With a doughnut in each hand, anything is possible.
— Jameela Jamil
Gunkin’ Doughnuts, a newly established artisanal bakery outpost in downtown New Paltz, owned and operated by climber/master baker Rachel Wyman, continues to gain traction, moving from a once-a-week outdoor sweet-shop to a permanent home on Main Street in the Village.
As a child growing up in Maryland, Wyman grew fascinated by baking, watching her grandmother make wedding cakes and other homemade pastries. After graduating college, she studied baking and pastry at the highly reputed Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park. During that time, she became familiar with New Paltz, as she began to pass through on her way to Boiceville, where she worked for Bread Alone. “Going back and forth across the river, I really began to enjoy New Paltz and all of its outdoor offerings for running and biking,” she said.
While New Paltz held a special place in her heart, life pulled her in a different direction as she began to have children, and decided to start her own business: the Montclair Bread Company, in Montclair, New Jersey. Shortly after opening this bakery, Wyman found herself as a participant on the Donut Showdown, a reality baking competition on the Food Network, which she won. “It was crazy!” While artisanal breads are her mainstay, doughnuts had always been a fun, creative and much-beloved pastry niche of hers – so much so that she launched the Montclair 5K Donut Run, as an active runner and one of some 2,000 members of a running club that meets for a run and doughnuts every Saturday morning in Montclair.
While the Montclair Bread Company is still going strong and has become a fixture in the New Jersey township, Wyman found herself drawn more and more back to New Paltz – especially when the world was put on pause during the pandemic. “I found myself coming to New Paltz at least once a week with my partner and enjoying all of the trails to run on,” she said. “Soon it was twice a week, then three times a week. And I also found myself loving the ability to ride my bike on carriage roads with no cars.” Wyman had suffered a bad cycling accident in New Jersey while riding along the roads, and since then has preferred to bike in a non-motorized environment.
As she delved deeper into the Gunks lifestyle of running, hiking and biking, the logical next step of anyone who becomes enticed by the Ridge was to begin rock climbing. “I met the most amazing people from rock climbing, and when we’d come up on the weekends, I’d bring them doughnuts from my shop in Montclair, and they loved them and said I should sell them up here.” As the idea took hold, one of her rock-climbing buddies introduced her to the Open Air Market, a farmers’ market that takes place in downtown New Paltz every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. “They were so welcoming and said that I could rent a spot there, which is what I’ve been doing, and it just took off.”
Before she could start selling her baked wares, she had to think of a name, which came fairly easily with Gunkin’ Doughnuts. Then she asked her 13-year-old daughter, Josie, “to come up with an image of someone dangling off a cliff holding a doughnut, which she did – and that’s our logo!’” she said proudly. They then created a website for people to preorder their products. The doughnuts, cakes and breads that Wyman makes are all handcrafted and made from scratch. Each has a unique flavor, twist and, of course, topping. One of her most popular creations is the Sour Doughnut, which is vegan, using wild yeast, flour, water, salt and some palm sugar. “They take 36 hours to make and use no dairy or eggs,” said Wyman. Depending on what’s in season, she can add toppings like blueberry or peach, which she has been using the past few weeks.
While there are some vegan options, most of Wyman’s doughnuts are made with brioche dough, which has a rich, buttery flavor. Then they are “fried, which is how they make doughnuts in Europe,” she explained. “Here, most doughnut shops just have a mix that they pour water into. The doughnuts are doughy and kind of flavorless, and then just topped with sugar glazes or fillings.”
What she does is to build the doughnut from the dough up. “I make an apple crumb doughnut that has layers of apples within the brioche dough, and cinnamon, before they are fried, glazed in vanilla and topped with baked oat crumble.” She also has a carrot cake doughnut that uses carrot juice instead of milk and has carrot shavings in the dough, topped with carrot cake crumble from the carrot cake recipe that her grandmother always uses that has become a family heirloom.
While she plans on keeping her Montclair Bread Company, the demand for her cakes, doughnuts and breads has grown exponentially in New Paltz. She was led by local business owners who wanted to support her to the storefront on Main Street that was Tommy C’s Deli for a long time. “I thought it was the perfect spot for a bakery, and we’re going to open in October!” She plans to have lots of grab-and-go items, as well as her artisanal breads, cakes, pastries, breakfast sandwiches and plenty of indoor seating for those wanting to savor their doughnuts and coffee.
“Montclair is only an hour drive, and I have the greatest team at the Bread Company. We’re so tight, and we’re all outdoorsy people. They’re excited for this and so am I!”
According to Wyman, she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community. “So many of the local business owners came out to the market and introduced themselves to me. People at the market have been so welcoming, and I’m excited to grow more roots in the community. I did the [Shawangunk Runners’] Summer Series this year and it was amazing. I’d like to bring the Gunkin’ Doughnut 5K here as well! What’s better than a doughnut after a run?”
To learn more about the wide array of Gunkin’ Doughnuts and to preorder, go to www.gunkindoughnuts.com or follow them on Instagram @gunkindoughnuts.