A taste of history: Round Rock Donuts

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by REBEKAH HOOD / KVUE.com and photojournalist NICK BLACKHALL and editor REY BARRERA

kvue.com

Posted on June 7, 2013 at 4:00 PM

Updated Monday, Dec 16 at 2:48 PM

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Donut shops across the country Friday celebrated the 75th National Donut Day.

The holiday was created by the Salvation Army as a fundraiser during the Great Depression. It honors the female volunteers who provided supplies, and yes, even donuts, to soldiers during World War I.

KVUE honored the tasty treats as well. KVUE.com Online Correspondent Rebekah Hood got a special behind-the-scenes tour of Lone Star Bakery in Round Rock and learned how the Round Rock donuts are made.

Round Rock donuts are famous across Central Texas, and even beyond, but what some may not know is that the history of the delicious donut dates back over 60 years.

Dale and Jan Cohrs currently own the Lone Star Bakery. Jan says it was her husband's "fault" they got into the bakery business. He decided to leave a job in a three-piece suit behind to follow his interest in donut making, and they purchased both the bakery and the donuts' secret recipe in 1978.

"It's a secret recipe," Jan said. "Everybody tries to guess what it is, after all those years!"

Little did they know, they'd purchased a piece of the town's history. According to the bakery's website, the business dates all the way back to 1926, while the Round Rock donut recipe dates back to 1940s.

"My husband knew how to make a donut, so we thought, 'Well, we'll just put the recipe away and not make it.' Well, as we were remodeling the place and going around town, [the town residents] said, 'You better make the Round Rock donuts!'"

Jan and her husband ignored the locals at first, trying to sell donuts made from their own recipe. Jan says that didn't work. "We practically had to give the donuts away, so he got the recipe out and started making that donut," she said.

While we may not know all the details of the secret recipe, Jan did tell KVUE the donuts are made from fresh eggs and a lot of yolk, which helps give the donuts their yellow color.

“[They're] all done from scratch. No preservatives at all in them, so you know, it’s really a unique donut,” Jan said.

That uniqueness can also be attributed to the hands that make them.

“No machinery. With that recipe, you can’t use machinery,” Jan explained.

One of the bakery's store managers, Polo Garcia, estimates they mix 1,500 pounds of dough per day. Once the dough is mixed, it rises for about 30 minutes, and then it is shaped into large mounds that are left to rise some more.

“Once it is loafed, it sits for about another 30 to 40 minutes so that it grows enough so that it’s ready to roll,” explained KVUE's tour guide for the day, store manager Jimmie Anderson.

Then, the donuts are ready to take shape. The dough is rolled out into a long sheet. With the help of a special rolling pin, the donuts are cut out of the dough.

“Notice the shape of the donuts," Jimmie said, pointing to the oval-shaped pieces of dough. "They’re not your ordinary, round donuts."

Jimmie also mentioned the bakery saves all of the donut holes that are cut out.

“We used to have customers that’d come through here with their dogs, and the dogs would want the donut holes,” Jimmie said.

Next, the donuts are placed onto a wire sheet and slid into a proofing box, where they’ll sit for another 30 minutes and rise even more. 

After they're done proofing, the next step is frying the donuts in vegetable oil. Employees continue to work without machinery during this step; they flip the donuts using two pieces of slender wood that look like giant chopsticks.

After a few minutes, the donuts are moved out of the frying oil, over to a station where they will be glazed. Surprisingly, some Round Rock Donut fans like their pastries a bit unfinished.

“We do get quite a few customers who come in and say, ‘I want a donut with no glaze on it,’" Jimmie said.

"So now you have your Round Rock donut," Polo declared, holding up a piping hot pastry.

Next comes the best part -- buying your warm, fresh treat from one of the smiling employees and taking a big bite.

Round Rock Donut workers pride themselves on the bakery’s friendly atmosphere.

“We know a lot of our customers by name, so half the time, we can see them in line, and we know what they want before they even get up to the front,” Jimmie said.

Their customers aren’t just local.

“We get ‘em from everywhere," Jimmie said. "We always know they’re visitors because they’ve got cameras out.”

“People [come] from England, Norway, the Netherlands, people from Mexico, South America, Canada, Hawaii, Japan, all over the world, China,” Polo said.

The down-home feeling of friendliness doesn’t just carry over to the bakery’s visitors, but its staff as well.

“If you work around here, you can feel the atmosphere of it being more family-oriented, and people enjoy their work more because it’s not stressful; it’s just, you know, family.”

Click here for more information about Lone Star Bakery.

If you're craving a donut after reading this story, you can get a free donut on National Donut Day at Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts.

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