Sunday, November 06, 2011

Ohlin's Donut Elves

Sunday October 23, 2011
Belmont, MA

While Ernie and his Keebler elves bake their “Uncommonly Good®” Fudge Stripes and Deluxe Grahams in their Hollow Tree Factory, the elves at Ohlin’s Bakery, near the intersection of Trapelo Road and Common Street prepare to serve their chocolate frosted and honey-dipped donuts this Sunday morning.

At 6:00 a.m. and daybreak more than five dozen minutes away, the sublime intersection of glaze and frosting, yeast and cake, transport me to pre-dawn mornings in 1986-87, when I was a donut elf myself, at the bakery in Toddy’s Supermarket, located at the union of Lemay Avenue and Drake Road in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Working during the wee hours, I would stand on cardboard that lay flat in front of the fryer, and I would watch the bottom half of the doughy circles turn golden brown. Time to make the donuts…turn over. Flipping the ringlets with long slender wooden implements, which resembled drumsticks, classical music from a Bad News Bears movie (more commonly known as Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture) played in my mind’s ear.

Back in Belmont, the donuts on display delight the AMHL (and Donut) Photographer and me. As we ponder our donut selection, we engage the elves in conversation.


The eldest elf, a cheery worker wearing a purple top, says she’s worked at Ohlin's sixteen years. “I married one of the bakers,” she explains, smiling and ready to serve customers.

The donut holes seem as big as a fist. Tempting.

The younger elf, in her late teens and wearing a non-uniform purple top, references the honey-dipped donuts. “We bake and sell more of these than any other,” she says.

My wife is sold, not only on their potential flavor but also on the photogenic flair. Bold and beautiful, these donuts are bound for daytime drama and glory. (Later today, the donuts will witness the wonder of the Head of the Charles Regatta.)

I focus on the fudge-like quality of the chocolate frosting. Fresh and thick and moist, the topping bonds with the bottom. One of these darlings might also be featured in a photo. But how will it taste?

We’re about to learn as we sit in our car—until we realize we’ve forgotten to buy coffee—and then must return to the brick edifice.

Once inside the Hollow Tree Factory, er, bakery, I tell the younger elf that the camera crew is right behind me. The teenager strikes a pose as another elf—this one with a tray of donuts—appears from the kitchen.

We learn that this pixie is Ma Elf’s daughter. Ohlin’s, established in the 1960s, appears to be a family business. The pose-striking elf says she feels like part of the family.

“Does that mean I have to pay for college?” Ma Elf asks, an impish grin forming to complement her pointy (not really) ears.

My wife and I buy two more donuts (and the coffee) and then return to our car.

She bites into the Honey-dipped. “Oh my God,” she says as I anticipate the fudgey frosting of the donut before me. But the selfless Photographer offers me a bite of her donut. The high-def honey-dipped is sticky but not overly so and oh so sweet and warm and wonderful.

I sink my incisors into the Chocolate Frosted: The chocolate melts as the yeast condenses. Magic. I sip the French vanilla coffee. The Earth ceases its spinning.

Those Keeblers have nothing on Ohlin’s donut elves.
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