Lisa Clark takes a novel approach to doughnut making. She actually prepares them herself, from scratch, every day. No cost-cutting commercial mixes, no short cuts. The payoff speaks for itself.

"Good doughnuts are just a matter of using good ingredients," she said. "Just doing that can dramatically change the flavor, for the better. It's not that complicated. In the doughnut world, you can buy everything frozen, fry it up and go. That requires about three hours of training, and you're done. I didn't want to do that."

Although Clark's Mojo Monkey Donuts in St. Paul has only been open for about a month, the idea has been germinating in her head for years, starting with a long stint at Breadsmith.

"What really stuck with me is that when you walk into Breadsmith, you see bakers making bread, by hand," she said. "They're making something fresh, that day, with real ingredients. When consumers see that with their own eyes, they recognize that what they're buying is special."

The vast majority of raised doughnuts have the texture and taste of deep-fried cotton candy, smothered in a diabetes-inducing glaze. Not Clark's. Her secret: She incorporates her own sourdough pre-ferment -- there's that Breadsmith training in action -- and enriches her yeasted dough with mashed potatoes and parsnips, a combination that injects a moist heft into each ethereal bite. She coats it with a mango-honey blend for an unexpected flavor pop, then adds a pretty garnish of fat and crunchy dried coconut flakes. It's not an exaggeration to state that I have never tasted a better raised doughnut in Minnesota.

Clark cleverly enlists that dough into all kinds of admirable uses. There are round, pudgy Bismarcks filled with espresso-enriched chocolate mousse, or rectangular beauties she calls "bars," but my dad would label a Long John, finished with a glaze flavored with genuine maple syrup and topped with a long slice of crisp bacon. Clark can barely keep up with the semi-insane demand, sometime selling a hundred of them in a single day.

The tender cake doughnuts are also exceptionally good, with trace scents of nutmeg and mace tickling your nose as you bite into them. The outer shell has just the right golden crispness, and it envelopes a moist, air-pocketed interior that will prevent you from buying a supermarket doughnut again. Ever.

Clark serves them straight-up, but also has fun playing with the formula. Sometimes she lavishes them in a naughty vanilla ganache, sprinkled with chopped walnuts. Or she infuses them with chai tea, or pumpkin puree. Or folds in Minnesota-made apple cider and chunks of fresh-from-the-orchard apples, or combines Dutch cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate for her spin on German chocolate cake.

"It's weird, in a good way, how much you can do with a basic cake doughnut," Clark said.

Two tips: Arrive early -- or order in advance -- as Clark and her crew routinely deplete their inventory by mid-day. Also, prepare yourself, because spending even five minutes inside Mojo practically guarantees you'll be cloaked in Eau de Doughnut for the rest of the day.