Philly’s Federal Donuts reveals secrets for making famed confections — and fried chicken, too

Read this cookbook: “Federal Donuts: The (Partially) True Spectacular Story” by Michael Solomonov, Steven Cook, Tom Henneman, Bob Logue, and Felicia D’Ambrosio (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99) 

 

By Wendell Brock

Federal Donuts, how could you do this to me?

For this week’s guide to the best doughnuts in Atlanta, I’ve been on such a binge I’m having a Jiminy Glick moment. Soon, I’ll have to wear a shower curtain.

With typical timing, I just took a gander at this astonishingly fun book from the folks behind Philadelphia’s celebrated Federal Donuts.

That would be superstar chef Michael Solomonov and restaurateur Steven Cook, co-owners of the pioneering Philly restaurant Zahav.

As a team, they have won a chest full of James Beard medals, both for Solomonov’s masterful cooking and for co-authoring the restaurant’s namesake 2015 cookbook, “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking” (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35).

In 2011, along with three other partners, they opened Federal Donuts, which not only serves doughnuts and coffee, but also twice-fried chicken dusted with genius spice blends (coconut curry, buttermilk ranch) and glazes (honey ginger, Korean-inspired chili garlic).

That’s right, people. They glaze the doughnuts, and the chicken. Now, with this handy-dandy illustrated guide, they tell you how to recreate their famous recipes at home. (Thank goodness, a workout appears at the end of the book.)

Federal Donuts has such a cult following that a section of the book is devoted to fan art inspired by its fare. Still, these guys don’t claim to have nailed their doughnut-making process from the get-go.

The epic fits and starts, the doughnut robot, the constant sell-outs and disappointed customers: It’s all chronicled here in breezy conversational detail and with delightful photos.

The secret to the Federal Donuts recipe is baharat, which the authors dub the Middle Eastern equivalent of pumpkin-pie spice. (Dough not worry: You can order it from kalustyans.com.)

Once you fry a batch, you have an empty canvas for the likes of Grapefruit Brulee, Blueberry Mascarpone, Lemon Meringue with Lemon Glaze, and French Toast Glaze With Crunch and Maple Drizzle, among many other temptations.

These guys are such mensches that they even list their favorite doughnut shops around the country, from Brown’s in Ocean City, N.J., to Five Daughters Bakery in Nashville. And they’re so transparent they list their top 20 rejected flavors (OMG! Red Bull and Vodka, Deviled Egg).

As for Federal Donuts, there are now seven locations, including one in Miami. (I can’t decide whether I should be livid at my South Florida friends for not telling me about their local Fed Nuts during my recent visit, or grateful. )

At any rate, should you decide to try your hand at making doughnuts, “Federal Donuts” is a font of inspiration, tips and recipes from Philly’s trail-glazing, chicken-hawking originals.

 

Wendell Brock is an Atlanta-based food and culture writer, frequent AJC contributor and winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award for journalism. Follow him on Twitter (@MrBrock) and Instagram (@WendellDavidBrock).

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