One of the most popular baked goods at the Florida Strawberry Festival, the Amish Doughnut has a production process that yields customer satisfaction.
Out of the more than 20 events the Amish Baking Co. travels to throughout the country every year, the Florida Strawberry Festival and its half a million visitors serves as one of their most popular stops.
Nate Peachey, along with siblings Sam and Sadie Peachey, have been serving up their old-world doughnuts since 2007. Nothing, Nate Peachey said, beats the devotion and desire the siblings see here in Plant City.
“Nothing beats the Strawberry Festival,” Nate Peachey said. “We have people who come up from Sarasota and as far as 100 miles away. We don’t see that anywhere else.”
Guests who have been to the festival are likely intimately familiar with the confectionated, buttercream-drenched dream of ethereal goodness that is an Amish Doughnut. The face-sized fluff pillows are made daily on the spot from the dough on up, using a generations-old Peachey family recipe.
The Peacheys grew up Amish and moved around frequently. Their travels took them to Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio before the health of their father, Thomas Peachey, settled them in an Amish community near Sarasota. Travels which, Sam Peachey said, could be difficult when traveling via horse and buggy.
They grew up bakers as well, working in their family’s North Carolina-based Peachey’s Home Baking company. The siblings made sourdough breads, pretzels and other baked goods to sell at local farmer’s markets. It was there, Sam Peachey said, that he and his siblings fell in love with the process of baking and selling their confections.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with dough,” Sam Peachey said. “I like working with food, period. It’s a great feeling to make a product that’ll make people smile when you give it to them. That always makes my day.”
The love his family shares for their products is evident in the care put into the production process.
The Amish doughnut is yeast-based, as opposed to the regular cake-like donut, which takes longer to make. It takes about one hour to get the doughnuts ready.
After setting aside 20 minutes for the yeast to rise, the other ingredients including egg, salt and flour — and even potato — are added to the concoction.
The dough is then separated and formed, where it rests for the yeast to rise once more. When ready, the doughnuts are fried for about four minutes per side and dunked into a buttercream-based glaze.
“The dough is very sensitive,” Sam Peachey said. “It’s time-sensitive from when you start mixing it to when it’s ready to use.”
It’s part science and part art, he said. It’s necessary to know what the dough should feel like when it’s ready. If it sits for more than one hour unused, it must be thrown away.
The yeast-risen style is what gives an Amish Doughnut its familiar light and fluffy texture. The frying gives it a crispy shell. Biting into a warm doughnut, sweet crisp gives way to a fluffy, melt-in-the-mouth experience.
While the menu doesn’t often change, the Amish Baking Co. found inspiration at the festival and created the Sweetheart Doughnut, exclusively sold during their time in Plant City.
In essence, it’s the siblings’ take on a strawberry shortcake: a glazed Amish doughnut topped with fudge, fresh strawberries (from Plant City, of course) and whipped cream.
The life of a nomadic baker can be strenuous. Sam and Nate Peachey travel most of year, heading as far north as Michigan. They work for weeks on end, often putting in 16-hour days.
But they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You work really hard while you’re working,” Sam Peachey said. “Then, you get to relax and have some downtime. It’s all about balance. This is by far the best thing I’ve done, career-wise.”
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