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The Best Dozen: ShopRite

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By Daniel B.

We've enlisted Daniel B. to survey Capital Region donuts -- and pick his favorites -- for a short series called The Best Dozen.

With donuts you can't judge a book by its cover. I learned this the hard way on a recent trip to rural Pennsylvania where I encountered some gorgeous local specimens. But they were terrible. Truly terrible. I'll spare you the gory details.

On a recent visit to the ShopRite on Central Avenue in Colonie, the donuts looked sad in a corner of the bakery case. I got there on a Sunday morning to find a selection only seven varieties deep. They seemed more of an afterthought or an obligation of the bakery, rather than something celebrated and fussed over.

Fortunately, they taste better than they look.

About the shop

With chains, it's always a difficult decision about where to go in search of donut greatness. My first instinct was to visit the the first location for ShopRite's re-introduction to the region, the Niskayuna store. But then I decided to go for its largest local store -- in Colonie -- with the naive hope that the added square footage might help the bakery crank out more spectacular donuts.

Not only were there only seven flavors on the self-serve shelf, but there were some important items missing from the display. For example, boxes in which to put your donuts. The bakers, hard at work decorating cakes, were glad to fetch me a couple boxes from the back. But there were also no waxed paper sheets to grab your donuts, and protect adjacent donuts from being touched by your grubby fingers.

The truth is, there are germs on everything. I try not to worry about it too much.

The mixed dozen

shoprite dozen donuts overhead

Column by column, starting from the left.

Glazed
Glazed twist
White iced /
Chocolate iced
Boston cream
Sugared jelly /
Powdered jelly
Glazed
Glazed twist /
White iced
Chocolate iced
Boston cream

The best of the bunch

Glazed
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What an ugly donut. The glaze looks wet and unevenly applied on this lumpy oversized ring. But what I want in a glazed donuts is a soft interior with a yeasty aroma and a tender chew. I want a crisp sugar glaze to be a presence. It should crackle under my teeth and sweeten the donut without becoming cloying. This one does that.

Boston cream
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Despite appearances, I don't love all Boston cream donuts. I only love the ones with icing that tastes of cocoa, a center with a clean vanilla taste, and a moist shell that has a tender crumb. Bonus points go to those that are filled evenly in the middle. Extra bonus points to those whose shell maintains a bit of crispness around its outermost edge. This one does all that.

The solid choices

Glazed twist
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If you are looking for an additional 15 g of glazed donut for the same price, and don't mind a minor sacrifice in texture, this is the donut for you. Yes, it has a good crackling glaze, and a soft yeasty interior. However, thanks to its form, the twist is a good bit denser. That means a tougher chew. Still, this is a solid choice.

Chocolate iced
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With a good chocolate aroma, tender crumb, good rise, and a kiss of crispness on the naked outside edge of the donut's shell, this is a winner. More than anything else, it's the sprinkles that bring this donut down. They add nothing but a sandy texture that takes away from the experience of biting into a pillowy ring of dough.

The disappointments

White iced
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It just tastes like sweet. A plain yeast donut has a flavor all to itself. Icing should complement the donut below. This one obliterates it. All those sprinkles sure are pretty though.

Sugared jelly
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Nobody is expecting small batch jelly made by hand from the season's finest fruits inside a supermarket donut. But this jelly hits new lows. It was filled with tiny gummy orbs, perhaps designed to mimic the texture of raspberry bits. No, thank you. At least the color wasn't shockingly red. And even without the faults of the jelly, the sugar had poor coverage and the filling had poor distribution.

Powdered jelly
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This donut was a monster, but with its enormous girth the jelly barely made it half of the way through. Consider that a mixed blessing, because the jelly was lumpy with synthetic fruit-like bits. There wasn't anything redeeming about this donut, so it's one to leave behind.

The best dozen

ShopRite Colonie exterior closeup

4 Glazed
4 Boston cream
2 Glazed twists
2 Chocolate iced

My expectation for supermarket donuts was low. Seeing the donuts in the case firsthand pushed my expectations even lower.

Imagine my surprise when biting into the first glazed donut and finding a truly soft interior.

This is a dozen that's best filled with the classics. If it's glazed, or covered in chocolate icing, it's a good bet at the Colonie ShopRite. Stay away from anything "jelly" filled. I'm giving these broader guidelines because I hope that sometimes the largest ShopRite in the Capital Region has more than seven varieties of donut from which to choose.

To be fair, there were fritters in the case, but these were priced above the $.69 per donut or $6.79 per dozen that ShopRite charges for its "Fresh Bake Shop Donuts." Some places expand their definition of "donut" to include fritters. Other's don't. And that's okay.

But there really should be boxes at the ready for those who want to buy a dozen. Showing up with donuts in bags isn't nearly as festive as donuts in a box. It just isn't.

Daniel B. is the proprietor of the FUSSYlittleBLOG.

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

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