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To Snag a Doughnut at Endgrain, Set Your Alarm Clock to the Crack of Dawn

 Endgrain has Enoch and Caleb Simpson rolling in the doughnuts.
Endgrain doughnuts
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ROSCOE VILLAGE — It didn't take long for Endgrain to sell out of doughnuts on the restaurant's first National Doughnut Day.

All 200-plus pastries were gone by 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Word has clearly spread that Enoch Simpson, who co-owns Endgrain with his brother Caleb, is back in the frying business (more on that later) after a lengthy hiatus. 

With his bacon-butterscotch doughnut, which he created at Pilsen's Nightwood and brought with him to Endgrain, Enoch was a leader in the artisanal doughnut movement that's since spawned Glazed and Infused, Doughnut Vault and Do-Rite.

"I'm really impressed there are so many doughnut shops," said Enoch. Unlike, say, cupcakes, doughnuts are a far more complex creature and demand a level of skill more akin to that of breadmaking, he said.

Though doughnuts are the reason the Roscoe Village restaurant opens at 7 a.m., to be clear, Endgrain is not a bakery.

For Enoch, the pastries represent a personal challenge to master both the sweet and savory sides of the menu, something few chefs attempt, typically opting to specialize in one or the other.

"It's really hard," he said. "You have to shift your mind entirely."

Where cooking a chicken allows for seasoning and tasting on the fly, with a dough, "you can't adjust it later," he explained.

Enoch first began working on pastries during a stint as a sous chef at Green Zebra, largely to keep pace with a colleague who was an ace at desserts.

"It bugged me," he said, confessing to a competitive streak that had him rushing through his duties on the cooking line in order to beat his co-worker to pastry prep.

"That's around the time when I made some doughnuts," Enoch recalled. "Doughnuts are fun."

Prior to Endgrain's opening at the beginning of June, the Simpson brothers spent a year perfecting their not-too-sweet doughnut recipes.

"I formulate my own flour mixture," said Enoch, and he uses different kinds of sugars for different doughnuts. The sprinkles for Endgrain's popular Nutella Milkstout doughnut are made in-house (the milk stout is New Holland's).

Caleb takes pains to point out that their basic dough was specifically designed to absorb as little oil as possible. He prefers to call the process "cooking" as opposed to "frying," to avoid all the negative baggage the word carries.

"I wouldn't say they're healthy, but they're less greasy," said Enoch.

Out of an "arsenal" of 13 to 14 varieties, the pair plans to feature three to five doughnuts on a rotating basis. The current lineup includes a "lemon bar" — lemon polenta doughnut with lemon curd filling and lemon glaze.

Now that Endgrain is finally up and running, Enoch is looking forward to experimenting with even more flavors.

His eyes lit up when informed of the "cronut" (a croissant-doughnut hybrid) craze currently sweeping New York City. As he shared the news with Caleb, the pair's wheels started turning.

For now, they can't wait to introduce customers to confections like an oatmeal pie doughnut and a planned sweet potato variety with blueberry filling, shaped like a bear claw, which they aim to roll out in the fall.

"We call it Da Bears claw," said Caleb, in honor of the Monsters of the Midway. "And it's Da-licious."