One of the great things to do in Melbourne is visit the American Doughnut Kitchen van at the Queen Victoria Market. Despite the fact that it’s housed in a van, I don’t think they ever go anywhere, as they’ve always been there, as far as I can tell, and even after operating hours, the van itself is still there.
I remember when I first saw the van, I hated strawberry jam. I was an incredibly picky eater, and would only eat plain things. Believe it or not, but I didn’t even like tomato sauce back then! So I would ask for plain doughnuts. I don’t know if they still do them, but I’m all for jam doughnuts now. Mmmm, even thinking about the warm doughnuts with gooey jam inside is making me drool.
They’re currently 5 for $6, and they have a sign saying that unfortunately they had to raise their prices recently, even though they’ve held off for a long time. These doughnuts aren’t perfectly round like ones you can find at other stores, but I think that’s part of the charm.
It’s a bit hard to see from my photos, but they start with a giant ball of dough, that was probably made the night before and left in the fridge. It’s kneaded a bit, then cut into smaller pieces. They move a wooden board with the pieces over to the other side where someone spreads them out on a wire rack which is lowered into the oil.
If jam is required, someone puts it on the jam machine, which has a small pipe that you can slot a doughnut into. The handle is cranked down, and jam is inserted. I didn’t notice this, but A did: there’s an adjustable notch that helps control how much jam goes into the doughnut. The guy jamming the doughnuts was really quick.
Behind him, there’s a bowl with sugar in it where the doughnuts are coated. Then they’re put into paper bags and sold.
A pointed out that it’s actually quite clever that they sell them in packs of 5 – so they can come pre-bagged which speeds up the process of selling them. If someone only wants one, the jam guy can just coat one with sugar and hand it to the person at the window.
It actually looks like a pretty streamlined process. A and I were trying to work out when someone could take a break to go to the toilet, and what would happen to the line. It’s possible one of the two people who are doing the kneading would move over to replace someone else in the line.
Then we were trying to think who had the easiest and who had the hardest job. The hardest was probably the person who had to spread the balls of dough onto the wire rack and drop them onto the fryer. The easiest was probably the person taking the money, as it’s probably the least RSI prone position of them all.
A did raise a concern about the doughnuts in the window, as they just keep dropping new ones on top. Depending on how quickly they get jammed, and how quickly new ones come in, there might be some that sit at the bottom and never get picked up. I noticed that every now and again, he tends to shift them around with his hand, so there is some rotation, but that doesn’t guarantee that the old ones are next in line to be jammed before the fresh ones are picked up.
As delicious as these are, I feel like they aren’t as good as they used to be. Not enough jam! :(
Still, it’s something to experience if you are ever in Melbourne. :)