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California Donuts brought a white chocolate Christmas to a temperate Los Angeles.
With multiple holiday-themed doughnuts – from one with a panda in a red hat to another with Santa’s head sculpted on it – California Donuts on West 3rd Street knows what season ’tis. At least, that was the general vibe of the storefront display when I visited the Koreatown dessert joint to learn more about how the employees craft their many artisanal doughnuts. The dessert place is meant for window-shoppers, as customers purchase their treats through an ordering window outside the employees-only building where the pastry art comes together.
The store’s manager brought me inside to get my hands dirty with a Christmas creation of my own, but not until after showing me the process of creating a basic, unglazed doughnut, which would soon serve as the base of the more ornate one I would later make.
Employees hand-sculpt dough into shape, then fry the doughnuts on both sides, leaving them to dry. The decorations are done by hand in a back room, which is where I met one of the employees who would be teaching me how to create a Christmas tree-inspired jelly doughnut. After placing strawberry slices on a vibrant pink pastry she was creating for future sales, she ushered me toward the table beside her.
She explained the tree doughnuts are first dipped into melted white chocolate for a few seconds and then placed in a freezer to harden. The employees had already prepared two, effectively bringing us to the decorating stage for our pastry – which should be noted as one of the easier-to-replicate Christmas designs the store had to offer, among others like a Santa suit, complete with an icing belt and buttons.
We took a piping bag filled with green-colored white chocolate and drizzled a zigzag pattern across the doughnuts, making the lines longer with each turn to mimic the shape of a tree. We then placed a pinch of multicolored sprinkles across the doughnuts, but they tended to only stick to the green drizzle, reminiscent of lights on a tree. We placed a circular, yellow candy-coated chocolate at the apex of the tree and piped chocolate onto its base to finish decorating the top of the doughnuts. Finally, we filled our doughnuts with raspberry jelly.
The employee’s tree came out beautifully, but mine looked more like a green square, and jelly was spilling out the bottom because I accidentally put too much filling in the doughnut. Clearly, even designing the doughnut was not as simple as it seemed, and it left me impressed as to how the more intricate pastries came together in such massive quantities, considering one even had a mermaid tail jutting out of the middle.
After laboring so heavily on my flawed doughnut, I was now able to indulge in the reward of eating it. My pastry fell apart as I bit into it, though, because I had apparently made the bottom of the doughnut unstable with the mass of jelly I had inserted. So I ate the professionally made one instead. As I bit into it, the white chocolate glaze’s sugary flavor and the raspberry jelly complemented each other well, and the doughnut tasted perfectly moist, rather than dry, though very sweet.
Before leaving, I checked out the window display again, admiring the intricacies of many of the items California Donuts had to offer. The festive doughnuts kept catching my eye, as I made note of the many duplicate Christmas trees that all looked better than mine.
With the many hours that clearly went into creating the hundreds of doughnuts on sale, I was able to have myself a merry little Christmas (tree doughnut).
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