Wouldn’t you like to shake the hand of the person who invented the doughnut (or donut)? Deep-fried, tender and soft, ooey gooey jelly, jam, or custard-filled, chocolate glazed or powdered, sweet and oh-so-satisfying with a cup of coffee, a doughnut is the ultimate temptation for everyone.
Frying strips of pastry dough goes back to the time of ancient Greeks and Romans. During medieval times, Arabs enjoyed frying unsweetened yeast dough and dousing the cakes in syrup. Northern Europe took up the idea of fried dough, first with the English and then the Germans and Dutch making them popular. In Germany, these fritters were cooked with savory fillings like meat or mushrooms, among other fillings such as nuts. Virtually every culture across the globe has its own variation of fried dough.
The Pilgrims and Dutch settlers brought doughnuts to America. The hole became part of the doughnut, or “olykoeck” (oily cake), when eggs were added to the ingredients. The doughnut would fry too quickly on the outside, leaving the inside dough raw. In 1847, Captain Hanson Gregory, a Dutch sailor, punched a hole in the center of the dough ball. The hole increased the surface area, exposing it to the hot oil, and solved the problem of the raw center, creating the shape of doughnut we are familiar with today. Ever since, the popularity of doughnuts grew among Americans.
There are different types of doughnuts: the flattened sphere (the kind injected with jelly or custard) and the ring doughnut (the one with the hole). The doughnut holes are not wasted; they, too, are fried up as little balls of yumminess.
We mark the first Friday in June as National Doughnut Day. This year, it falls on June 3. The day was created by the Salvation Army in 1938 to honor the women who helped boost the morale of soldiers during World War I. These women were known as “The Lassies of the Salvation Army.” They served doughnuts to soldiers during the First World War, and in 1917, the Salvation Army Doughnut was born. American women were sent to the front lines of Europe as volunteers, helping to provide home-cooked foods to the battle-weary soldiers. They cooked doughnuts in oil inside the metal helmets of American soldiers. The infantrymen were then dubbed “doughboys.” Also, the soldiers’ round buttons on their uniforms looked like balls of dough. The name “doughboys” stuck.
Today, doughnuts are made across America in specialty shops with many unique flavors and toppings. Doughnuts such as bacon maple; sprinkled with crushed Oreos and peanut butter; mojito frosted; grilled cheese; pineapple basil; Sichuan pepper lemon curd-infused; orange sickle; s’mores – these are just some of the quirky combinations of innovative doughnuts you can find in bakery shops today.
While National Doughnut Day is the first Friday in June, June 8 is known as International Jelly Doughnut Day, so no worries if you miss the first Friday! If you plan your morning commute just right on National Doughnut Day and check with some local bakeries or a local Dunkin’ Donuts, you may score a free doughnut to enjoy with your coffee. If not, try making your own with the following recipe:
BASIC DOUGHNUT RECIPE
Add slowly, beating constantly:
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
5 tablespoons melted shortening
Sift before measuring:
4 cups bread flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon or
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
½ teaspoon salt
Stir the sifted ingredients and the egg mixture until they are blended. The dough may be chilled until it is easy to handle. Roll the dough to the thickness of ¼ inch. Cut it into shapes. Fry the doughnuts in deep fat, heated to 370 degrees (hot enough to brown a cube of bread in 1 minute). Brown them on one side, then turn them and brown them on the other. Sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar*.
FRYING DOUGHNUTS TIPS
When frying doughnuts, have a wide saucepan of boiling water ready. Lift each doughnut, as soon as it is fried, rapidly in and out of the boiling water. Place the doughnuts in a moderate oven at 375 degrees until they are dry and crisp. Sprinkle them with confectioner’s sugar or ice them, when cold, with cake icing.
*A good way to coat doughnuts with sugar is to place them in a paper bag, add the sugar, close the bag, and shake well.