National Doughnut Day is celebrated in the US on the first Friday of June which was June 1st this year, so perhaps it’s somewhat apt that the We Knead To Bake group is baking yeasted doughnuts this month. In 1917, Salvation Army female volunteers made thousands of fresh donuts for homesick American soldiers serving in France during World War I. Apparently the soldiers loved them so much, that it earned them a nickname of “doughboys”!
Then in 1938, first National Doughnut Day was held to raise funds for the Salvation Army. Today though, it’s not surprising that the US continues to dedicate one day a year to celebrate doughnuts considering that the US Doughnut industry is supposedly worth something like $3.6 million annually!
Have you wondered what would be the proper way to spell this confection with a “hole” in the middle? It seems that “Doughnut” is the proper way to do it, though the shortened form of “Donut” is now accepted and can be found in dictionaries along with the longer spelling.
There are some rather interesting, almost improbable stories which are told about how the Doughnut got its start. One theory has to do with a 19th Century sea captain, named Hanson Gregory. It seems his mother used to make a deep-fried dough with her son’s spice cargo of nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon rind.
She would pack them for her son and his crew to take on their long voyages. Mrs Gregory used to put hazel nuts or walnuts in the centre of the doughnut where the dough would otherwise not cook well and this is supposed to have given Doughnuts their name.
However, the hole in the Doughnut is credited to Hansen. Some versions say he was eating a Doughnut (without the hole) while sailing in a storm. Suddenly, the ship rocked violently and a spoke on the ship’s wheel impaled his cake, creating the now well-known “hole” in the Doughnut.
Other versions say that Hansen was a bit of a cheapskate and was just trying to save on food costs by making the hole in the middle. Another highly improbable version says he was visited by an angel who told him the doughy centres of the Doughnut had to go!!!
All we do know is that Gregory Hansen put the “hole” in the modern Doughnut and that he came to an unfortunate end when he was eventually burnt at the stake for being a witch in the mid-19th century.
Today, it is mostly agreed that it was the Dutch who brought Doughnuts to the U.S. in the 1800s as “Olykoeks”, or oily cakes which were deep-fried balls of dough. They’re supposed to have accidentally discovered the “Olykoek” when a cow kicked a pot full of boiling oil over onto some pastry mix, turning it golden brown!
Doughnuts and I go back a long way and I love them. I have always fried my doughnuts and a couple of my attempts have made it on this blog. Some time back, I discovered one could bake them too, but for some reason I never got around to baking mine.
A lot of people think that if something is baked, then it’s healthy or at least, healthier than something that’s deep-fried. While this is true in some cases, it’s not true in most. A lot of the taste and the crisp/ crunch in many baked goods come from the amount of butter in them which can be a lot.
And if people use hydrogenated fats like margarine instead of butter, that’s even worse in my opinion. It really might be a better bet to actually deep-fry than bake in some instances where the recipes call for huge amounts of butter!
However, I have always wanted to try baked doughnuts. A while back, I had tested some doughnut recipes for Lara Ferroni when she was writing her doughnut book and she was nice enough to send me a copy of her book. There’s a recipe for baked doughnuts in it, and I had marked that to try out eventually. I have adapted her recipe a bit and turned it egg-free too.
Are baked doughnuts better than deep-fried doughnuts? It all depends on how you look at them. If you keep an open mind about the whole doughnut business, then you might find both versions appealing, but in different ways. I personally think that fried doughnuts are THE doughnuts.
Yet I must confess that I liked the baked kind as well. They are nice, but in a different way. Right now, they’re a big hit in my home. My daughter just loves them. One nice thing about these baked doughnuts is that they are good even when they’re a few hours old unlike the fried kind which are really best eaten fresh.
Baked Yeasted Doughnuts.
(Adapted from Lara Ferroni’s Doughnuts)