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It's Been a Sweet (and Savory) Two Months at Blackbird Doughnuts

Just shy of eight weeks since they opened Blackbird Doughnuts, owner Rebecca Roth Gullo and general manager Seth Yaffe talk about how things are going.

The smell of yeast and frosting hangs heavy in the air while hip-hop music plays. It's late afternoon but that doesn't stop people from coming in to get their doughnut fix at this new South End doughnut shop from the team behind The Gallows.

"It's almost like the best McDonald's apple pie you've ever had."

Congrats on the opening and on your first two months! Since the start, what's been the most popular doughnut flavor?

Rebecca Roth Gullo: Well, popularity and volume are two different things. I think we've gotten the most amount of buzz with our sesame Sriracha doughnut because it was interesting and extremely popular, but by volume, I would say that our salted toffee has done really well. Vanilla is always the soul-warming one, for when someone wants something comforting and familiar. And chocolate ganache, too — those always sell out. Our apple Bismarck is also selling more than we can actually fulfill. When you taste it, it's almost like the best McDonald's apple pie you've ever had. It's got that same olfactory memory of that attached to it, but it's made with all organic ingredients, and it's all from scratch.

Where do you get your inspiration for your flavors?

Seth Yaffe: I think a lot of it comes from inspiration from whatever we feel like eating that day or just some ideas that we see from the internet. Sometimes Rebecca will just text me something random, like, "When's the last time you had a really good peanut butter and jelly sandwich?" and it will spark an idea.

RRG: Or we'll be eating some chips and dip and say, "I just want this on a doughnut." The savory doughnuts are exactly that. What do we love to eat, and what can we make work? It also helps that we have a really great base. Our doughnuts are a brioche base, so it's not very sweet. You can put anything on our doughnuts to make them either sweet or savory.

SY: It's interesting, like with the chips and dip doughnut, some people are like, "Wow, that's awesome," and others think it's the grossest thing they've ever heard of because they just can't wrap their brain around it.

RRG: That even happens to me. I'll hear about a doughnut, and I'll think that it doesn't sound as appetizing as I'd like, and then I'll taste it and be like "Why does this make sense?" It's like that gold and white (or black and blue) dress. You perceive it to be one thing, and it ends up being something entirely different. We just enjoy the process of creating flavors, and we're having a lot of fun with it. Because we do everything in-house, we really have a lot of freedom to do a lot with the doughnuts.

"You should never be angry when you're eating a doughnut."

What's been the reaction from people about the doughnuts, in particular regarding the ones that are a little more off-the-wall in flavor?

RRG: Across the board, it's been an awesome response. And if it's a flavor that people are curious about, we'll cut up a doughnut and let them try it and have fun with it. Doughnuts are fun and a happy thing. You should never be angry when you're eating a doughnut.

SY: We also have a lot of traditional flavors. We'll see a lot of people order a more normal-flavored doughnut and then add on an order of the more unique flavors, almost as a novelty.

RRG: I'm also amazed at the birthday cake doughnut. It's been a popular one — and not by the crowd that I'd expect. I thought it would be more for kids, and it's been popular with every age.

Do you try and predict what flavor of doughnut someone will order?

RRG: [Laughs.] We try to guess which people will order what doughnut, and more often than not, we're totally wrong.

SY: We also have to remind people several times a day that this is a judgment-free zone. They'll say "Oh, I really shouldn't get this kind," and we like to remind them that this is not a place where they get judged.

So why doughnuts? What started this whole idea?

RRG: We come up with crazy ideas all the time, and it just so happened that doughnuts stuck. We had been making them at The Gallows, and people really liked them. Seth and I had also gone on trips to Chicago and New York. We had been traveling and eating a lot of different things, and doughnuts were surprisingly a big part of that — "surprisingly" because neither one of us is really into sweets.

We were looking for another project. The Gallows will be five in June, and this just seemed like a good idea and an opportunity to do something fun. This is more complex than we ever could have imagined. Dough is no joke, and for people to ask why it's a $3 doughnut, it's a lot of work and about 18 hours that go into making these doughnuts. You have to really know the dough to understand when it's done right, just by touching it. There's a lot of precision that goes into dough-making. It's a real pastry.

We also wanted to be here in the South End. This is our neighborhood. Seth and I both live in the neighborhood, and it's been really great seeing people from The Gallows over here in the mornings. It's been an extreme learning process, and we've struggled and have loved it, and we just can't wait to do more.

"One little mistake can turn the entire thing upside down."

SY: It's a living, breathing organism. We also have a great team. It takes a special kind of person to wake up at 3 a.m. and put the rest of a normal life and normal schedule on hold to be here, with a big smile on their face ready to go. It takes a lot of dedication to maintain that dough and one little mistake can turn the entire thing upside down. It's a really inspiring energy to have around here.

RRG: I just want to give a special shout-out to our baker, Tara. She is just awesome and very dedicated. She's here at 3 a.m., which is when we're all just going to bed from working at The Gallows. It's been an adjustment with always having something open 24 hours a day. Tara leads the team, and we couldn't do it without her.

What's been your personal favorite doughnut that you've created so far?

RRG: I like the mini filled the best.

SY: Those are the ones that get me into trouble every day because I just walk by and grab one. Some of the savory ones have been really fun. The traditional ones are good too. The chocolate cake one is fantastic.

Blackbird Doughnuts

175 Cambridge Street, , MA 02114 Visit Website

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