Boise’s Guru Brings Eclectic Flavor to Locals
Practical breakfasts err toward the drab. Workaday people often weigh choices of prudent oatmeal scoops. Somber strips of turkey bacon. Uninspired egg whites.
In Boise’s Guru Donuts, color, flavor and latent childhood whimsy reenter the morning meal, under the cute-as-a-button guise of sugary, candy-striped orbs. Jacketed in shimmering caramel glaze, or sheets of chocolate topped with sprinkles, these locally-sourced breakfast pastries have inspired renewed interest in the once ho-hum donut.
Creators Kevin and Angel Moran began flipping donuts in 2012, hosting a series of informal “speakeasy” tastings in their North End living room. Later they launched a “Dough-Nation” crowdfunding campaign, raising more than $6,000 and rewarding 188 funders with donuts, which helped spur growth in wholesale sales to coffee shops and grocery stores. Retail sales took a leap by way of the Boise Farmer’s Market, and have now propelled the Morans to a brick and mortar location—all within two years.
Baking breakfast pastries called for a lifestyle change for the husband-wife duo, who have spent months of early mornings preparing and frying before the rooster crows. The predictable routine has helped Kevin, Angel and Guru staff hone their talents, meticulously frying, then topping, thousands of donuts each one slightly similar to the last.
“It’s just this process,” said Angel. “it’s exactly what you picture when you think of a baker.”
While Kevin is responsible for frying and prep, Angel’s marketing savvy has propelled their fried foods into both grumbling tummies and the feeds of social media luminaries. A snapshot of the Guru Donuts Instagram or Facebook account reveals a slew of glamor shots, of bright Orange Dreamsicle, white peach maple bourbon options stuffed with chunks of fresh peach, or the Lemon Meringue variety, dusted with powdered sugar.
Uninspired toppings are as notably absent, as the dry, crumbly cake donuts bases so common among traditional options. The donut is in many ways the prototypical industrial food, associated with plastic packaging, and mass production.
But local craft donut shops have as of late lead an artisanal movement, with Portland, Oreg.’s Voodoo Doughnut an often-referenced example for Western eaters. These shops have made it a mission to elevate their dough from its place as an overwrought, perfectly uniform product extruded and fried on a factory scale, back to the level of handmade craft production.
“When you’re doing things fresh made, from scratch, you’re measuring out everything. You have to constantly observe what’s happening, and read it, and change and adapt according to it,” she said.
Sourcing local, fresh ingredients remains important to Kevin and Angel. Depending on availability, milk, eggs, honey and flour from the Treasure Valley and the region make their way into the dough. The Morans are as thoughtful about what goes on top of a Guru Donut as they are about what’s inside. Angel explains to parents, particularly conscious of their children’s sugar intake, that their vegan sprinkles are colored with real foods, like blueberries and beets.
“They start understanding that it’s not just a donut. It is, but it’s in the best possible way that you can have a fattening food,” she said.
All of which may seem like more thought than necessary for a mere donut. But the Morans suggests that an intense “mono-focus” on the details of one particular thing offers its own opportunities.
"The further you get into the world, the more unoriginal ideas pop up,” said Angel. “So how do you keep doing the same thing? You start breaking down what exists, and then you get a little bit more of a niche and say ‘Let's focus on this one thing’—and how can you make that one thing super amazing, or just a little bit different?”
It’s a different approach to cooking, Angel added.
“It’s a very inefficient process,” said Angel. “We’re doing it the most inefficient way. But I think anything that’s done with that much passion and sacrifice of your own comfort or time, if you ask a brewer—or whatever, anybody who is crafting—it’s probably not the most efficient way possible in that industry.”
The slow food movement, however, isn’t about monotony, nor about volume.
“You put intent and consciousness into what you’re doing, I don’t care what it is, the products that are eaten or bought by the consumer, they’re going to notice it,” said Kevin.
With a projected mid-December opening date, Guru’s latest chapter will unfold as a brick and mortar business, as part of a collaboration with burger purveyors Boise Fry Company. The two local companies will co-locate in the Adelmann Building on Capitol Boulevard, in sight of City Hall and the Idaho State Capitol, sharing kitchen and seating space. Donuts will be fried and prepared in a subterranean kitchen, then arranged in display cases in the upstairs retail space.
For creators Kevin and Angel Moran, the permanent retail space is a far cry from their company’s humble beginnings.