At 86 Rue d’Aboukir in the heart of the Sentier neighborhood, Boneshaker Donuts & Coffee is the one with a crowd of people waiting outside. In one of the most fashionable parts of the French capital, many of them have arranged to meet up this afternoon to indulge in an all-American donut. The choice is vast, with a rolling monthly selection of 12 different flavors. In June, customers were able to enjoy a “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” (lemon curd and coconut), a “Fluffernutter” (peanut butter pastry cream, marshmallow glaze, and salted peanut brittle), and a “Beach Haven” rolled in cinnamon sugar. These are led by the sugar-coated best-seller, the “OG” – for “Original Glazed.”
Amanda Bankert, born and raised in Washington D.C., is the American woman behind this unlikely success story. After studying art history at Sarah Lawrence College north of New York City, she attended the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris and graduated with a degree in French patisserie in 2004. She then set about “sharpening her chef’s knives” and spent ten years working in different restaurants in Ireland. She returned to Paris in 2012 with a business idea.
“The French pastry market was saturated,” she says. “I wanted to do something more original.” She stumbled across a ten-euro home fryer at a yard sale in Montmartre and started experimenting with donut recipes. “Back then, there was just one donut shop in Paris, which might explain why none of the banks were willing to give me a loan.” Not one to be discouraged so easily, she started baking out of her own kitchen and delivered her artisanal donuts to Parisian cafes… by bike!
After three years of hard work, she and her husband opened their first shop in the second arrondissement of the capital. The name, Boneshaker, is a nod to her chaotic first steps in the business. “It’s the nickname that Americans gave to the first pedal bike, which was originally French: the vélocipède. With its wrought-iron frame and wooden wheels, it certainly gave its riders a good shaking!”
The shop was not an instant success, and Bankert had to win over the French public at a time when many people associated American donuts with fast food and Homer Simpson. “We had to prove that donuts were not necessarily mass-produced. By explaining that we got up at 4 a.m., that we made everything from scratch, and that our products were totally plant-based, we managed to create a loyal customer base. Our team is quite small – no more than 12 people – and on busy days we make more than 1,000 donuts.”
The pastry chef would like to open a shop in her native city in the U.S. one day. In the meantime, she is passionately pursuing the conquest of her adoptive home. Last February, she opened a second shop almost opposite Boneshaker, called Brownie Bar, at 77 Rue d’Aboukir. The space is a third of the size, but it brings in just as many hungry customers. One of the leading products are the renowned “brookies,” a melt-in-the-mouth marriage of brownies and cookies (see recipe below). “I first encountered this very American mash-up at one of my old espresso haunts in Pigalle, KB Coffee Shop. For me, brookies were synonymous with Paris and its culinary culture. Sorry, pastry aficionados!”
Ingredients (makes 12 brookies)
For the brownie batter:
1/2 c. vegan stick butter
2 c. chopped dark chocolate (or chips)
1⁄4 c. sugar
2⁄3 c. dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. aquafaba
2 c. all-purpose flour
3⁄4 c. cocoa powder
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. instant espresso powder
1 tsp. salt
For the cookie dough:
1⁄2 c. vegan butter, at room temperature
1⁄2 c. sugar
1⁄2 c. dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tbsp. plant milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
1 1⁄2 c. dark chocolate, chopped
1. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang to easily lift out the brookies after they’re baked.
2. In a double boiler (or in the microwave in 30-second intervals), melt the butter and chocolate together until the chocolate has just melted.
3. Transfer the mixture to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer), add the sugars and vanilla, and beat on high speed until lighter in color and fluffy. Add the aquafaba in four additions, beating on high speed until even lighter and fluffier.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, cornstarch, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt. Add to the wet mixture and mix on low until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
6. To make the cookie dough, cream together the butter and sugars in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in the milk and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda, and stir just until combined, then fold in 1 cup of the chocolate.
7. Dollop and swirl the cookie dough over the surface of the brownie batter, leaving gaps in between. Sprinkle the remaining 1⁄2 cup of chopped chocolate over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil, lightly bang the pan against the counter, and bake for another 20 minutes, rotating the pan when you return it to the oven. Allow to cool completely at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours before slicing (cut while the brookies are cold).
8. Dust the top of the brookies with sea salt flakes, like Maldon, before serving!