By Duane Bell, as told to Alex Mlynek

When Duane Bell opened Tofino, B.C.’s Rhino Coffee House in December 2013, he decided to honour community members with a doughnut-of-the-month and a contribution of $100 to a cause in the person’s name. The first recipient was Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne, who was celebrated with the vegan Josie Jelly Donut. The mayor, herself a vegan, chose the local SPCA as her charity. Thanks to its immense popularity, Bell made this strawberry jelly–filled doughnut a permanent fixture on Rhino’s menu, further immortalizing Mayor Osborne in the form of a delicious treat.

Duane Bell

Duane Bell

When I started Rhino, I really wanted it to be a community coffeehouse. I’ve been a part of a lot of different communities and have seen so many hardworking people who put extra effort into making things happen. The doughnut-of-the-month was my way of giving thanks to this community. We now have a voting system in the coffeehouse, where people decide on an outstanding volunteer, but for the first one, we didn’t have that option, so I did a small survey with the locals. Everybody loves our mayor, Josie Osborne—she’s a really outstanding person—so we decided to name our first doughnut after her.

One late night, Rhino’s chef, Ron Weeks, and I were working on different recipes and I brought up the fact that I’d like to give Josie the compliment of being our first doughnut-of-the-month. So Ron and I collaborated: He came up with the recipe, and I came up with the name. And because I had been a chef and fooled around with vegan recipes a bit more than Ron had, I suggested he try to substitute the eggs with flaxseeds soaked in water.

Josie was definitely very happy and honoured. Before we opened, we got some photos with her and the doughnut. The first people she sent them to were her folks.

When I first tried a Josie Jelly, I grabbed one, bit into it and thought, “Wow, it’s delicious!” You’ve got this nice crispy outer crust covered in cinnamon sugar, then you get doughnut fluffiness and the homemade jelly: strawberry coulis with a hint of lime that we thicken a bit more so it doesn’t spill out everywhere. I had no idea that the recipe would develop that nice crunchiness on the outside. It’s quite a pleasant surprise because none of the other yeast-rising or cake doughnuts we make have that texture.

I’m from Southampton, Ont., near Owen Sound. I was born in Scarborough in Toronto’s east end, but my dad’s an engineer with Ontario Hydro, and he was at Bruce Power, a nuclear generator site out there, so I grew up in small-town Ontario, then moved to Toronto when I was 18. I learned a lot about food from my dad, who enjoys cooking at home. Our family is a very male cooking–dominated kind of family: It’s the men in the kitchen at Christmastime in charge of preparing the big feast.

My dad cooked in the navy. He was in the U.S. navy and cooked a lot of southern food, so I grew up with jambalayas and similar dishes. He’s very, very proud of his corn bread. And my mom’s German, so we also ate a lot of sauerkraut, very stinky cheeses and different pork dishes. My dad’s side is British, so it was definitely roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at Grandma’s house.

There’s a large hippie background to Tofino. It started with the draft dodgers, and the culture grew from there. People—even tourists—are more aware of nature here, with the whale-watching and beauty of nature. This leads to a lifestyle that includes a greater consciousness of consumption in respect to the environment, sustainability, whether food is organic or local, and so on. The food awareness in this community is beyond anywhere I’ve ever seen.

Josie Jelly Donuts, courtesy of Duane Bell

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Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 ¾ hours
Yield: 12 to 15 doughnuts

Ingredients
Jelly
6 cups (1.5 L) fresh or frozen strawberries
2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 mL) cornstarch
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
½ tsp (2 mL) salt

Dough
3 tbsp (45 mL) vegan margarine
3 tbsp (45 mL) vegetable shortening
½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (30 mL) packed brown sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 tsp (5 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
2 tbsp (30 mL) ground flax seeds, soaked in ½ cup (125 mL) hot water
2 cups (500 mL) almond milk
4 cups (1 L) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh yeast
1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder
12 cups (3 L) canola oil

Directions
Jelly
1. In heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat, cook strawberries and sugar until 220°F (105°C).
2. Make a slurry by whisking together cornstarch, lime zest, lime juice and ½ cup (125 mL) water.
3. Add slurry to berry mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and is boiling for at least 1 minute.
4. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and salt. Scrape into blender; pulse until smooth. Spread on sheet pan to cool.

Dough
1. In bowl, cream together margarine, shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and salt. Stir in flaxseeds. Pour in almond milk.
2. In separate bowl, crumble yeast into flour. Stir in baking powder.
3. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 48 hours.
4. On floured surface, roll out dough to ½-inch (1 cm) thickness; using 4-inch (10 cm) round cutter, cut out rounds, re-rolling scraps, if necessary.
5. In heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil to 375°F (190°C). Drop in rounds and fry, in batches, for 90 seconds. Flip with chopsticks; fry for another 90 seconds.
6. Remove to rack to cool. Once cool, cut small hole in side of each; pipe jelly into middle.

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