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Vanessa L.

Origin of Doughnuts

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Anybody know anything about the origin or history of doughnuts? Fried dough is such a universal dish served in hundreds of ways, but someone has asked me about who the inventor of the doughnut hole was. I have been unable to find a definitive answer. Little help....?

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From Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink via FoodTimeline.org:

The history of doughnuts is interesting and complicated. Even the story about the how the hole was invented is full of conflicting evidence. Although ancient Roman cooks were known to fry sweet breads in oil, food historians generally credit the invention of deep-fried yeast pastries (oly koeks) to the people of Northern Europe. Presumably during Medieval times.

"The first American doughnuts did not have holes at all; they were quite literally little "nuts" of dough. The Pilgrims, who had spent the years 1607-1620 in Holland, learned to make doughnuts there and brought them to New England; the most direct antecedent of the pastry seems to be of German origin, and these doughnuts came in all shapes and sizes. The first mention of the term in print was in Washington Irving's History of New York...[1809]...

The Pennsylvania Dutch were probably the first to make doughnuts with holes in their centers, a perfect shape for "dunking"...in coffee, which has become a standard method of eating doughtnuts for Americans. There seems little real evidence to support the story of a Rockport, Maine, sea captain named Hanson Crockett Gregory, who claimed to have poked out the soggy centers of his wife's doughnuts in 1847 so that he might slip them over the spokes of his ship's wheel, thereby being able to nibble while keeping an even keel. Nevertheless, in 1947, a centenary plaque commemorating Gregory's alleged culinary creation was placed on the house where he had lived.

The actual 'inventor' of the doughnut and their name has probably has been lost to the tides of time.


-Kate

-----------

My food blog:

Accidental Hedonist - Food, travel and other irrelevent irreverence

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Vanessa,

I researched doughnuts for an article I wrote on apple cider doughnuts a couple of years ago. Here's the section on the history of doughnuts.

"The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion" (Countryman, 2003) is one of the few baking bibles to devote an entire chapter to fried dough. It traces the origins of doughnuts to Europe, where fried dough was among the delicacies traditionally consumed for pre-Lenten feasting.

Doughnuts later became associated with the cooler months for many settlers in the northeastern United States and Canada. Why? Because fall is the traditional season both for harvest and hog slaughter -- meaning it was the time of year when enough fat was available to fry doughnuts, which traditionally were cooked in lard. (Although most modern cooks fry doughnuts in vegetable oil, some purists still swear by lard to fry up the crispiest, lightest doughnuts.)

No specific mention of doughnut holes, sorry. My personal speculation is that the dough was first shaped into rings to allow easier storage and draining of fat. The earliest doughnuts (at least, the ones that had holes at all) probably were hand-shaped into rings, so there were no "holes," at least at first. Fast-forward to the industrial age and mass production, and then the holes likely were stamped out. But this is just my guesswork.

You might want to check if your local library has a copy of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food & Drink or other food encyclopedias.

If you find the origin of doughnut holes, I hope you'll post it here, I would love to know!


Edited by alacarte (log)

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Long ago I read somewhere - can't remember where - that the doughnut with a hole was devised by a woman in New England, based on the original big round doughnut such as the jelly doughnut that is German-Dutch, etc. The problem in frying was to get the center thoroughly cooked without burning the outside and she got the idea to cut the center out with, I guess, a sort of cookie cutter.

That same reason accounts for many ring-shaped cakes based on very dense or fragile doughs..such as kugelhopf or angel's food cake even though many use the ring form just for appearance sake.

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I have probably read or heard 100 stories about the hole in doughnuts. The most believable to me was the baker who would cool his pastries by piercing a hole through the middle and hanging them on a stick to cool evenly and avoid grease on one side. Eventually he just cut out the hole before baking/frying.

But Dunkin' Doughnuts has fueled the fire by just selling the holes and eliminating the rest of the pastry.


Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Associating the invention of doughnut holes with the spokes of a ship's wheel seems a little farfetched to me, but I have a couple of additional theories: ring-shaped dough is easier to fish out of hot oil, and allows the finished products to be stacked neatly on a stick for sale. I seem to recall there was a recent eGullet discussion on why bagels are ring-shaped, in which it was pointed out that some Middle Eastern pastries of ancient origin are ring-shaped and sold from sticks by street vendors. The clever "invention," then, would be the idea of cutting out the ring with a biscuit cutter rather than struggling to shape the dough into a rope then a circle. As to when this first occurred, I haven't a clue.


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Selling the "holes" certainly did not originate with Dunkin' Known as hearts, they were sold as a far back as the 1940s in NYC at a tearoom-cafe called Mary Elizabeth's and at a bakery in Southampton with a name that escapes me.

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As mentioned in all above posts, the American Doughnut originated in Northern Europe, to be more specific in Berlin Germany as a Jelly Doughnut.

Recipe below.

http://www.sheries-kitchen.com/recipes/german/berliners.htm

Does anyone remember President Kennedy's speech in Berlin at the Wall?

" Ich bin ein Berliner " ??

and how our wonderful media misconstrued the Interpretation of this ( I am a Citizen of Berlin ) into a literal Translation to the English 'I am a Doughnut', and our often uninformed public took this verbatum, and laughed and critized Kennedy.

Shame on all who did


Peter

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Does anyone remember President Kennedy's speech in Berlin at the Wall?

            " Ich bin ein Berliner " ??

Yes Sir. I've been there, and listened to his speech, but he didn't say these words at the Wall, it was on the balcony of the "Schöneberger Rathaus".


Edited by legourmet (log)

H.B. aka "Legourmet"

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You might check out the The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America published in 2004, edited by Andrew F. Smith. Food historian and consultant Alice Ross, one of the editors of the encyclopedia, would dispute many of the folkloric comments about the origin of doughnuts. It's actually quite a complicated story, as are many cultural developments (culinary or other), interweaving bits and pieces from many many sources. I don't have a copy of the volumes at my fingertips or I would check out and pass along any nuggets...

Ms. Sheraton, is it Crutchley's that you are thinking of? I have a recipe for Fenton Crutchley's Crullers from a New York Times article by Alden Whitman dated 12/6/78. Crutchley had a shop in Southampton and was then celebrating his 50th year as a baker..... And I, too, remember Mary Elizabeth's -- what a timepiece!

(BTW, I remember receiving a christmas copy of your "Visions of Sugarplums" as a little girl in the 1960s and being thoroughly delighted. Thank you.)

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Thanks everyone. Now I'm going to have to eat while I ponder all this....yum.....doooouuugghhnuut


“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”

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