Food versus Food: Donut Duel

For all the time I've lived around the HoCo, I don't know how many times I've said the words: "I don't want to go out, I'm bored." At the time, everything seemed the same. (hocofood@@@)

The reality is, that's not true. There are many, many interesting places I'm only just discovering. As Martha would say, "that's a good thing."

Enter the Korean Bakery. Some French influence, some Korean. If you're lost, it's ok, this was a new concept to me until recently. Reading about these places on blogs like HowChow motivated me to try them - so glad I did.

Pastry Cake with Red Bean paste and Green Bean Paste
From La Boulangerie - the halves are joined with a lightly
sweetened cream, and it's topped with crumb.
This was a big hit around the holidays.
It's been fun bringing the pastries to family and friends. There are the same initial questions: "What is this exactly? Bean paste? Um.. ok. Is it sweet?"

Followed by: "Wow, this is good" or variations thereupon.

I was familiar with red bean paste before this challenge - I've enjoyed Azuki ice cream and mochi. The texture is different from one I usually associate with desserts, and it's sweet. There are other variations of sweet bean pastes that include one made from white beans.

And this was the perfect opportunity for the next Food Versus Food.

Contender #1: Rice red bean donut and white bean donut at Bon Appetit Cafe.

Bon Appetit Cafe and Bakery opened a few months ago at 10155 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. They offer a wide variety of baked goods with noticeable French and Korean influences, as well as coffee and sandwiches. They have a nice-sized seating area for dine-in, and of course offer carryout.

The front door opens into an area dedicated to displaying baked goods. There were so many that I felt slightly overwhelmed; however, they had samples available for many of the items. Each one I tried was amazing. I left with several items (lunch, and enough to share with coworkers). I was keenest to try the donuts, though.

I picked up two: one marked rice red bean donut (made with rice flour), and a white bean donut.
Rice Red Bean Donuts at Bon Appetit Cafe.
To begin with, they looked different. The rice donut was about twice as large as a golf ball and very oily. The white bag sopped up an incredible amount of grease - not that this is always a bad thing, but it was impressive. The white bean donut was flatter and round, dusted with sugar on the outside, and was far less greasy.

I bit into the rice donut and was immediately surprised by how chewy the dough was. I ate slowly, taking four or five bites to finish the whole thing. And then I had to stop. It was extremely rich - enough for a few hours. I was actually full from this little tiny donut.

Half of a white bean donut,
Bon Appetit Cafe.
When I regrouped, around lunch time, I cautiously approached the next donut (and resolved not to sleep through the next morning's workout). The white bean donut, I found, was denser, more cakelike. I definitely didn't get overwhelmed with grease, and the sugar made for a nice crunch around the edges. The white bean paste was sweet, but not overwhelming

Paired with a hot cup of coffee, both donuts were really pleasant treats. 

Even so, I decided to save the next challenge for the day after a long run, which brought me to...

Contender #2: Rice red bean donut and red bean donut at La Boulangerie.

La Boulangerie is located at 8815 Baltimore National Pike (Ste C), Ellicott City - the same shopping center as Lotte. And I did learn my lesson from the first round. I saved this trip for a few hours post-Bagel Run

I was really hungry.

La Boulangerie is a small bakery, with a few tables and chairs. They don't offer sandwiches, etc, but they do make custom cakes. They have a wide selection of cookies and other baked goods (more or less labeled), and they make a pretty good cup of coffee.

Red Bean Donut from La Boulangerie.
The red bean donut came dusted with sugar, with a cakey dough that reminded me of an old fashioned donut - although it had an odd texture, almost as if it was tough/overworked. The sweet bean paste filling was good, and pretty rich - you can see that I cut it up in pieces to share (though... I probably ate about half).

I enjoyed the rice bean donut much more. These babies were a little smaller than the ones at Bon Appetite, but there was a fabulous crispiness to them. They, too, were oily, but not in an overwhelming way, and the rice dough had a wonderful texture

Clockwise, from top: Red Bean Paste Donut, two Rice Red Bean Paste Donuts, and a Red Bean Paste Bun (not reviewed - fyi, I like the steamed ones very much, but baked was also nice).
Overkill? Possibly. But delicious, delicious overkill. I promise I didn't eat all of this myself.

The Decision: This was a really exciting challenge for me, because I got to talk about two finds that were, until recently, not even on my radar. Both bakeries have plenty of other items I've enjoyed or can't wait to try. But looking specifically at these two items from each place....

I have to say that, for the first time ever on Food Versus Food, there is a tie. While I was lukewarm about the other items, I really enjoyed the white bean paste donut at Bon Appetit, and I can't wait to go back for the rice bean paste donuts at La Boulangerie. The pros and cons balanced each other enough to warrant a tie. The items were also comparably priced. I liked the look and feel of each bakery when I visited. In the end, it was just too close to call.

But fear not. I shall take one for the team and return, someday soon, for a rematch.

Do you have a favorite spot for your donut fix? Do you have feelings about (or... for...? it's ok, I don't judge..) sweet bean paste desserts? Tell me in the comments below!


  1. Mo-Mentum. Ha!

    Nothing will beat a Fractured Prune donut. Never. But I'm curious about what bean paste would taste like.

  2. Yeah, now I think i need to try something new. Ever since your road side taco peice I keep staring at the ones on route 1 and thinking, hmmm, that might be good.

  3. um, my favorite donut fixture is probably, yeah, shipley's. down where i live, there isn't really that much variety in food, and in the places there is, it is WAYYY too expensive, which makes it impossible for (perpetually) broke teens like me to be adventurous.
    and back when i was in the usa, i could only eat kosher items, which also meant there weren't really that many choices.
    anyway, enough rambling about me. im a new follower, btw, hi! :)

  4. Since they are made from beans does that make them healthier?????

  5. @ Aleeza - welcome, so glad to have you! I think some of the choice depends on where in the US you live, but I've several friends who have said the same over the years.

    @ Cindy - YES! Or at least... probably. Maybe. :)

  6. LOL, I will just ASSUME that anything that has beans MUST be healthier!

  7. The best thing I like about the donuts made with bean paste is that they are very tasty but you aren't likely to eat 6 of them. They are filling and because of the protein, when you are done - you are done! A normal serving size is enough. Not like Krispy Creams - I could eat 6 of them and an hour later eat another. Bad, bad.