Artisan doughnuts add sweet edge to Birmingham food scene

Artisan doughnuts add sweet edge to Birmingham food scene
(Source: WBRC)
(Source: WBRC)
(Source: WBRC)
(Source: WBRC)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The flavors read like a dessert menu from a gourmet restaurant: blueberry lemon, almond plum, brown butter glazed.

But the products are doughnuts, not in boxes from national chains like Krispy Kreme or Dunkin' Donuts, but gourmet, artisan doughnuts baked from scratch using fresh, natural, local ingredients like blueberries from Blount County and Chilton County peaches.

The business of craft doughnuts was conceptualized by a small group of young Birmingham entrepreneurs in their twenties and thirties who could be poster children for the Magic City's booming food scene that continues to evolve and grow at an astonishing pace.

The company name is simple: We Have Doughnuts, but the pastries are complex, blending textures and flavors to create an old fashioned style doughnut with some distinct differences from the yeast-based, made-from-a-mix variety that a few years ago represented all that was available in Birmingham.

We Have Doughnuts are made in small batches, typically 40 to 60 doughnuts at a time, and cake batter is used, creating a doughnut with a lot more heft, and an inner and outer ring.

Phil Amthor, a city planner for Birmingham, saw an opportunity when he tasted gourmet doughnuts in other cities while traveling.

"Birmingham was catching up," said Amthor. "But what the best food cities in the country had that we didn't, was artisan, craft doughnuts."

Amthor's wife, Sara Amthor, had been to culinary school, so he asked her to try to create a recipe, not for a business venture, but to satisfy his own sweet tooth. Her doughnuts were so delicious, in 2013 they decided to sell them at a Rev Birmingham pop-up shop. That went very well and by this time they had enlisted the help from some friends, including local photographer and graphic artist Graham Yelton, Birmingham urban designer Matt Churnock and local food entrepreneur Sandy Mackay.

"We had a fair amount of innovating we needed to do from 2013 until now," explained Amthor.

So they focused on perfecting their kitchen methods and getting the recipes just right.

"Most doughnut shops make their [doughnuts] using a mix." said Amthor. "They'll order a mix from some big industrial producer, and they just add water."

The group was convinced it was onto something big, so they focused on getting the consistency right and when they were finally happy with the product, they launched We Have Doughnuts in July 2015.

The business partners bypassed traditional marketing and advertising and instead went for a strong company presence on social media. You can find We Have Doughnuts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

They sell their doughnuts Tuesday through Friday from 7:30 a.m.- 10:30 a.m. at a stand in the vestibule of the old Birmingham Savings & Trust building at 112 20th Street North. Customers can pre-order doughnuts on the We Have Doughnuts website and choose to pick up at one of three different locations.

We Have Doughnuts are made in a rented commissary kitchen space with four additional employees handling the kitchen and sales. Amthor hopes the flavors will continue to evolve as the company grows and that Birmingham food enthusiasts have an appetite for sophisticated tastes. They are currently developing a doughnut that includes bacon and sausage from a local butcher and this week launched a new flavor, pineapple curry. The ambitious group has already found a tremendous customer following and believes the already hot food scene is an incredible place to test a new product.

"There's no way I would have gotten this team together and started if there wasn't this momentum and energy that is tangible around the city of Birmingham," said Amthor.

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