Hey there, I’m Yvonne and you’re watching Color and Chill, the show that soothes your eyes, your ears, and your soul. Tonight’s episode of Facts to Fall Asleep is all about doughnuts! Whether you’re a lover of the airy soft yeast doughnut, prefer a denser cake doughnut, or just want to learn something new while you drift off to sleep, this is an episode that should bring you some pretty sweet dreams. You can either relax and listen to the whole episode while I color some doughnuts on the screen or check the timecodes in the description below to jump around to the topics that interest you the most. So, let’s settle down into a comfy position now, take a deep breath in while we imagine the delicious scent of a bakery first then in the morning, and then let it back out again slowly and try not to let our mouths water too much while we delve into everything that is the doughnut.
So, what exactly constitutes a doughnut? Where does it come from? Why do cops love them so much? Why does Homer Simpson? And perhaps, most importantly, is it spelled d-o-u-g-h-n-u-t or d-o-n-u-t? Let’s find out.
Oh, quick little note here. There are a lot of different names for doughnut-like treats from around the world that I’m going to be mentioning and I’m sure I won’t pronounce all of them correctly. If you have any questions about how to spell something, you can turn on the captions for this video since they’ll be written out there. Okay, now, back to the history of doughnuts…
Firstly, broadly considered, the doughnut is simply a piece of fried dough covered in a sweet topping. When we think of it in those terms, doughnuts have likely been around in some form or another since humans first learned how to grow and refine grains and produce oils from animals and vegetables during the Neolithic or Agricultural Revolution. Early flours were much different than the airy snow-like powders we know today. Ancient humans would grind wheat into a powder using stones and then water was added to make a simple dough. Roughly 5,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians began producing leavened bread using yeast, likely after airborne yeasts were accidentally introduced and then cultured. In fact, a three-thousand-year-old inscription from the time of Pharaoh Rhamses the third, may even depict cooks deep-frying strips of dough in a pot set over a fire. The ancient Greeks were the first society we can credit with having dedicated “bakers” who made and sold different breads to make their livings and the enkrides described in ancient texts appear to be morsels of fried dough dripping with honey, very similar to modern-day Greek loukoumades. Rome gave free bread to all of its citizens so no one would have to go hungry. But what about fried breads? Well at a time in history when oil was highly valued and scarce, fried breads would have been considered a delicacy for the rich as well as being saved for special religious holidays and rituals, some of which still remain in place today. Roman senator, Cato the Elder left behind a recipe for globi in his book “Di agri cultura,” which were deep fried balls made of equal parts fresh cheese and spelt flour, then dipped in honey and sprinkled with poppy seeds and eaten during the ancient celebration of Saturnalia. Even the Bible mentions a doughnut-like treat. Leviticus 7:12 says that a believer “shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes, mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried.” Jewish people today may still eat a jelly doughnut in celebration of Hanukkah and the miracle of oil that kindled the Temple Menorah for eight days. Likewise, Muslim people, depending on where they live may fry up treats such as Moroccan sfenj, which look very similar to our own Western doughnuts or zalabia which are long, baton shaped fried dough treats from Algeria, to break their fasts during Ramadan. And early Catholics created Carnival, a holiday to celebrate the coming of Lent, a sacred eventthat lasts 40 days and during which many abstentions are made. As Carnival would fall early in the spring, soon after pigs had been slaughtered, people found a way to use up all the leftover lard to fry up platters of sweet doughs and eat them at the celebration.
But that’s not all there is to say about ancient doughnuts. In China, during the Tang dynasty, which lasted from 618-907 CE, fried dough strips were enjoyed, and in France, sweetened pastries became popular after the Crusaders’ return from Asia in 1204, where they’d found cane sugar being used. Before that time, European foods were mostly sweetened with honey or fruit, with sugar as we know it being very scarce. But as milling techniques changed the world of flours, so did the growing popularity of sugar. In 1440, the Paris Pastry Guild formed and the invention of different French pastries boomed. Perhaps the earliest evidence of the doughnut, as we recognize it however, was found in the caves of Oklahoma by archeologist, Etienne Renaud in the late 1920s. Fossilized round cakes with the same circular form and holes in the middle that modern-day doughnuts have were estimated to be from 1500 BCE or earlier. Renaud guessed that the holes in these ancient doughnuts were probably made to hang them out of the reach of rodents and other creatures living in the cave with our ancient ancestors but that didn’t stop Americans from using the find to prove unequivocally that the doughnut is truly an American food.
