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Small, good Amherst things: The best donut in the world

  • Henion’s donuts. SUBMITTED PHOTO/Gabi Kennedy Costa



For the Bulletin
Thursday, April 11, 2019

You judge a donut shop by its glazed donut, everybody knows that. Not by the chocolate frosted, not by the one with sprinkles, definitely not by its bacon-flavored donut, and no, New England, I’m sorry, not even by its cider donut.

It’s tempting to judge the shop by its ambience as well. Does the place feel authentically donut-ty? By that standard, the Donut Dip in West Springfield has to be one of the best donut shops in the world, with its neon sign and vintage mid-century décor – and it is a great one.

But the Donut Dip doesn’t make the best donut in Western Mass. In fact, the best donut isn’t even made by a proper donut shop. Instead, you’ll find it displayed unceremoniously beside fancier offerings like almond croissants, brioches and French crullers, at a place that feels, well, a little too precious and wholesome and Amherst-y to know how to do a donut right. It’s even priced apologetically — at only $1.30, it’s almost like Henion Bakery is admitting some inadequacy: “Here, just let us tuck this in your bag with the other stuff, we don’t really know what we’re doing when it comes to donuts, we need to get rid of these anyway, OK?” I’ve known people who’ve regularly visited Henion for years and have never even considered buying the lowly donut.

Reader, underestimating the Henion Donut is a tragic miscalculation. In fact – and I do not say this lightly — I believe it to be the best donut in the world.

Get it hot. Show up at David Henion’s bakery around 8 a.m., when they’re pulling the donuts out of a massive, black, cast-iron pot just in the back of the shop. You’ll encounter a donut unlike any other you’ve had. First of all, it’s heavier than you’re expecting, which might understandably make you suspicious. In fact, it’s so bulky that it retains its heat for far longer than you would expect, like a bundle of clothes left in the dryer. Instead of the flaky sugar coating that I usually seek out, it’s encased in a languorous, sticky sheen of honeyed sugar glaze, and is that a note of lemon? It is deeply browned, giving it a satisfying resistance as you bite in, but well short of a crunch. It gives way to a pillowy inside that’s substantial but still airy, not at all like a cake donut, which I believe is a good donut gone wrong.

The Henion glazed donut has made me reassess all the greatest donut hits from my past — and there are many. I’m sorry, World’s Fair Donuts of St. Louis. I’m seeing someone else, and it’s serious.

I know this will be a controversial assessment. So, give it a try yourself. Then, when you’re in that post-donut happy place, send me a quick note at bhazlip@gmail.com, and let me know about your hidden Amherst treasure — no matter how small. Let’s see how many we can find.