A sourdough donut by pastry chef Mathew Rice is the winner of Dawn Foods’ Donut Co-Creation Contest to develop a new donut as part of the company’s centennial celebration this year.
Nashville-based Rice, executive pastry chef at Niche Food Group, competed against four others for the honor, which involved developing up to three concepts during one June 2019 day at Dawn’s Innovation Studio in Jackson, Michigan.
“Their idea was the more you did, the better chance you had at winning,” Rice says. “So I presented three different concepts. And it all had to be done that day. I think we had maybe six or eight hours total. And so it’s a little tricky because a lot of doughs need 12 hours or more to ferment overnight. So everything kind of had to be rushed.”
Despite the tight timing, Rice says there was plenty of fun, “and it was interesting to get to see the products that Dawn already offers to enhance your own donuts as far as their glazes and fillings and things like that. So it was basically just a day to get together and play and put out some donuts.”
Rice, whose career has included teaching in St. Louis and pastry chef at a handful of Chicago restaurants including Girl and the Goat, attributes his win to a solid understanding of the challenge, which was to figure out a new donut texture.
Bring Something New
The co-creation contest was to develop a new donut, “not different toppings and fillings and things like that,” he explains. “It was all about just how good is this donut on its own with no embellishments on it.”
When looking for inspiration, Rice draws from two sources: memories of desserts he’s enjoyed that carry a helping of nostalgia and, more recently, from the sharing and subsequent tweaking of ideas with friends on Instagram.
“We all just kind of see what each other posts and chat about it,” he explains. “It creates a dialogue of things that haven’t been done that could be done.”
Bring It Home
So how and why did he create his innovative entry, which is slightly more savory than sweet? “I just wanted something a little bit more nuanced than just a straightforward sugary dough,” Rice says. “People are always looking for something that’s a little bit less sweet, so with the donut itself being almost savory, it doesn’t take much glaze. If you just have a little bit of glaze or something, it’s still pretty savory.
“I also thought it would be something good to use as like the bread for a sandwich almost. If you did it without the glaze, you have a really good-size sandwich roll. I actually made a similar donut, and we made honey butter fried chicken sandwiches, but instead of bread, we split donuts in half and put fried chicken in the middle, and it was delicious.”
Rice adds that creating a sourdough donut was a way to use sourdough starter, which would normally be discarded. “With food waste being such a big issue in kitchens, it’s nice to be able to do something with the starter that you would normally just throw away.”
When developing the winning entry in the donut competition, which inspired the new Sourdough Donut mix that’s now available, he says he was always keeping the consumer in mind.
“The consumer is the person that I’m most interested in connecting with, and if they don’t like it, whatever you’re making isn’t going to go anywhere,” he says. “So I try to play to a general, everyday American palate—I don’t do things that are too challenging. Keep it simple and tasty.”
Read more about the Sourdough Donut’s unique texture.