Which may be the case since we really don’t see doughnuts as we do in America, circular rings of deep-fried goodness covered in a layer of glaze, or frosted and topped with sprinkles, anywhere else. Though other cultures have their own versions of sweet, fried doughs like the South Asian gulab jamun, the Polish paczki, the French beignet, the Native American fry bread, the Mexican sopapilla, Latin American churros, Persian zulbia, Brazillian sonhos, the Hawaiian malassada, Hindu laddus, Italian zeppolis, or the Bengali Ledikeni, among countless others, none of them are quite the same as the doughnut we’d find in a North American bakery or grocery store. And though big doughnut franchises like Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, and Tim Hortons, all of which we’ll discuss in greater detail shortly, have brought our version of doughnuts to the masses of the world, they are likely seen as an American treat no matter where they’re eaten. So where did the modern doughnut come from? And what’s with the name? Doughnut? Dough-nuts? Were they made look like nuts made from dough? Or did they originally contain nuts? So many questions for us to try to answer here.
As is the case with most historical matters, the origin story of the doughnut is a widely debated subject with several possible answers, the most persistent of which is that the Dutch settlers brought doughnuts with them to the United States, much in the same way that they’re credited with bringing apple pie and cobbler. Records show the Dutch making olykoeks or “oil cakes” as early as the mid-1600s. Since the center of the balls of dough didn’t cook up as quickly as the outsides, they would sometimes be stuffed with fruits, nuts, or other fillings that didn’t require cooking. Washington Irving, an American writer, included a passage in his 1809’s “History of New York” where he describes the Dutch olykoeks and then interchangeably calls them “dough nuts,” giving this Dutch-origin-story an extra leg up over other theories. That being said, in a future book written by Irving, he lists “dough nuts” and olykoeks as separate foods, perhaps knocking the Dutch-origin-story back down the pole a little bit.
Actually, the phrase “dough nut” was first used six years prior to Irving’s “History of New York” by Sussannah Carter in her 1803 cookbook, “The Frugal Housewife.” To be fair, she doesn’t compare her dough nuts to the Dutch olykoeks so whether her they were meant to be the same treat or not when she wrote about them remains in question.
An alternative origin-story asserts that the doughnut was brought to the new world by the Pilgrims, who made fried dough cakes to celebrate All Saints’ Day. Funnily enough, this argument has also been used to support the claim that people in Massachusetts eat more doughnuts than any other state in the U.S. and that it’s because it’s just inherently in their blood to do so.
Regardless of all that, arguments about whether the term doughnut actually referred to the nuts that the Dutch would put in their cakes or because they were little nut or knot shaped balls are still hotly debated because until 1847, the “dough nuts” didn’t have a hole in the middle. That particular innovation, is the claim to fame for one particular American ship captain, Hansen Gregory.
Gregory is credited with inventing the modern shape of doughnuts by punching a hole in the center of a dough ball before frying it to do away with the need for stuffing it to keep the center from being undercooked. Some claim the idea came to him in a dream delivered by angels and other legends center around him impaling the dough on one of the spikes of his wheel so he could use both hands for steering the ship. This, of course, disregards the ancient find in the Oklahoma cave that I mentioned earlier which also had a hole in the middle of the fossilized doughnuts, or the fact that the Moraccan sfenj which has the same shape, originated as far back as the 12th century, or that a painting by Spanish artist Juan van der Hamen y Leon done in 1627 features some very suspiciously-doughnut shaped pastries on a plate, but fine, we’ll let that all go for now for the sake of simplicity and say that the MODERN doughnut shape is thanks to Gregory.
Since we’re speaking of the origins of doughnuts, I want to clarify that when Washington Irving and Sussannah Carter spoke of doughnuts, they spelled it out as two separate words, “dough” and “nuta.” which would later be compound into the word “doughnut.” After the Civil War, the even shorter spelling of ‘d-o-n-u-t’ was introduced and was popularized during World War I by early doughnut company ads. Krispy Kreme still uses the longform spelling while Dunkin’ uses the shorter version in its name. The bottom line is either spelling is fine and describes the same thing so this is a good example of just living your best life, spelling it however you prefer, and not letting anyone make you feel bad about your choices…as long as your choices include eating doughnuts.
No matter where they come from originally and no matter how you spell the name, doughnuts continued to spread throughout the United States as a favorite breakfast food. Along with their Dutch origin, the first automated doughnut machine was built by Russian-born Adolph Levitt in 1920, making the doughnut a true innovation of American immigrants. The doughnut’s popularity grew through the 1920s, was featured at the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago as the “food hit of the Century of Progress,” and during World War II, the Salvation Army sent about a dozen young women to Europe to, among other tasks, make doughnuts for the nearly 5,000 soldiers of the American First Division, in order to remind them of home. These ladies began to be known as the “Doughnut Girls,” and were soon frying up upwards of nine thousand doughnuts a day. Doughnuts have claimed their spot as a favorite American breakfast food ever since.
