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On the Rise 

How Streusel SLC and Mad Dough bake their way through adversity.

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ALEX SPRINGER
  • Alex Springer

I think it's safe to say that if you're reading this right now, you need a pastry. Something light, fluffy and stuffed with a luxurious cream filling—or maybe something warm, cheesy and bedazzled with bacon.

Whatever pastry craving that little voice inside is telling you to indulge, chances are you'll find it inside Comcom Kitchen (67 W. 1700 South, comcomkitchen.com). Owned and operated by Danny Cheng and Dan Homer, this communal commissary—hence, comcom—kitchen is the home base of Streusel SLC (streuselslc.com) and Mad Dough (maddoughslc.com), two local bakeries that have been making all kinds of waves on social media.

Both bakeries have leaned on the flexibility that Comcom Kitchen affords local chefs and bakers, which is a powerful ally in the midst of this industry-throttling pandemic. Andrew Corrao, owner of Streusel SLC, sees the versatility of Comcom Kitchen not only as a boon during the pandemic, but as a way to show some love and respect to his employees. "If I have to use a commissary so I can pay my employees a living wage, then so be it," Corrao says during a phone interview. "Opening my own business was my way of building something that prioritizes people over arbitrary growth."

Consideration and a warm welcome are part and parcel of Streusel SLC, a self-described "judgement-free bakery," all of which come through in their selection of sweet and savory pastries. The foundation of Streusel SLC's menu comes from the Danish—spiraled rounds of dough with fillings like raspberry compote and cream cheese ($5) or hash browns and baked egg ($5). Others—like the pecan sticky bun ($5) and the triple cheese bacon roll ($5)—opt for total coverage with thick caramel or cheddar cheese. They all look endearing enough, but it's not until you take your first bite that you realize Carrao is an expert at using the dough's canvas to blend some truly remarkable flavors, the most surprising of which is the sticky bun; the caramel gives way to hints of orange and cardamom that blend beautifully on the tongue.

Carrao's skill for developing flavors isn't limited to the sweet side of the menu, either. The triple cheese bacon roll packs an initial bang of sharp cheddar and thick bacon, but the dough itself is spiked with an herbaceous cream cheese schmear that highlights the bolder flavors with some more subtle notes. If you're after something a bit more snack-sized, the huckleberry scone ($5) is a breezy, buttery pastry filled with dried berries and topped with a thin layer of vanilla berry icing.

On the other side of Comcom kitchen, Mandy Madsen and her team operate Mad Dough where they whip up their signature doughnuts—or doughnies ($4.50), if you're hip to their lingo. The doughnie is a cream-filled dream of pillowy texture dusted with extras like freeze-dried strawberry powder and toasted coconut. Madsen, a graduate from the culinary arts program at Utah Valley University, gained her experience in bakeries all over the Wasatch Front. She started Mad Dough in Comcom kitchen as a result of a pandemic-related layoff in mid-August. "I immediately hired some baker friends, and we're growing steadily," Madsen says. She met Carrao when she was in culinary school, and he invited her to check out Comcom Kitchen for her own growing business.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Mad Dough's pastries is how you're expecting them to give you roughly the same experience as a doughnut, only to get something else entirely. As much as I love a good doughnut, biting into this sinfully soft dough as a shot of vanilla or chocolate pastry cream explodes in your mouth is so much more than your average Bismarck. Once it's gone, you're left with cinnamon sugar or powdered strawberries to lick off your fingers, reminding you to indulge in another one as soon as possible.

Madsen's signature move is to incorporate the nostalgia of childhood treats—I'm a big fan of the Post Fruity Pebble garnish—into her work, making the whole experience into a blissful form of escapism. In my case, it was the chocolate banana doughnie. I grew up on chocolate banana milkshakes from Arctic Circle, and this was a celebration of that flavor combo with the addition of ground espresso and chocolatey sugar mixture on the outside. The chocolate banana cream in the center was excellent, and the espresso was just present enough to enhance the chocolate flavor.

As Madsen and her team constantly have the creative juices flowing, we can expect to see some savory options popping up on the menu sometime soon; I could see them cranking out the world's finest pierogi, but I trust their judgement implicitly. It's also a good idea to place your order ahead every Monday, keeping in mind that Mad Dough does both in-store pickup and delivery.

My trip to Comcom kitchen was filled with a variety of expertly made baked goods, which equals success in my book. I'm glad that these talented bakers have the flexibility to make something amazing while managing to keep afloat during this terrible pandemic. If you're a fan of baked goods in any shape or flavor, Streusel SLC and Mad Dough will take good care of you.

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