Do-nut Say No To The Donut
Essentially deep-fried cakes, doughnuts are made from sweetened dough and were historically around even before the New World existed. Although there is no evidence of when the first doughnut was made, some factual events state that the popular confectionary delight has Middle Eastern and European roots and was introduced to America by the Dutch. Tracing its history, cooks in ancient Rome and Greece would fry strips of pastry dough and coat them with honey or fish sauce. In the Medieval times, Arab cooks started frying up small portions of unsweetened yeast dough, drenching the plain fried blobs in sugary syrup to sweeten them.
These Arab fritters spread into northern Europe in the 1400’s and became popular throughout England, Germany and the Netherlands. In 15th century Germany, sugar was a prized ingredient so they would often cook their fritters with fillings like meat or mushroom. The Dutch however, deep fried yeast dough rich in eggs and butter, spices, and dried fruits and called them olykoeks (oil cakes or fried cakes), a ball-shaped dessert they enjoyed eating during the Dutch Christmas season.
These balls of cake were fried in pork fat until they were golden brown. The only issue was that with addition of egg yolks to the dough, the dough that was produced was richer and firmer because of which the cake on the outside cooked faster, leaving the center raw. To eliminate this problem, the treats were stuffed with nuts, fruit, or other fillings that did not need to be cooked. The famous hole in the center of the doughnut was also born out of the same necessity and is an invention that is attributed to Captain Hanson Gregory, a Dutch sailor whose mother made him some doughnuts for a voyage. There are different versions to this story of how the hole in the doughnut came about, some people say that the idea of the hole in the middle of doughnuts came to him in a dream sent by angels. The most popular version however, is said to have taken place in 1847 when Captain Gregory’s ship hit a sudden storm. He wanted to steer with both hands while enjoying his tasty treat, so he impaled his doughnuts on the ship’s steering wheel to keep his hands free. The spoke drove a hole through the raw center and the doughnut hole was born. No matter what the real story is, Captain Gregory is credited for the traditional ring shaped-donuts that we know today.
Eventually, Dutch immigrants who began settling in North America brought with them the tradition of making olykoeks and its different variations. Olykoeks evolved over time to become what we know today as donuts in America and all over the world. The origin of the dessert’s name has been a question for a while too. Initially it was believed that it was called doughnut because of the addition of nuts, others debated that it was shape of olykoeks (dough shaped in knots) that was the reason for its name.
Fast-forwarding to today, the donut is a favourite dessert that has become increasingly popular with the first friday of May every year dedicated to celebrating its goodness. The modern day donut has myriad variations and toppings that range from sweet to savoury and even gourmet. Grab your favourite donut and go nuts this International Doughnut Day!