‘Doughnut tour’ a sweet ride through Holmes County

‘Doughnut tour’ a sweet ride through Holmes County

Image Credit: Melissa Herrera

The doughnut inside the bakery case was as big as a human head. The glaze that had been poured over it only hours before was fresh and transparent, as good glaze should be.

There is argument on what constitutes a good doughnut. Most arguments center around whether the doughnut should be yeasty with a good pull when you sink your teeth into it or cake-like with dense crumbles. Regardless of which you prefer, you can find plenty of both in bakeries big and small inside the Holmes County hills.

It’s called “the doughnut tour,” and local college kids who come home and bring friends with them make it a hot commodity to take in.

“We usually do something like this whenever we’re in town,” Hiland alum Jaylan Miller said. “We called it either the doughnut trail or a bakery crawl. Miller’s Bakery is always a favorite, classic glazed, usually Kauffman’s next, and Der Bake Oven after that.”

“Our best-selling doughnuts are the plain glazed, then maple and chocolate cream sticks, though we are best known for our tarts,” Mae Yoder of Miller’s Bakery said.

Row upon row of fruit-flavored tarts line the glass shelves at Miller’s Bakery, which nestles off a backroad into a hillside near Charm. “We’ve been here for 54 years,” Yoder said. “Barbara Miller started it in the basement of her home selling noodles and angel food cakes.”

The kitchen at Miller’s bustles on every end as trays of unfrosted cream sticks await a rich, maple icing to complete their transformation. Miller’s sells a variety of baked goods from breads and cookies to pastries, tarts and, of course, doughnuts.

If you mention the words “cream stick” anywhere but Holmes County, you’ll most likely get a puzzled look in return. In other parts of the states, what resembles a cream stick is called a Long John or maple bar. Some are filled with cream, but most are not. None of them come anywhere close to the creations that are sold at every bakery in the area.

“Every bakery my friends and I stopped at on our Saturday morning tour I bought a maple cream stick,” said Selena Herrera, who graduated from Hiland in 2013. “Sometimes I’d buy a cake doughnut, as well as a glazed doughnut. By the end of the tour, I’d come to the end of wanting any doughnut at all.”

Another contentious point of cream stick talk is the cream filling: regular cream filling or custard-like? The answers are mixed. “Texas doesn’t even know what a creamstick is,” Alice Mize said.

Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery — formerly Hershberger’s Truck Patch — is known for its giant cream sticks at its location on state Route 557 near Charm.

“They stretch the cream stick dough by hand to make them bigger,” Steve Hershberger said. “The key is to keep them a consistent shape. We’ve been making them from scratch since 1986 when we started selling baked goods.”

Hershberger said his best-selling baked goods are fry pies, then cream sticks — all made without the help of any machine.

“When I would leave for school, I’d sometimes stop to get a cream stick at Hershberger’s. They were my favorite,” said Hunter Herrera, Hiland 2014. “Sometimes they were closed because I left so early, but the girls who worked inside always let me in to buy one — and they were still warm.”

The bakery crawl usually included a stop at Der Dutchman Bakery in Walnut Creek, where Cherie Miller has been making the doughnuts for 28 years.

“Our best sellers are cream sticks with caramel icing,” Miller said. “I’ve been at the restaurant since ’83 and took over making the doughnuts in ’94. Every day is different, but we make way more doughnuts on a Saturday than any other day of the week.”

Kauffman’s Country Bakery sits in Bunker Hill near Berlin, where for 30 years they’ve been baking up a storm.

“Our best sellers are cream sticks, fry pies and glazed doughnuts,” Richard Kauffman said. “We use our own recipes and try to make a few different items than you’ll see in other local bakeries — cream horns and snowballs to name a few. I always loved a good cream horn.”

Kauffman said when they were creating their recipes, they decided to cut back on the sugar content, as some pastries can be too sweet. “We think they taste better that way,” he said.

Verna Stutzman is long out of the bakery business but tells of buying a small bakery from Freeman Raber that once sat across from Hiland High School. “I wondered what I was getting myself into, going into the bakery business,” she said.

She soon moved her bakery to a building by her home north of Bunker Hill and named it Der Bake Oven.

“We used our own recipes, revamped some of his and made it work,” Stutzman said. “We wrote every recipe down so the employees could follow step by step.”

Stutzman said Der Bake Oven made a variety of baked goods including breads, pies, glazed doughnuts, chocolate doughnuts and cream sticks.

“One of my employees was Ruth, and she worked for me for 10 years,” Stutzman said. “We moved the business to Berlin, and I sold it to her in ’97.”

The “Ruth” in question is Ruth Mast. While the bakery was originally housed in a small brick home in Berlin, she expanded several years ago to create a sit-in café. Loads of baked goods line the shelves at Der Bake Oven, and for the bakery crawl crew, this was always a special stop.

“Each doughnut that we make has its own dough,” Mast said. “Our glazed doughnuts are spud doughnuts, with their own dough. They are the number-one seller. Cream sticks come in as our second-best seller. They also have their own dough.”

Known for its custard pies, Mast said some of Der Bake Oven’s recipes are derived from Stutzman’s recipes but have been revamped some. She’s also added her own through the years.

There are many more bakeries in Holmes County and close surrounding areas than are named here, almost more than one bakery crawl can hold: Jitters, Dough Co., Amish Country Donuts, Hershberger’s Home Baked Goods, Amish Door Bakery (which serves all the Bellstores in the area), Rodhe’s Bakery and more.

“I hope y’all count your blessings regularly,” former Berlinite Sylviane Miller said. “I’m a former Holmes County gal who misses those Amish baked goods.”

This area is a wealth of goodness for the tongue and the soul. Former college youth from many different states and other parts of Ohio who traveled the Holmes County doughnut trail would agree.