Doughnuts, also popularly known as ‘Donuts’ are deep fried cakes with a very heavily debatable origin. In recorded history, early doughnuts were made by the Dutch, which they used to call ‘olykoeks’ or ‘oil cakes’. Cakes made of yeast dough, rich in eggs, butter and spices, they were deep-fried either in pork fat or rapeseed oil until they turned golden brown. The center of the cake took time to cook than the outside, so many times it was stuffed with fruits, nuts or other things that did not require cooking. The sweetness of the doughnut came from the filling and the final dusting of sugar. These were special savouries eaten during the Dutch Christmas and New Year and special occasions throughout the year.
History of Arabian cuisine also has doughnuts, where small fried portions of unsweetened yeast dough were dipped in sugary syrup to sweeten them. In the 15th century Germany, these were made with meat and mushroom fillings because of shortage of sugar!
Doughnuts came to America along with the Dutch immigrants. With influences from different cultures, the doughnut went through many transformations, but the problem of the uncooked center without any filling remained.
It was on June 22, 1847, that Hansen Gregory, an American ship captain, came up with a solution. He punched a hole in the center of the dough ball, which increased the surface area and exposure to hot oil, which helped in eliminating the uncooked center. There are many versions of how Gregory came across this idea about the doughnut hole. One says he spiked the doughnut on the ship’s steering wheel to free both hands to steer the wheel; another says an angel gave him this idea in his dream!
The origin of the name doughnut also has many versions. According to some, it got its name from its center filled with nuts, while some claim it refers to the ‘dough knots’ which were one of the popular shapes for the ‘oil cakes’.
The first automated doughnut machine was created by Adolph Levitt in 1920. And the futuristic automated doughnut making process was featured at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1934.
Other interesting events that took place on June 22:
1633: Galileo Galilei was forced to retract his view that the Earth revolves around the Sun by the Pope.
1675: The Royal Greenwich Observatory was established in London by Charles II.
1814: The first match was played at the present Lord’s. It was played between MCC and Herefordshire.
1832: Pin manufacturing machine patented by John Howe.
1844: The famed North American fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon was founded at Yale University.
1848: The June Days Uprising in Paris began on this day.
1870: The first Broadwalk was invented in America on this day.
1874: The game of lawn tennis was introduced on this day.
1910: The first airship, ‘Zeppelin Deutschland’ sets afloat with passengers.
Text by Tasneem Dhinojwala