In the mid-1900s doughnut-giants Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, and the Canadian Tim Hortons emerged, effectively spreading doughnut culture hard and fast across North America and the world. Though the merit and quality of chain doughnut shops, like all fast food, is always up for debate, they are a large part of the story so I’m going to share a brief history of each of these three now.
The first Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant was opened in 1948 in Quincy, Massachusetts, where the shop still operates. The founder, William Rosenberg named it “Open Kettle” and served coffee, pastries, and sandwiches. In 1950, the name was changed to Dunkin’ Donuts, inspired by the idea of dunking doughnuts into coffee. Within another four years, five locations existed and now, more than 70 years later, there are over 12,500 restaurants worldwide, 9,000 of which are in the United States, and the rest across 46 countries. In other countries, Dunkin’ Donut’s website brags, that they create special doughnuts that reflect the local cuisines, such as the wasabi cheese and seaweed cheese doughnuts in Singapore, and dried pork and seaweed doughnuts in China. The story of Dunkin’ Donuts is the story of the American dream. As a boy growing up in Boston, Rosenberg left school in the eighth grade so that he could get a job and financially help support his family who’d lost their business during the depression. He worked a variety of jobs, including bringing a large block of ice to a race track in New Hampshire and selling ice chips for 10 cents each. When he was 17, he got a job driving an ice cream truck and was a manager by the time he turned 20.
Following World War II, Rosenberg realized that employees at the Quincy Shipyards where he worked, had very few options for lunch. Using $2,500 in borrowed money and bonds, he started “Industrial Luncheon Services” serving sandwiches, coffee, doughnuts, and snacks from an old telephone company truck. When he realized that half his sales were coming from coffee and doughnuts, his first standalone restaurant “Open Kettle” was born, selling coffee for ten cents and doughnuts for just a nickel. In 1950, he changed the name to Dunkin’ Donuts and in 1955, his first franchised restaurant opened in Dedham, Massachusetts, selling 52 different varieties of doughnuts.
In 1963, Rosenberg’s son and Harvard Business School graduate, Robert Rosenberg, took over the chain’s management, streamlining menu offerings, and introducing many of the items we order today like bagels, Munchkin doughnut holes, breakfast sandwiches, Coolattas, and more.
In 2018, the company changed its branding again and renamed itself simply “Dunkin’” to emphasize that they offer so much more than just doughnuts.
Next comes Krispy Kreme.
Krispy Kreme is a doughnut franchise that’s best known for their glazed doughnuts, fresh out of the oven-warm and sweet, is when they’re at their best and people will line up around the corner when a new store opens. The franchise was created by a man called Vernon Rudolph. In 1933 he worked for his uncle at a general store in Kentucky where doughnuts were just one of many items they sold, when he met a French chef in New Orleans and purchased a top secret “yeast-raised” doughnut recipe from him. This recipe is now locked away in a vault, but it’s thought to include fluffed egg whites, mashed potatoes, sugar, shortening, skim milk, and flour. Recipe in hand, Rudolph and his uncle moved to Nashville, Tennessee in the hopes that they’d do better in a larger city and opened a new store where doughnuts were the main attraction . This wasn’t the first Krispy Kreme though. Rudolph moved once again to Winston-Salem, North Carolina this time, and on July 13, 1937, he opened the first Krispy Kreme Doughnuts from which he sold doughnuts directly to customers and also distributed them to local grocery stores. In order to entice people walking by the restaurant, Rudolph cut a hole in the wall and installed a sales window. Not only did people have quick and easy access but the smell of the hot doughnuts being baked inside wafted out and drew customers over. Inside the store, he had glass display cases made that showcased the doughnuts as well as the tops serving as counters on which to place orders. His doughnuts were so popular that Rudolph was able to expand his stores throughout North and South Carolina in the 1940s and 50s. Though Krispy Kreme now offers its doughnuts freshly fried and warm throughout the day, back then, if you wanted a hot doughnut, you had to get to the store between midnight and 4 a.m. since that’s when baking traditionally happens. At this time, the doughnuts were all made in-house at each store, which led to differences in taste and texture so he build a plant and doughnut making equipment so the dry doughnut mix could be made there and delivered to the stores for baking. After Krispy Kreme doughnuts are deep fried in vegetable oil, they pass through a waterfall of glaze, a process Rudolph invented in the 1960s but before that, each one was hand-dipped into a galvanized wash-tub filled with glaze.
