We’re more than a third of the way into our Dozen Weeks of Doughnuts, the sugar-glazed immersion project that has us eating our way through area bakeries, two at a time, on a quest to find the best doughnut in the Washington area. So far we’ve sampled from national chains, local upstarts and longtime neighborhood favorites. In Week 5 we head to College Park, to check out a grocery store chain known for its colossal pastries, and to Silver Spring, to sample a venerable neighborhood bakery. These were the least expensive doughnuts we’ve sampled to date.
Woodmoor Pastry Shop
Perched in a small strip of shops at a busy intersection, this bakery has been serving Silver Spring for six decades. The glass cases and shelves behind the counter are packed with a colorful collection of well-executed cookies, cakes, breakfast pastries and breads. That and the friendly, knowledgeable staff make this a well-loved neighborhood institution.
Address: 10127 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. 301-593-7667, www.woodmoorpastryshop.biz.
Hours: Tuesdays through Fridays, 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sundays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The lineup: There were nine doughnuts on display, including vanilla-frosted with sprinkles, vanilla-frosted with coconut, powdered raspberry-filled, glazed, chocolate-frosted, powdered marshmallow-filled, chocolate-frosted marshmallow-filled, cinnamon twist and an apple fritter.
Price: 69 cents per doughnut ($7.49 for a dozen).
The look: The judges were split on these pastries, giving them low to medium-high marks. Icing and sprinkles were well applied in most instances, but the powdered sugar on several was a hot mess. (Average weight: 2.3 ounces.)
Price per ounce: 23-41 cents.
How do they taste? This was a mixed bag. On the plus side, the glazed doughnut was as fluffy as a roll of Charmin. On the down side, the vanilla-frosted with coconut possessed a cloying artificiality and a distracting oily finish. Stick to the simple stuff here and you’ll probably be more than satisfied. (Average score: 4.2 out of 10.)
Best of the bunch: Cinnamon twist. This judge was fondly reminded of the sugary toast points his mother made him when he was home sick as a kid. Pillowy dough with a nice balance of sweetness and spice helped put it in our top five, tying with WTF’s Berliner and glazed. (Average score: 5.3.)
Worst of the bunch: Chocolate-frosted marshmallow-filled. Warning: this will cause glucose overload. The gritty sugar icing passed off as fluff transported one judge into the doughnut hole of darkness. “The horror, the horror,” she muttered as she discarded her sample. (Average score: 2.8.)
Shoppers Food & Pharmacy
The discount grocery store chain has locations spread across Maryland and Virginia. In College Park’s gigantic store, the pastry cases alone take up more space than some of the bakeries we’ve visited thus far. In addition to its own doughnuts, the store offers a strong selection of boxed options, including those from Pennsylvania’s Maple Donuts.
Address: 4720 Cherry Hill Rd., College Park, Md. 301-345-5996. www.shoppersfood.com.
Hours: Mondays through Sundays, 6 a.m. to midnight.
The lineup: There were more than 50 varieties of doughnuts in the cases when we stopped in, including raspberry-filled, powdered blueberry-filled, raised sugar, glazed, caramel with nuts, chocolate-glazed, vanilla-glazed with coconut, chocolate-frosted chocolate cake, Bavarian creme, glazed lemon-filled, vanilla-glazed cake and a cruller.
Price: 66 cents per doughnut ($4.98 for a dozen).
The look: These discount doughnuts are more than a handful, but bigger is not necessarily better. The soulless circlets were clearly mass-produced, with little love brought to bear on the process. (Average weight: 4.3 ounces.)
Price per ounce: 10-57 cents.
How do they taste? Generously portioned, packed with filling and liberally iced, these doughnuts did little to amaze our palates. The fruit for the blueberry filling seemingly came out of a test tube rather than from a bush, while the lemon curd was a Nickelodeon goo-style “crime against lemonhood,” according to one judge. One bright spot: They finished clean without leaving an oily aftertaste. (Average score: 3.3 out of 10.)
Best of the bunch: Caramel with nuts. The crunchy topping recalls a Drumstick ice cream treat. Overall, this surprise standout was pleasantly sweet, with just a smidgen of salt. (Average score: 4.4.)
Worst of the bunch: Vanilla-glazed cake. The lacquerlike frosting and industrial-strength vanilla flavor were profoundly unappealing, helping it tie with Heidelberg’s glazed cruller for our third-least-favorite doughnut overall. (Average score: 2.3.)
The running totals so far
Woodward Takeout Food: 5.4
Zeke’s DC Donutz: 5.1
Breads Unlimited: 5.0
Woodmoor Pastry Shop: 4.2
Heller’s Bakery: 4.1
Shilla Bakery: 3.9
Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe: 3.5
Shoppers Food & Pharmacy: 3.3
Krispy Kreme: 3.1
Dunkin’ Donuts: 2.2
Zeke’s Ferrero Rocher: 6.7
Breads Unlimited plain glazed: 5.9
WTF Berliner, WTF glazed and Woodmoor cinnamon twist (tie): 5.4
Dunkin’ Donuts toasted coconut: 1.1
Krispy Kreme glazed raspberry-filled: 2.1
Shoppers vanilla-glazed cake and Heidelberg glazed cruller (tie): 2.3
Zeke’s Sexy Mexy: 2.4