Recipe for Beck’s Harvest House pumpkin doughnuts is a well-kept secret
Wed., Oct. 26, 2022
Customers line up inside and outside of Beck’s Harvest House in Green Bluff on Friday when they open to begin selling their popular pumpkin doughnuts. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
Everyone who has tried the pumpkin doughnuts at Beck’s Harvest House has likely come away with a few thoughts in mind.
First, “Wow, these donuts are perfect.” Second, “Did we really just wait for an entire hour for them?” Third, “Yes, and we’ll do it again.”
Beck’s Harvest House has been selling their trademarked “World Famous Pumpkin Donuts” for nearly 15 years.
Going on three generations, the family business shows no signs of slowing down. Just don’t expect the lines to speed up anytime soon.
There are plenty of places where you can find a pumpkin doughnut mix, but the recipe used at Beck’s Harvest House is one of a kind.
“When mom and dad first started, years and years ago … agrotourism wasn’t quite as big a deal as it is now,” Todd Beck said. “But they’d heard about other farms doing these pumpkin doughnuts.”
They tracked down a second-hand machine online.
“But it took them five years at least to keep tweaking the recipe till they came out with a doughnut that had the flavor, the crispness, the consistency, the color … that they were looking for,” he said. “They just kept adjusting it, but once they got it dialed in … nothing’s changed.”
Passed down from Beck’s parents, the recipe remains a closely guarded secret.
“I could probably count on one hand the people that know the recipe,” Todd Beck said. Most of those in the know are family, and the ones who aren’t might as well be. “We’re very protective of every part … from the grease that we use, the way we mix it, what goes into it, the timing. That’s all just for a very select number of people to know.”
Depending on demand, the kitchen will run one to three machines from open to close. On a high-volume day – for example, a Sunday with decent weather – the kitchen will make and sell around 10,000 doughnuts from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“They’re very old machines and they’re very finicky so you’ve gotta baby ’em,” he said, sharing a nod with his chief doughnut-maker, Lane Langford. “You’re constantly working … to make sure that they’re running properly.”
Of their six Belshaw “doughnut robot” machines, the newest is at least 15 years old.
“Our older machines were made in the ’60s and ’70s,” Todd Beck said.
All of the machines are handmade. Each has its own specially fitted parts. There’s no question of swapping one machine’s hopper bowl or plunger for another’s. The timing is so precise, if you start mixing the parts around, the donuts just won’t come out anymore.
So, what are we waiting for? Quality.
Why does it take so long? The production line, between mixing the dough to running the machines can only move so quickly.
“The doughnuts only come out as fast as they come out,” Kim Beck said.
Why don’t they just run more machines? Because the kitchen can’t accommodate the scale of production required to keep more than three machines running at one time.
“We physically can’t make the batter quick enough to add a fourth machine,” Todd Beck said.
Why can I only buy a dozen at a time? Because selling multiple dozens to individual buyers would significantly slow down the already slow line. The Becks want to give everyone a fighting chance, so don’t even think about cutting in the line.
“A lot of friends and people that know us personally come and visit us on the weekends and ask for doughnuts,” Kim Beck said. “But we turn everyone down, even our best friends, even our family members – because every time you go back and take a dozen out of the back it slows down the line.”
“We’re seasonal, we’re not a huge corporation,” Todd Beck said. “The people that work here … feel a connection to us because of the type of business we are … They’re part of our family.”
In parting, the Becks had a few words of doughnut-eating advice.
The best time to eat the doughnuts is right after you’ve bought them. If you have to wait a few minutes, don’t close the bag. If you need to reheat, throw the doughnuts in an air fryer or microwave with a little butter.
Then feel free to get back in line.
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