When Jennifer Johnson opened the doors of Misfit Doughnuts and Treats to the public for the first time on May 13, her entire stock of vegan desserts was wiped out in a little under three hours. With doughnut flavors like lemon poppy seed, cannoli, s'mores, and blood orange white chocolate, Johnson is aiming for vegan-friendly decadence, and maybe convince some skeptics along the way.
"People say, 'You can't make that vegan.' And I say, 'Watch me,'" says Johnson, who has been a vegan for the last seven years. "Vegans at heart are just a bunch of foodies."
Before opening Misfit, Johnson was the owner of Pudgy Girl Bakery, which made vegan pastries and desserts largely for wholesale and special orders. After three years, however, Johnson made the hard decision to close the bakery in late 2016. She says she was devastated by the closing, but Misfit Doughnuts was already on her mind. Johnson says a friend pointed out the space at 982 Monroe Avenue and suggested she start a bakery there. Johnson shrugged off the idea — until a second friend called her with the same idea.
"OK, that's a sign from the universe," Johnson says she thought at the time. She moved into the space in March, started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, and was ready to open by May. Now, she's try to keep pace with demand. Her numerous flavors are constantly rotating, and she hopes to add more menu options as business develops.
Although Misfit sells a variety of desserts, doughnuts are the star. That's clear from the bakery's logo, an anthropomorphized doughnut sporting a mohawk, Chuck Taylors, and thick-rimmed glasses. The name of the bakery itself is a nod to punk band The Misfits. References to other elements of pop culture appear throughout Johnson's creations: the Black Flag doughnut (named for another of Johnson's favorite bands) is filled with strawberry sriracha jam and topped with chocolate ganache; or there's the Twin Peaks doughnut, a cherry pie flavor with crumble topping, which was made to celebrate the revival of the cult-classic 90's crime drama.
Almost all of Misfit's doughnuts are yeast-raised brioche-style, which Johnson appreciates for their rich texture, pillowy softness, and large air pockets. In conventional baking, those desirable attributes are achieved with a healthy amount of butter, eggs, and milk — but, of course, this is a vegan bakeshop.
Each new recipe, Johnson says, requires considerable "reverse-engineering" in order to make it compliant with a vegan lifestyle. She usually begins with a conventional recipe and works backward to find a similar-tasting vegan result. At the moment, she favors soy milk in place of cow's milk, Earth Balance in place of butter, and an egg substitute derived from chickpeas. She also has a recipe for vegan bacon that involves coconut chips and soy sauce — there's a maple bacon doughnut on the menu — and a vegan sausage, egg, and cheese doughnut is in the early stages of development.
Johnson hopes her new bakery will prove to be a guilt-free haven for local vegans as well as an educational opportunity for those who may look skeptically at desserts devoid of butter and eggs. It doesn't hurt that Misfit is capitalizing upon the doughnut's current surge in popularity nationwide. Nowadays, it's more likely than not that you'll be eating a dressed-up doughnut with knife and fork — and not just in the morning.
Whether the current public appetite for doughnuts will last remains to be seen, but Johnson has an eye on the future. Asked what she thinks the next big baking trend might be, she pauses thoughtfully: "Churros," she says.