Doughnuts, revised

ISTHMUS | by Jennie Capellaro March 5, 2020 | READ MORE

Shantytown makes a perfect vegan breakfast treat

When Caitlin Rockey and Aaron Mooney first became vegan, they missed breakfast foods most of all. As lifelong restaurant industry folks, they knew how to cook, but doing it without animal products was new to them.

Undeterred, the energetic Rockey set about to veganize her prized biscuit recipe. When she was satisfied, husband Mooney went to work creating a chickpea-based breakfast sausage. This resulted in a vegan breakfast sandwich so tasty they turned to each and said “We need to sell these.”

The couple, then living in Walla Walla, Washington, did just that, renting a food “shack” they called Shantytown, selling breakfast sandwiches and burritos at a food stand mall (think food carts, but without the mobility) across from Whitman College.

Their food was a hit. The mall owner even offered to aid them financially if they would open a more permanent restaurant spot.

But the Midwest was calling the couple back. Rockey is originally from Appleton, and after the two met in Chicago, they did a brief stint in Madison, pre-Walla Walla. Mooney was the original executive chef for Robinia Courtyard, which meant he oversaw the joint kitchen that served its original restaurants A-OK Coffee, Julep and Barolo.

Newly back in Madison in 2019 with a toddler in tow, they each found work in the food service industry, but didn’t give up on the idea of having their own business again.

They started with doughnuts. Rockey had a great doughnut recipe, but making it without animal products was a challenge. “The doughnuts are yeast-raised and that helps but not having the yolk in there, or the butter, makes it a little more difficult,” says Rockey.

After persistent tweaking, the two have come up with a craveworthy creation, light and fluffy, without the heaviness that can sometimes plague a vegan baked good. The pastry compresses perfectly when you take a bite, as a good doughnut should, and the glaze shatters delicately and pleasingly with each bite. The dough isn’t overly sweet; the flavor of the donut often relies on the excellent glazes. Vanilla glazed and chocolate glazed are the most popular. In addition they make strawberry lemon, lavender lemon, jam-filled, and powdered sugar doughnut holes.

For now, the doughnuts are available weekends only at Johnson Public House, Bar Corallini and Ledger Coffee (owner Richard Wirsta is a fan) at Garver Feed Mill. Shantytown also appears pop-up style at events like the recent Femmestival.

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