The Doughnut: A Classic American Pastry

The doughnut is one of the most highly-revered American pastries. It is currently experiencing a revival as more and more specialized doughnut shops continue to spring up around the country offering unique flavor combinations. The history of the doughnut is inextricably linked to the United States making the dessert a classic American icon.

The original doughnuts
While doughnut-like foods can be found in the remains of many ancient tribes, the contemporary doughnut has its origins in the olykoeks of New Amsterdam (what is now Manhattan). They were a Dutch dessert that literally translates to “oily cakes.” It wouldn’t be until the 1850s that a ship captain would give these cakes their iconic hole in the center. The sailor was Captain Hanson Gregory, the son of Elizabeth Gregory, a New England woman who made her own version of olykoeks for her son and his crew. Captain Gregory gave an interview to the Boston Post 50 years later that detailed his use of a tin can to give the doughnut its hole.

A century later
Now, over a century and a half since the original doughnuts were being consumed by sailors, the sugary treat has become a cultural phenomenon – featuring prominently in the American identity. The success of brands such as Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme shows just how popular the fried dough treats have become. The current trend of small, local food producers has infiltrated the doughnut market as independent shops continue to make national headlines for their newest treats. For example, the doughnut/croissant hybrid from the Dominique Ansel bakery in NYC made headlines throughout the world when it was released. Other shops such as Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Ore. and Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts in Charleston, SC are changing the doughnut game through the introduction of new and unique flavors.

Making doughnuts
A simple doughnut is remarkably easy to make. All it takes is a simple yeast dough, formed into a ring and then fried in oil. Online pastry certificate students should have no trouble personalizing their dough, fillings and toppings to create the best flavor combinations. Don’t limit yourself to the traditional sweet flavors. Many doughnut shops have had success combining salty and savory ingredients to complement the natural sweetness. Ingredients such as bacon and blue cheese have gained a lot of traction in the modern doughnut world.

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