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Glazed doughnuts

A doughnut, or donut, is a deep-fried piece of dough or batter. The two most common shapes are the flattened sphere, which is injected with jam/jelly or another sweet filling; and the torus-shaped ring doughnut, which has the center cut out, leaving a small piece which is separately cooked as a doughnut hole.



Doughnuts can be made using a yeast-based dough (raised doughnuts), or a special type of cake batter. After being fried, ring doughnuts are often topped with a glaze icing or a powder such as cinnamon or sugar. Ringless doughnuts may be glazed and injected with jam or custard.

There are many other specialized doughnut shapes such as bear claws, old-fashioneds, bars (a rectangular shape), and twists (where the dough is twisted around itself before cooking). Doughnut holes are small spheres that are made out of the dough taken from the center of ring doughnuts.

There are lower fat recipes for doughnuts which specify baking rather than frying. Application of fat to the pastry during baking can make it difficult to distinguish the final product from a fried doughnut.

Doughnuts have become a part of North American popular culture. The cartoon character Homer Simpson is especially fond of doughnuts, while popular mythology has American police officers addicted to them. There are retail stores which specialize in the selling of fresh doughnuts to customers, such as Dunkin' Donuts, Tim Hortons, Winchell's Donuts, Country Style and many other chain stores. Krispy Kreme is distinguished by having neon signs, known as "hot lights", to inform customers when hot doughnuts are available - fresh off the assembly line. Many doughnut shops are open 24 hours a day.


Doughnuts have a disputed history. One perspective is that they were introduced into North America by Dutch settlers, who are responsible for popularizing other desserts, including cookies, cream pie, and cobbler.

Another story credits the invention of the doughnut hole to a Danish sea captain named Hanson Gregory. During a particularly violent storm, Gregory needed both hands free to man the wheel of his ship, and impaled a fried cake upon the wheel, creating the signature hole. The center of fried cakes were notorious for being undercooked, so the innovation stuck. By cooking fried cakes with the center hole, the surface area increased, and the doughnut cooked faster.

Before the ring shape became common, doughnuts were often made as twisted ropes of dough. When placed into a pot of boiling fat, they floated until the lower half was cooked, then rolled themselves over to cook the other side. Ring doughnuts have to be flipped over by hand, which was more time-consuming. The twisted-rope type is called a cruller in some parts of the U.S., but cruller also refers to a particularly airy type of ring doughnut, usually glazed.

Washington Irving's reference to "doughnuts" in 1809 in his History of New York is believed to be the first known printed use of the word. "Doughnut" is the more traditional spelling, and still dominates outside the US. At present, "donut" and "doughnut" are both pervasive in American English, but only "doughnut" is listed in Thorndike and Lorge's (1942) "The Teacher's Word Book of 30,000 Words." It is unclear when the "donut" spelling first took hold, but frequently it is attributed to Dunkin' Donuts, which was founded in 1950. To the contrary, Mayflower Donuts pre-dated Dunkin' Donuts, and there are sparse instances of the "donut" variation prior to WWII. For instance, it is mentioned in an LA times article dated August 10th, 1929. There, Bailey Millard complains about the decline of spelling, and that he "can't swallow the "wel-dun donut' nor the ever so 'gud bred'."

Regional Variations

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Doughnuts on display

In Denmark there are bleskiver, which are fried in a cast-iron copper-coated pan with individual recesses for each doughnut called a Munk Pan, and have a slice of apple inside.

In the Netherlands, there is a type of pastry item called Oliebollen which is referred to in recipe books as Dutch Doughnuts (or occasionally as 'Dutch Donuts') which contain pieces of apple and/or dried fruit like raisins, and is traditionally eaten as part of new year celebrations.

In Poland the round jam-filled doughnuts eaten especially - though not exclusively - during the Carnival are called pączki.

Jelly doughnuts, known as Sufganiot in Israel, have become a traditional Hanukkah food in the recent era partially because they are cooked in oil in remembrance of the miracle of the oil.

In France and in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, there is a fried pastry called a beignet which is sometimes described as a French doughnut.

In Germany, the doughnut equivalents are called Bismarcks or Berliners and don't have the typical ring shape but instead are solid, usually filled with jam. (German doughnuts are sometimes called Berlin Doughnuts in the USA.) This type of doughnut is also popular in Chile because of its large German community, and is called a Berlin (plural Berlines) and can be filled with jam or with manjar, the Chilean version of dulce de leche.

Italian doughnuts are called zeppole.

Some non-sweet fried items with different ingredients to wheat-flour based pastry are referred to as doughnuts, such as vadas which are from India and are made with lentils (and look like ring donuts) and also potato doughnuts which are sometimes made in the US.

Doughnuts and Topology

Doughnuts, as ring-shaped items, are an important explanatory tool in the science of topology where the ring doughnut shape (a ring with a circular cross-section) is called a torus or toroid, and an example of using the ring doughnut as an illustrative term can be found in popular explanations of the Poincar conjecture. The other toroidal food item used in topological explanations is the bagel. However, the bagel has a hole to allow it to be retrieved from boiling water, while a doughnut hole is intended to allow the doughnut to cook faster and more thoroughly. There is no historical connection between bagels and doughnuts.

By analogy, donut is a slang term for a circular maneuver made with an automobile or other vehicle from a sharp turn in which the rear of the vehicle swings around to form a larger circle as the front of the vehicle turns in a tight circular motion.

The slang term doughnut is also used to describe the small rigid spare tire that comes as original equipment with many new cars.

See also

Fried dough foodsde:Donut eo:benjeto fi:Munkki (leivonnainen) fr:donut ja:ドーナツ pl:Pączek


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