Unfortunately, when he died in 1973, Rudolph left no estate planning, forcing his family to sell Krispy Kreme and it was purchased by Beatrice Food Company in 1976, who changed the sign and even the doughnut recipe in order to save costs. However, in 1982 franchisees banded together to purchase the company back and return it to an independent status and immediately reverted to the original doughnut recipe and classic signage. In 1992, the hot light system was created, so that passing customers can know that when the neon sign reading “hot doughnuts now” is on in the front window, the doughnuts inside are fresh and warm. This light can still be found in the windows of all Krispy Kreme franchises. Business has continued expanding and restaurants can be found nation-wide and, after they opened their first international store in Canada in 2001, Krispy Kreme’s international market grew fast and now boasts over 1,100 stores worldwide.
Krispy Kreme may still be best known for its classic glazed doughnut, fresh out of the oven but they now offer over fifty doughnut varieties, including frosted, powdered, filled, chocolate, cake doughnuts, cruellers, fritters, and doughnut holes, as well as special offerings for celebrating holidays, and ones based on pop culture. Additionally, of course, they also offer coffee, lattes, frozen drinks, juices, and more. They’ve expanded their retail offerings, now selling boxed doughnuts, coffee, and branded merchandise, as well as customized doughnuts created for corporate clients, and they have even broken into the wedding business, with many stores offering doughnut towers in lieu of wedding cakes. Perhaps the craziest Krispy Kreme doughnut was one created in 2014 in a United Kingdom store which contained Dom Perignon vintage 2002 Champagne jelly with raspberries and Chateau d’Yuem cream, topped with a 23-carat-gold-dusted Belgian white chocolate lotus flower and edible diamonds. Yes, it is as extra as it sounds. The doughnut was reportedly worth $1,685 US dollars or 1,341 pounds.
In 2016, basketball star Shaquille O’Neal bought a Krispy Kreme shop in Atlanta, Georgia and every year, North Carolina State University holds a Krispy Kreme challenge that requires competitors to run five miles through Raleigh, North Carolina AND eat 12 doughnuts along the way, all within an hour. And the San Diego County Fairy features Sloppy Joes on a Krispy Kreme doughnut-bun.
And with that culinary nightmare, or dream-come-true I guess, depending on how you look it, let’s finish by talking a bit about Tim Hortons.
A Canadian doughnut chain, Tim Hortons was founded in 1964 by hockey player Tim Horton, serving coffee, doughnuts, and other fast-food items. Originally named “Tim Horton’s Doughnuts” then shortened to just Tim Hortons, the first restaurant was in Hamilton, Ontario, and now the chain has over 4,000 restaurants in over 14 countries, though the bulk of their restaurants remain in Canada. Shortly after opening the first store, Horton met Ron Joyce, who helped grow the business and expand, the two men eventually becoming full business partners. Upon Horton’s death in 1974, Joyce took over as sole owner of the chain’s 40 stores and began expanding rapidly. This caused many independent coffee and doughnut shops in Canada to be driven out of business due to the competition from Tim Hortons.
So with that summary of big-doughnuts out of the way, let’s get back to little-doughnut. From the mom-and-pop shops to gourmet doughnut boutiques, it’s estimated that there are more than 25,000 doughnut shops in the United States, serving up over 10 billion doughnuts per year. And though there’s no amount of arguing that could make doughnuts a health food, that hasn’t changed our love for the treat. According to one survey, Americans eat an average of 31 doughnuts per year. In fact, even at the height of the low-carb craze in the early 2000s, the doughnut industry continued to grow at exponential rates. Whether they’re classic flavors like glazed, chocolate, or old fashioned or unique new flavor twists like maple-bacon or doughnut holes spiked with liquor, we’re here for it so much that we actually celebrate National Doughnut Day twice a year-first on the first Friday in June and then again on November 5th. Our love for doughnuts is so mainstream that when he modeled the Homer character in his hit show the Simpsons after his father, cartoonist Matt Groening even made sure the character shared his dad’s obsession with doughnuts. Doughnuts are served in break rooms, at fundraisers and county fairs, in churches, clubs, meetings of all sorts, and everywhere in between. So, that brings us to our final question of the episode- if everyone loves them so much, where does the stereotype of lazy, doughnut-loving cops come from? Can’t those that protect and serve us enjoy these tasty treats in peace too?
