each into a mixed dozen for me to pick up.

Ordering by the dozen from Stewart's would seem to be the exception versus the norm. Yes, they have donuts. But most are pre wrapped and labeled for either individual sale. Of course there are regular incentives to get consumers to buy two instead of just one. And while the shop does have apple fritters, they are priced at a premium over their donuts.

The mixed dozen

Stewart's mixed dozen donuts

Column by column, starting from the left.

Glazed
Cake
Cider /
Ginger glazed
Jelly
Chocolate glazed /
Glazed
Cake
Cider /
Ginger glazed
Jelly
Chocolate glazed

The best of the bunch

Ginger glazed
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This donut screams, "I'm ginger, and I'm proud!" What an unexpected delight when biting into this crisply glazed cake donut to be greeted with the bright, peppery flavor of fresh ginger. It may not be for everyone, but its true flavor, moist interior, and balanced sweetness makes this donut a winner.

The solid choices

Jelly
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A respectable version of the classic. The powdered sugar coating has remarkable adhesion and the sticky raspberry jelly helps to keep the interior of the yeast-raised shell moist.

Chocolate glazed
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Chocolate donuts, where have you been? Sure, this could benefit from a bolder cocoa flavor (which could also help to cut the sweetness). But the crisp glaze is an enjoyable contrast to the moist cake inside. It eats like a meal, and pairs well with coffee.

Glazed
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The rich, tender crumb is the best part of this yeast-raised donut. The glaze itself is a bit lackluster. Specifically, it's thin and wet. However, the thin glaze does manage to keep this donut from turning into a sugar bomb, and that's a good thing.

The disappointments

Cake
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Despite a lovely dark brown exterior, there is no crust to speak of on this donut. The interior texture is more gummy and pasty than moist. There's a little vanilla flavor, but not much else going on here. It's best to move along.

Apple cider
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There is a distinct apple aroma and flavor in this donut -- which is notable because too many cider donuts taste mostly of cinnamon and spice -- but oddly so. This is more redolent of a Jolly Rancher apple candy than anything else. I'd recommend sticking to the ones from your favorite local orchard.

The best dozen

Stewart's Shops Wilton

4 Ginger glazed
3 Jelly
3 Chocolate glazed
2 Glazed

It helps that the expectations for donuts at a convenience store -- where they do not fry on site -- are relatively modest. This makes the deliciousness of Stewart's ginger glazed donut especially surprising.

Equally surprising, given the regional chain's Capital Region roots, is their lackluster apple cider donut. But that's how the donut crumbles.

Most days Stewart's sells its donuts for $1.49 per pair, which after tax makes a dozen run $9.57. Although they do run a two-donuts-for-$1 special on Tuesdays and Sundays.

It's good to know that when you're in there for a little pick me up that one can get a little energy pillow to accompany that convenient cup of coffee.

Daniel B. is the proprietor of the FUSSYlittleBLOG.

More Best Dozen:
+ Cookie Factory in Troy
+ Market Bistro in Latham
+ Park Side Eatery in Saratoga Springs
+ Bella Napoli in Troy

Comments

Product placement.

This is also the only place profiled thus far that doesn't make its own doughnuts, right?

You missed the weird "orange" donut I've been seeing around. It is orange and tastes orange-y.

@miles: I don't know to what you're referring. This is part of an ongoing taste test/survey of donuts around the Capital Region. And Stewart's does not advertise on AOA.

"In some ways this regional convenience store is the heart and soul of the area."

Yikes. Daniel, if you believe that, it's sad. I've been a customer of Stewarts for 30 years: for the gas. I've never understood the local love for this lackluster chain, but "heart and soul of the area" it's not.

(Bring on the brick bats, Stewarts' fans.)

Stewart's has seasonal rotational donuts. The current flavor is the gingerbread, there is also a cider, orange, and possibly one or two others.
The donuts they sell one or two at a time are different than the boxed half dozen.

I agree the plain/cake are not particularly amazing, but I really like them when they are gently toasted, it significantly improves their flavor and texture.

Requires a toaster oven, generally speaking.

I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that Stewarts donuts are made by Koffee Kup Bakery in Rutland, VT. Their seasonal variants are identical, including the truly inferior cider donut.

@chrisck you usually express what I'm thinking but in this case WHY I OUGHTA!!! haha it's true I love Stewarts and all their unironic hokiness. But even I, Stewarts fan that I am, have never dared to eat one of their awful looking donuts. Daniel really took one for the team on this one.

I avoid Stewart's/Koffee Kup donuts because they still use trans fat. 5 grams per donut.

Daniel, I wish my experience today with the glazed gingerbread donut had been as positive - I got wet glaze, a gooey texture with little flavor (ginger or otherwise) and a coating on the roof of my mouth which was probably cornstarch from the glaze but felt like grease.

I agree on the shortcomings of the cake donut, except that the vanilla flavoring seemed overwhelming. Even Dunkin can do better than this one.

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