The big Texas pickup truck pulled up to the takeout window, and a male voice said, “One yeast donut, please.”
It was 4 p.m. on a weekday afternoon, and a line of eight cars and trucks were in position at my famous local donut place, ready to get their fix whether it was a single donut or a whole box of them.
That’s pretty slow – in the mornings, the car line is usually backed out onto the street. Don’t worry, though; the staff is very efficient and things move along quickly.
I live just north of Austin in Round Rock, Texas. If you ask people what they know about my city of 110,000 residents, many will remember that it is home to the corporate headquarters for Dell, a big rock that was a Chisholm Trail landmark, the beloved Round Rock Express minor league baseball team, and big orange-yellow donuts from the Lone Star Bakery downtown.
Although the bakery also makes sausage wraps, cookies, custom cakes, and plenty of other goodies, the donuts are best known and their fans are legendary.
A hearse pulled up to the takeout window years ago because the person in the coffin had demanded to be buried with a box of them. A San Antonio grandmother was famous for toting her box of donut holes through airport security, enroute the apparently donut-free state of Missouri.
Lots of people have heard of the big-as-your-head Texas Donuts from the bakery. If you want to feed a crowd and make a yeasty statement, that’s one way to go.
One of my early freelance stories was for Texas Highways in June 2007, where I was fortunate enough to be paid to research and write about my local donuts. What a country!
A few things have changed since then; I learned that although the business is still family-run, lovely and personable patriarch Dale Cohrs is dealing with the cruelty of Alzheimer’s.
You can still get the bakery’s tea cake-style cookies by the bag, but they don’t quite taste the same as when Big Bertha made them (she apparently stopped working a few years ago.)
From my Texas Highways story:
“It is the vintage 14-burner gas oven called ‘Big Bertha,’ a transplant from the original Main Street location now enthroned in the back of the bakery, that gives those cookies their perfect consistency. The old gal seems to delight in confounding new employees; they have to learn its 1920s quirks before they can re-create the magical crusty-cookie alchemy for which the bakery is famous. There is no thermometer, only a single control valve to turn the burner flames up and down as the flat shelf racks rotate inside the drum. It’s a very hot pastry Ferris wheel. Bakers have to learn to work by touch and feel, and humidity varies the baking time.”
I’m more of a cake than a yeast donut person. If you are, too, make an exception for Round Rock donuts. They are fabulous when warm and right out of the oven.
If they get a little hard from sitting out, just zap them for a few minutes in a microwave to soften them up.
As always, support your local eateries and tell your friends and visitors about them. They are what makes a town special.
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