It would seem not. The stereotype stems from the idea that instead of working, cops can be seen congregating in the parking lots and inside doughnut shops, no matter where in the country or world you may travel, drinking all the free coffee and doughnuts their uniform may afford them, representing laziness and corruption among the people taxes are paying to protect and serve. Whether the stereotype can be proven to be true is a matter of debate but in attempts to stop it, many police forces have set in stone rules against officers frequenting doughnut shops or, at the very least, procuring free doughnuts while on the clock. So, considering how much everyone seemingly loves a good, deep fried and frosted doughnut, not just cops, maybe this is one issue we want to let them off the hook for. Maybe.
As much as there is to talk about doughnuts, and I really feel like I could go on for days just trying to work out all the nuances and claims behind this most holy of breakfast treats, I think it’s time for us to finish up this episode, so if you want to find out more about doughnuts, you’ll just have to check out one of the links I’ve posted in the description below. To close out this episode, I’m going to share two recipes for making your own doughnuts at home. I’ll put the instructions in the description below as well.
Recipe for Cake Doughnuts:
1 cup of sugar
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1⁄2 teaspoons of salt
1⁄4 cup of unsalted butter, melted
1 cup of milk
4 cups flour (you may need a little more if the dough is sticky)
Vegetable oil for frying
And finally, cinnamon sugar
In a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, milk, and melted butter and beat everything together well. Slowly add the four cups of flour, beating the dough until it’s soft and sticky but firm enough to work with. You can add a bit more flour if needed. Cover and place dough in the fridge for at least an hour.
After an hour, heat about an inch of oil in a large metal skillet, aiming to get it to about 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove dough from the fridge and cut in half. Roll the first half onto a large floured surface until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the circles out using a doughnut cutter or a large biscuit or cookie cutter. If you have none of those, you may try using a bowl or coffee mug to mark the shape and then cut around that to make circles. Cut smaller holes in the middle. A cap from a bottle of soda may work for this.
Gently drop doughnuts into the hot oil in batches, leaving room around them to grow. Flip them as they puff up and turn them a few times. They should be golden brown and ready to remove from the oil in about 2 to 3 minutes. Set cooked doughnuts on a paper towel or brown paper bag to cool slightly and then dip them in a mix of cinnamon and sugar. Repeat the process with the second half of the dough.
Recipe for Yeast-Risen Glazed Doughnuts
Ingredients needed for the doughnuts are:
1 and 1/8 cup whole milk, warmed slightly
¼ cup of sugar
2 and ¼ teaspoon or one full package of Instant or Active Dry Yeast
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups of all-purpose white flour
And ½ teaspoon of salt
Ingredients needed for the glaze are:
½ cup of butter, melted
2 teaspoons of vanilla
4 cups of powdered sugar
About 2-3 tablespoons of milk or cream
And a dash of salt
To start, you want your milk to be warmed up to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit, which will feel warm but not too hot if you stick your finger into it. Pour milk into the mixing bowl or stand mixer and add sugar, mixing to dissolve it. Stir in yeast and then allow the mixture to rest for five minutes.
Stir in the beaten eggs and melted butter, and then with the mixer on low, add flour and salt. Mix for five minutes and then allow the dough to sit in the mixer for another 10 minutes to rest before turning the dough into an oiled bowl, which you should cover and put into the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1/3 to ½ of an inch thick. Cut the doughnut shapes using a doughnut cutter, cookie cutter, biscuit cutter, or use a cup or bowl as a guide. Remember to cut out the middles as well. Those can be used to make doughnut holes. Place each doughnut on a lightly greased baking sheet and then cover and allow them to rise for about an hour-until they double in size and are nice and light and airy looking.
Carefully add doughnuts to a pan of hot oil or shortening a few inches deep, about 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and fry each side for about a minute and a half until it’s golden brown. Doughnut holes may only take about 30 seconds per side. Place cooked doughnuts on a paper towel or a brown paper bag to remove some oil and then cover with the glaze.
To make the glaze, melt the butter and add vanilla. Then, add powdered sugar and stir until you get a thick paste. Milk and cream can be added one tablespoon at a time to thin it out until the glaze is at the desired viscosity, about that of school glue. If you want to make a chocolate glaze, you can add 2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder at the same time as you add the powdered sugar.
Finally, enjoy your doughnuts while they’re still warm!
I hope you enjoyed this episode of facts to fall asleep. If you did, please hit the like button so I know. As always, thank you for Color and Chilling with me today. Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel, and come back and relax and learn something new with me again soon. Bye.
❁❁ SOURCES & RESOURCES ❁❁
- Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut by Paul R. Mullins https://amzn.to/3wl1qsm
- Donuts: an American passion by John T. Edge https://amzn.to/3fA6H8T
- The Donut by Michael Krondl https://amzn.to/3v5K3vv