In the pantheon of breakfast pastries, I hold donuts in the highest regard. While technically they should be considered a dessert, they’ve somehow landed as a morning foodstuff to accompany your morning coffee. Not hating on that at all.
Fried, baked, glazed, stuffed or frosted, donuts can’t be denied, which is why I jumped at the chance to test the Nostalgia Electronics Automatic Mini Donut Factory. For a modest $150, the 12-lb. plastic and metal machine claims to bring the bakery right to your kitchen, spitting out small donuts with minimal prep required.
After preparing a batter (there are three recipes included with the directions), home bakers are required to pour oil into the well-marked basin and turn a few knobs. The 22-inch-long machine then dispenses, forms, flips and deep fries the batter using its miniature conveyor belt system. The finished product pops out the other side in a minute and a half. One batch of dough yields around 90 bite-sized donuts. Don’t eat it all in one sitting, lest the beetus comes a calling.
Since this is a bit of a novelty item geared towards party-prepping rather than serious at-home pastry chefs, it makes sense that the machine is easy to operate. Assembly was effortless — out of the box, all that was required of me was to clean a few integral parts, add some oil and turn it on — a five-minute process.
Some other pluses: large knobs and indicator lights made it easy for me know when the oil was hot enough for frying and what setting I was currently using; its conveyor belt system moved the fried dough down the line without a hiccup — a process I was able to see through its cleverly placed clear plastic lid. The frying process worked well too — every finished product that left the machine was a perfect golden brown.
First and foremost: a mini donut is not a mini donut if it isn’t round (we’re not talking about Long Johns here, folks). The dispenser uses what the instructions refer to as a “drop” process, which forms shapes, rather than cutting them. That’s fine, but of the 90 pieces the unit produced from my three batches of dough, only 30 resembled actual donuts. The rest looked like funnel-cake shrapnel.
They tasted fine, like tiny pieces of fried dough — but still, not a donut. And one in every three pieces that came down the assembly line missed the extraction shoot — or “donut slide” as it’s called. So instead of sliding down into the donut bin, a third of my creations drowned below in the oil-catch chamber. The machines was loud and quite annoying — its plastic chain chugged along, creaking like the hull of a small ship.
Sadly, this is a novelty item and nothing more. While the smell reminded me of childhood walks down beachfront boardwalk, I’d much rather deep fry actual round donuts in a vat of oil than watch them scoot through this factory. There’s something to be said about the clever mechanics. But the bottom line is that these aren’t donuts at all. If you’re looking for a simple way to make bits of fried dough, this could be your ticket. But for $150, it should be more than that.
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