|Joe Hermes, senior fresh foods director for baked goods at 7-Eleven tastes one of the new donuts.
Joe Hermes, 7-Eleven Inc. senior fresh foods director for baked goods, has sweet memories of the German bakery just blocks away from his grandparents’ home in Louisville, Ky. His favorite bakery treat? Donuts with chocolate icing.
7-Eleven stores are now introducing a richer, fudgier icing for its chocolate-covered donuts – one Hermes knows well from his childhood visits to Wohlleb’s Bakery in Louisville. The new chocolate donuts are available in 4,800 U.S. and 400 Canadian stores that carry fresh-made-daily baked goods.
Founded in 1919, Wohlleb’s Bakery was a Louisville institution for more than 90 years and influenced Hermes’ decision to enter the bakery business. As an adult, Hermes ran his own independent bakery, worked in bakery operations for a national grocery retailer and for Dawn Food Products, a commercial baking supplies company. He joined 7-Eleven Inc. to head up the company’s fresh bakery and pastry program whereby stores order daily and receive overnight sweets and morning treats. The fresh-made products are prepared every day of the year by third-party experts in bakery facilities where 7-Eleven has a concentration of stores.
Instead of making donuts by the dozen in retail shops, Hermes oversees the daily production of millions of cookies and brownies, apple fritters and muffins, croissants and bagels for 7-Eleven stores.
So when it came time to pump up the ever-popular donuts, he remembered the indulgent chocolate icing and worked to find a similar recipe. .
Interestingly, the son of the Louisville bakery’s founder went to work for Bessear Company, which commercialized the icing from his dad’s shop. Bessear was purchased by Dawn Foods in the 1980s. The professionals at Dawn recognized the winning chocolate icing recipe and kept it in their recipe files.
Hermes approached 7-Eleven’s bakery partners, including Dawn, across the country, about creating a richer, more decadent chocolate icing for its donuts. The first round of icing entries numbered in the hundreds. Dawn’s entries included the Wohlleb Bakery recipe, created so many years ago. Dozens of taste tests resulted in the selection of the winning icing.
Hermes wasn’t the only one who thought the Wohlleb’s chocolate icing was the clear favorite. Third-party bakery partners who produce 7-Eleven’s delivered-fresh-daily products know a winner when they taste it. Although critically important, flavor is just one measure of a successful recipe. Mouthfeel or texture, melting point and appearance are also taken into account. The Wohlleb recipe consistently rose to the top and, ultimately, was chosen to coat the millions of donuts sold at 7-Eleven stores.
Hermes knows his icings, especially chocolate. “This is a pre-eminent chocolate icing, and is one of Dawn’s premium products,” Hermes said. “We tweaked the recipe a little to make it smoother, but the taste is just as delicious as I remember it from the local bakery on 36th and Broadway.”
Although Wohlleb’s Bakery has long been closed, that family’s famous chocolate icing can continue to delight customers who purchase chocolate-covered donuts from participating 7-Eleven stores’ bakery case.