-By John Lynds
A peculiar thing happens each Saturday and Sunday at the corner of Bennington and Moore Streets. At about 9 a.m. a line begins to form at the corner and sometimes stretches for some distance down Bennington. The people in line are not waiting to buy sold out tickets to some sports game or entertainment show.
This group of patient people are simply waiting for the next batch of old fashioned, homemade donuts to come out of the kitchen at Betty Ann Food Shop.
“I’m from Woburn,” one woman in line said Sunday morning outside the shop. “I try to get here every Sunday morning for the donuts.”
Known for their currant filled chewy donuts that are fired and rolled in crunchy sugar, Betty Ann’s ‘sinkers’, as they are locally known, have been made the same way since the bakery opened in 1931.
When Bill Scantlebury, who inherited the bakery from his father who inherited from his father, finally emerges from the kitchen with a cookie sheet overflowing with hot donuts, the smiles of those in line are evident right away.
First the aroma of the fresh batch hits you and there is something warm and cozy about that yeasty baked goodness similar to the smell of fried dough at a carnival that makes the lips pucker and the mouth water.
Then, at 50 cents a donut or $6 a dozen the nearly free circles of bliss are stuffed in brown lunch bags and hauled away by patrons.
“They are the best donuts around,” said another silver-haired customer in line. “I know a lot of people talk about Kane’s and other places but these are the real deal, these are the donuts I grew up on.”
The line consists of people from Eastie but as far way as Lynnfield, Woburn and Salem.
Each weekend former East Bostonians or people who simply know about this neighborhood gem make the pilgrimage for perhaps the best morning treat a half a buck could buy.
“They sit in your stomach for a good day and a half,” said another patron. “They are awesome.”
While Scantlebury makes everything from pies to cookies to cupcakes and Boston Baked Beans on Saturdays, there are only five varieties of donuts–plain fried cake rings, crullers, yeasted rings, and the sinkers that are filled with either currant jelly or lemon.
But there is a lot of care that goes into these donuts, which are an old Scantlebury family recipe that hails from Cornwall, England,
First Scantlebury is up every morning at 4 a.m. to get the massive coal fired oven going. The donuts dough is risen twice–once over night and then again before they are fried. After a bath in hot oil the donuts are shoved in the coal oven in order to give the yeast a little extra lift thus making perfect orbits of decadence.
The sinkers are then hand filled with the jelly or lemon, rolled in granular sugar and then laid out on wax papered cookie sheet and distributed to the masses.
One bite of these donuts and you’ll never stop at chain donut shop ever again.
Betty Ann Food Shop is located at 565 Bennington St. and is open 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Fridays, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and closed on Mondays.