Seattle's sweet tooth is getting a blast of Asian flavors.
By Tiffany Ran
November 8, 2017
It’s been a little over a year since Hood Famous Bakeshop opened its brick and mortar storefront in Ballard to offer signature ube cheesecakes and desserts with an Asian touch. Its success has opened the door in Seattle for other Asian flavors like matcha, red bean, black sesame to breathe new life into commonplace desserts. Your ice cream might be black sesame, your pudding might be purple taro, your donut might be red bean, but none will be plain vanilla.
For this series of Chef Interviews, we got the scoops from three of the hottest – and chillest – dessert connoisseurs in Seattle. Each interview is stuffed with savory insights and sweet experiences. We will serve them up one bite at a time so check back for more!
First bite: MI KIM, owner and pastry chef of Raised Doughnuts
Mi Kim started an internship at Seattle’s renowned Macrina Bakery straight out of pastry school and ended up staying for ten years, rising in the ranks to become a head pastry chef. Last year, Kim was honored as one of Zagat’s 30 Under 30 in the restaurant industry. Word on the street is she’s primed to open her own brick and mortar for Raised Donuts, which currently operates as a pop-up devoted to raising the bar on donuts with a focus on texture and unique flavors. Not surprisingly, it sells out quickly every time.
Where did the inspiration for your flavors come from?
My inspiration comes from [ingredients] I can’t find, things that aren’t that common but we all know and love and making them available in the best way possible. Hood Famous is the only place I know that makes ube stuff and they kill it. It’s awesome.
Black sesame is still my favorite one. I just don’t see it that often and it’s such a basic flavor in Asian cuisine and pastries. All parts of sesame are great to me. Sesame leaves are some of the best things ever! Right now I’m being a little cautious in the beginning, but eventually, I’d like to branch out and do more interesting things.
How did you settle on donuts as your point of focus?
My dad and I have a thing where instead of cakes, I’ll make donuts for him and sometimes I’ll make it into a donut cake. We just love them. I grew up going to work with them and eating [donuts] all the time. It’s just nostalgic.
On the logistical side, donuts are simple but they have style. I have a certain style that is a sort of soft and chewy texture. I’m still trying to find it in Seattle. There are definitely good donut places out there, but this is my own take on it.
What was it like to develop your ideal donut recipe?
I started with one recipe and I started tweaking it. It was a milk bread recipe from a basic book. As I started experimenting with it, it wasn’t the texture that I wanted. I went through as least 20 recipes. I ended up on this crazy Hawaiian sweet bread recipe and that wasn’t working.
So I told myself, “Calm down. I’m going to restart.” I went back to the original recipe and I think it was the third variation or something. I had just let it proof longer and I mixed it longer and it was perfect. I thought that was kind of funny that I went on this crazy off-road journey of recipes and then came back to the original. Raised donuts takes a minimum of five hours start to finish. It takes of a lot of patience but I’m really happy with the end result.
I fry the donuts fresh to order. That’s my whole goal. Having a fresh, piping hot donut is unbeatable to me. That’s what I want to offer Seattle with a brick and mortar.
You recently debuted a gluten free mochi donut as well?
We are doing it one flavor at a time. For the pop-up in November, it’ll be a red bean one. It will have a light glaze over it and the texture is nice. I want to offer [mochi donuts] regularly, which we’ll fry to order. There’s a lot of gluten free people who would want it, but it’s not just for gluten-free people. Anyone would want it. I don’t say I’m proud often, but this one I really love!
What’s the meaning behind the name Raised Doughnuts?[Raised Doughnuts] is kind of two things. First the name. It’s all raised dough, so it’s kind of a play on the name.
Personally, this is also about getting the donuts that I want, of the quality that I want, and of what I want to give the customers who come and eat them. Donuts typically have a shelf life of six hours and I want to sell it to my customers during that time. So it’s really about raising the bar.