Unlike most of the culinary establishments I seek out, Union Square Donuts found me. I have visited the Harvard Farmers Market in the Science Center Plaza every Tuesday during the summers and autumns that I’ve lived in Cambridge. I always went directly to the Danish Pastry House stand and got a kringle slice (buttery pastry with almonds and almond paste) and sometimes a cookie, and then continued on my way to class. I rarely deviated from this routine. When I returned to the market in 2013, I noticed a sign that read “Union Square Donuts” and listed a few flavors, but didn’t think much of it, despite the sizable crowd gathered there. Because of my many bad experiences at the ever popular Dunkin’ Donuts, I had lost my faith that a truly delicious donut existed. So, that first week, I got my kringle slice, went to class, and didn’t look back. The next week, the stand was back, and again I passed it up on my way to class, but afterward, I followed my gut instinct and decided to try one. By that time in the afternoon, the only flavors left were orange creamsicle and cherry, so I went with an orange creamsicle. The donut was huge and more substantial than any I had eaten previously because they use a brioche dough. I wasn’t in love with the orange glaze, but I knew that going in since it’s never one of my preferred dessert flavors. I decided immediately that I would return the next Tuesday and get there early enough to have my choice of flavors.
Clockwise from upper left: Chocolate covered pretzel donut, poppy roll, blueberry jam filled donut, brown butter hazelnut crunch donut
Clockwise from upper left: Buttered popcorn donut, cinnamon sugar donut muffin, malted milk chocolate donut, birthday cake donut
That’s when I found the brown butter hazelnut crunch donut, the reigning champion for Best Donut I’ve Ever Eaten. It’s the perfect combination of contrasts – sweet and salty, crunchy and fluffy – and buttery, nutty notes. In my opinion, it’s the ultimate donut. The brioche dough has a hint of nutmeg in it and a subtle yeastiness, and it is infinitely light and layered. Browning the butter in the glaze makes it taste rich and nutty, which is complemented by the generously applied chunks of toasted hazelnuts. No matter how many other flavors I try, this is the one I return to again and again and recommend without hesitation to friends trying Union Square Donuts for the first time. When the farmers market ends in late November, I dearly miss having such easy access to high quality donuts. After braving one of the worst winters ever, I decided it was time to break my donut hiatus and trek to their storefront. I’m glad I did, because that’s the first time I was able to try a warm brown butter hazelnut crunch donut, which was next level amazing.
Brown butter hazelnut crunch donut
To make sure that I wasn’t missing out on another fantastic flavor, I’ve sampled many of their other options. I wasn’t a fan of the poppy roll (because I didn’t know that it had cardamom in it and that flavor completely overwhelmed it) or the chocolate covered pretzel donut (because the texture was slightly tough and I didn’t think the flavor of the milk chocolate added anything interesting to it), but other than that, I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve had there. Their glazes always taste like the freshest and best possible versions of their name – even the buttered popcorn glaze – and their risen brioche dough is consistently the best donut dough I’ve had. Their cake style donuts are great too, and are addictingly crisp on the outside and fluffy and cakey on the inside. I would highly recommend their Birthday cake donut, since it’s simplicity allows their cake donut and chocolate glaze flavors to shine through while still feeling like a whimsical treat thanks to the rainbow sprinkles.
Berry pistachio donut
Whatever your taste, there is something for you at Union Square Donuts. It’s always great to see a business so willing to create new flavors and to publicize them on social media to keep its customers informed. JUST NEVER TAKE THAT BROWN BUTTER HAZELNUT CRUNCH DONUT OFF THE MENU!!! Thanks.