Rick Golden, Manager of Donut Excellence at the Dunkin’ Donuts test kitchen in Canton, Massachusetts, develops new flavors for the company, making up to 1,200 donuts a day in the process. We spoke with him about his unusual job and its delicious fringe benefits.
Q: What exactly happens in the test kitchen?
A: We’re responsible for testing recipes for each of the hundreds of donut varieties that Dunkin’ Donuts makes. We also test equipment—everything that touches the donut has to come through our lab first. And we go into the field to tweak recipes for specific franchisees. In Colorado, for example, we had to make some adjustments so that the donuts would come out right at 5,280 feet above sea level.
Q: How long does it take to develop the recipe for a new donut?
A: Generally it takes about nine months. We usually build on existing donuts and don’t mess with the basic cooking process. But a few years ago we decided we wanted a chocolate yeast donut. No other commercial donut maker in the country was making them. It turned out there was a good reason for that: It’s really hard! Cocoa powder absorbs more water than flour, creating havoc when you’re trying to proof the dough. We figured it out and released a line of yeast-raised chocolate donuts, including the Reverse Boston Kreme, chocolate creme inside a chocolate yeast shell, topped with vanilla icing. The entire process, from concept to release, took four years.
Q: What’s the most surprising donut you’ve encountered?
A: Our international stores customize the donuts to their local market. There’s a Chinese Pork Floss Donut out there—a glazed donut rolled in shredded dried pork.
Q: What’s the key to making an excellent donut?
A: It’s really important to carefully measure ingredients and adhere to exact temperatures and cooking times. And the oil is very important: Make sure you use oil of the highest quality; it’s a big part of a donut’s anatomy after all.
Q: Who’s testing donuts with you?
A: There are about 20 of us: James Beard-nominated chefs, school-of-hard-knocks bakers, and food technologists. We share the kitchen with groups working on savory sandwiches, beverages, muffins, and bagels. Often we’ll collaborate. Lately, I’ve been talking to the coffee team.
Q: About a coffee-flavored donut?
A: You’ll have to wait four years to find out.