I was sitting at Starbucks this morning drinking my Mocha latte and biting into a moist chocolate glazed, calorie laden doughnut feeling my cholesterol rise when a light bulb question went off in my mind. Where did the doughnut originate? I wondered almost out loudwho invented this tasty morning delight that every doctor tells us not to eat?
Like most food products, especially baked goods, there are many tales and trails that lead to various inventors and places of origination. The doughnut is no exception to that food fact. I will attempt to present the interesting history of the doughnut without eating too many, as I drink my coffee and munch, while relating the various accounts that cite the origin of the fried bakery dough all people love to splurge on when they think no one is looking.
ORIGINS OF THE DOUGHNUT/DONUT
It has been said that archaeologists have found petrified doughnuts at ancient dig sites in various parts of the world, but for the sake of historical veracity I will tell the history of the little fried dough bits starting from the point of recent historical verification (be that recent legends and facts).
Many historians give credit to a Dutch sailor named Captain Hanson Gregory (also known as Mason Crockett Hanson) who lived in New England, as being the inventor of the modern doughnut. Hanson's mother, Elizabeth was a fine baker and would make him "olykoek" ("oily cakes") to take on his sea journeys. The cakes she made did not have holes and the story goes that Hanson would impale the cakes on the ship's steering wheel, so he could eat as he navigated. "One story says that the sea captain invented the donut by impaling one of the cakes on the ship's steering wheel, to keep his hands free in a sudden storm, on June 22, 1847". Hanson liked the "oil cakes" better with a hole through the middle, because the center was always doughy gooey and didn't taste like the rest of the cake. From that point on the Dutchman had the ship's cook make the cakes with a hole cut out of the middle and the doughnut was born.
Another legendary twist to the Hanson story is that his mother Elizabeth made the "oil cakes" with fry dough and nuts, which she stuffed into the middle of the cakes. Hanson it is said hated the nuts and punched the center of the cakes out with his ship's steering wheel spindle. Thus the dough and nut cakes became known as doughnuts or fried cakes.
Another tradition says that bakers knew if the fried cakes had a hole cut in the middle of the cake it would cook faster. It was hard to get the fried cakes to cook evenly and the middle was always doughy and not firm like the rest of the cake. Necessity was the mother of invention and a hole was cut in the tasty greasy doughy breakfast cakes.
The Dutch tradition of frying leftover bread dough in hot oil (funnel cakes is an example) came to America with the immigrants. Doughnuts normally are round with a hole through the middle. Dutch fried pastry took on the name doughnut even though many of the food items were not circular like a wheel. Examples of these non circular fried cakes are twisted crullers and apple fritters. It is said by some this braided or twisted fried cake looked like a rope with knots and that is where the word "dough knots" began, later evolving into doughnuts.
In 1872, John Blondell took out the first patent for a doughnut cutter. A new food product industry was beginning to take shape.
During World War I, the doughnut became an American favorite. American soldiers fighting oversees were served doughnuts by the grateful French when liberation came. And according to "Donuts and the Salvation Army" - the Army takes credit for [helping] the popularity of donuts grow. This June is the 70th anniversary of Salvation Army 'Donut Day" in Chicago, established in 1938 to honor the work of the Salvation Army supporting the troops in World War I.
After World War I the fried cake doughnuts began to grow in popularity and a New Yorker named Adolph Levitt invented the doughnut maker machine. The doughnut industry boomed when the 1934 World's Fair in Chicago called the doughnut "the food hit of the Century Of Progress". Levitt was making twenty-five-million dollars annually selling his doughnut machines to bakeries across America in the 1930's.
And in 1948 William Rosenberg opened his first coffee and doughnut shop named the Open Kettle in Quincy, Massachusetts. He changed the name to Dunkin Donuts in 1950 and began opening franchises across the country.
The round little fried pastry took on a life of its own in America, unlike anywhere else in the world. Americans just love grease and fried foods and they must have their daily carbs! Starting in the 1950's many doughnut brands began to roll on to the market such as Krispy Kreme, Dolly Madison and many more. Now every strip mall in America has a donut shop and every Starbucks Coffee Store sells exotic varities you can hardly resist.
The world has known these little breakfast treats as many not quite doughnuts;
Aebelskiver,the Danish doughnut look-alikes that have a slice of apple inside; Beignet, a French version of the doughnut; Berliners (or Bismarcks), German versions of doughnuts, usually filled with jelly; Kolaches, a Czech pastry with a filled middle and the Zeppole, an Italian style pastry doughnut.
All I know for sure about this tasty pastry is Americans seem unable to live without them and they taste better with a cup of coffee than a granola bar!