For National Doughnut Day, we’ve decided to explore how the deep-fried treats came to North America. Here, people greeted them with wide smiles and open arms – much the same way they embraced the apple pie! Sometimes spelled donuts, they have roots in Middle Eastern cuisine. Even here, to this day, people will quickly gobble them up after soaking them in sweet syrupy concoctions. But how did they reach the US? Well, after making their way to Europe, they eventually came to the US with settling immigrants. During WWI, homesick Americans on the frontline in France eventually made them famous.
It was there in 1917 when the Salvation Army had the bright idea to arrange Doughnut Dollies or Salvation Army Lassies. This was to nourish the soldiers with cheer and fresh doughnuts. Apparently, they cooked the doughnuts in oil inside metal helmets. If this part is true, do you, like us, wonder how safe the oil heating process was?
Before this, however, Jewish communities had been enjoying deep-fried doughnuts for generations. They typically serve sufganiyot or bimuelos on holidays like Hanukkah. In these cases, deep-frying reminds everyone of the miracle of the Hanukkah oil. But what about the hole in the donut we’re all familiar with? Well, this became necessary when bigger globs of batter were dropped into the hot oil. It was a means to combat the raw interior left when the exterior was cooked to perfection and needed to be removed from the frying oil.
There’s also talk of the 1840s Captain Hanson Gregory. His mother used to fry doughnuts for the sailors and plug the centre of the dough balls with hazelnuts or walnuts. Thus, this gave the treats their literal name. But another rumour describes the same Captain impaling a tasty dough ball on a spoke of the steering wheel. He did this so he could use two hands to direct his sea vessel during a storm!
The consistency from technology really cinched the production side for small businesses in the 1920s. This was when Adolph Levitt made the first automated doughnut machine. From here, Vernon Rudolph would launch his Krispy Kreme empire during 1937 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with a recipe his uncle had given him after a trade with a travelling Frenchman in Paducah, Kentucky. William Rosenberg would later follow suit launching his own Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in 1950, which targeted blue-collar workers in Quincy, Massachusetts. These chains popularised the doughnut by increasing accessibility and associations with a morning cup of coffee.
What’s more important than tracking the doughnut origins or deciding how the hole became to be is choosing what donut you want to help you celebrate National Doughnut Day. With choices like iced, glazed, powdered, filled, cake, and cruller, there’s a lot of thinking to be done.
Happy dunkin’, everyone!