Owned and operated by Jessica Aversa, Jess’s Doughnuts has found the doughnut-shaped niche in Ann Arbor’s appetite.
From its apple fritters to its Moroccan coffee doughnuts, the local doughnut company regularly sells its delightful circles of dough at pop-ups around the city.
We emailed the busy baker about what got her interested in doughnuts, her favorites and future pop-ups.
Having her own sweet tooth, Aversa told us that she’s been baking since she was young and that she started with her grandmother’s collection of recipes. After bartending around Ann Arbor for 10 years and learning about crafting cocktails, Aversa changed the direction of her life and decided to go to culinary school at Schoolcraft College in Livonia. From there, the previous home-baker proofed her baking skills at Zingerman’s Bakehouse for six years as both a bread baker and in the pastry department.
But doughnuts were new territory. After talking to friend -- and now business partner -- Jeff Sipple, about what it would take to start a doughnut shop, Aversa decided to change her direction yet again.
“We noticed that not only is there a lack of doughnuts in the Ann Arbor area, but most of them [doughnut shops] don’t make anything from scratch. At the end of the conversation, he asked if I had any interest in joining him in this new adventure,” Aversa said.
“I gave my notice at work and he and I have been working toward finding the right brick and mortar situation ever since. In the meantime, we're fortunate to exist during pop up dining culture.”
And Jess’s Doughnuts pop-up events almost always sell out. In fact, Aversa has a pop-up scheduled at LIVE on Dec. 22 and, of course, tickets for the event sold out in 36 hours.
For those drooling for some doughy goodness, Aversa told us that she plans to have a secret doughnut party on Dec. 18 but she won’t release the time or location until the day before. Boxes of her doughnuts will be limited and sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
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Regarding her favorite doughnuts to make (and eat) Aversa has quite a few, like her vanilla glazed brioche, a raspberry rosemary glazed doughnut and a passionfruit curd doughnut. She also has fun making her seasonal s’more doughnut.
“We switch out the marshmallow flavor seasonally. They're quite easy to make from scratch and give me an excuse to use a blow torch,” Aversa said.
But Aversa also loves to make fritters. She said that she changes up the fruits she uses seasonally, so as to match what’s available in Michigan, and plans to incorporate pear and pineapple fritters soon.
While Aversa already has some really fun flavors, like Concord Grape and Pistachio, she also gathers inspiration from outside sources. Her husband, a lead bartender and managing partner at The Last Word, is her dedicated taste tester and pop-up companion, so she occasionally gains inspiration form his cocktail creations.
As for the incredible amount of glazed success of her popups, Aversa said it was unexpected.
“Doughnuts are this crazy thing that people want to buy up by the half-or-full dozen. It wipes out my supplies pretty quickly,” said Aversa. She makes the most that she can in the space that she uses and is thankful for the support of the Ann Arbor culinary community.
“My former employers, Watershed Hospitality, have given me access to the kitchen at The Last Word when they aren’t using it. It’s an unconventional pop up space (we sell out of the adjoining LIVE nightclub), but so far it’s our best option to sell the doughnuts where they are made,” Aversa said. “Their kitchen staff, led by chef Nate Coleman, has been very welcoming and supportive.”
Aversa has also had pop-ups at The Standard Bistro and Larder as well as Matty J's in Saline, MI.