No, of course D is not for Diet. Diet is a 4-letter word. Can’t have that here! 🙂
D is for DOUGHNUT or, if you prefer, DONUT. Both are acceptable spellings in America, though “doughnut” is more traditional and “donut” is more advertising-lingo.
D is also for the Dutch settlers who brought their oliekoek [‘oil cake’] to America and where it became the basis of what we know know as a doughnut.
(Those Dutch settlers also brought cobbler, cookies, and apple pie to America. They get my award for most useful and beloved colonial American immigrant import. I mean, what did the Puritans bring, aside from a gloomy piety? Just sayin’. )
It’s gone through many refinements since the first “nut” of dough Washington Irving described in 1809 as “balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called doughnuts.” In the mind-19th century, a teenager on a trading ship, Hanson Gregory, added the hole to the dough, to ensure the center was fully cooked. That became the American doughnut as we know it today.
Of course, there are a lot more options available now.
Cake or yeast-raised? Old-fashioned or glazed?
Plain or fancy?
Chocolate, plaid, striped, sprinkled, sugared, frosted, filled?
Under all the embellishments, the American doughnut is, at its holey core, fried sugary dough. And Americans have no monopoly on that delectable confection. From churros to zeppoli, doughnuts in their infinite variation are truly a global concept.
Bombolini in Italy, filled with jam or chocolate. French beignets, hot fritters dusted with powdered sugar. The jam-filled Berliner is popular in Germany (except in Berlin, where it’s called pfannkuchen — which the rest of Germany knows as pancakes).
Latin America has many versions of bunuelos — Cubans use yuca and drizzle the fried dough balls with anise syrup; in Columbia the treat is saltier, made with cheese curds.
Tunisian yo-yo’s are covered in honey and decorated with sesame seeds. Chinese sesame seed balls, jin deui or matuan, are filled with sweet black bean paste. In Nepal, the ring-shaped sel roti is made from rice flower with cardomom and mashed banana, then cooked in ghee; it’s a traditional part of the Hindu Tihar celebration.
Everyone around the world loves doughnuts, but the biggest fan must be Homer Simpson:
Nowadays I rarely indulge [see 4-letter word, above] but when I do, I’m lucky to live not far from Bob’s Donuts on Polk Street, where they make my favorite: cake-style, cinnamon sugar coated. Yum!
What’s your favorite? Cake, plain, chocolate, cruller? Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts?
National Doughnut Day is the first Friday in June. This year, that’s June 7, 2013. Mark your calendars.