The Quick 10: 10 Details about Doughnuts
Since it's National Doughnut Day, we thought we would rerun this doughy delight from March. Now go get yourself some fried, cakey goodness!!
I stumbled upon the Dunkin' Donuts "Create Dunkin's Next Donut" contest last week and have had doughnuts on the brain ever since. Anyone who follows the Q10 regularly knows that if I'm obsessed with something, I do my best to make you obsessed with it too. So if you go out and down a couple of Krispy Kremes after this, don't feel bad - it's totally my fault. And no, I'm not getting paid to reference this contest... we don't even have Dunkin' Donuts here (sadly). The doughnut I created, by the way, was a sour cream dough with lime-flavored sugar. I think it would be delightful.
1. Adolph Levitt invented the doughnut machine in 1920. Before that, doughnuts were made one by one in a frying pan. His machine dropped dough rings into fat, browned them, flipped them and cooled them. He called it the Wonderful Almost Human Automatic Donut Machine. It took him and an engineer 12 tries to perfect, but once he did, they sold like hotcakes - er, doughnuts - and the industry hasn't been the same since.
2. There is a National Dunking Association and it used to be a big deal. Actress Mae Murray is said to have started the whole dunking craze when she accidentally dropped her doughnut into her coffee and raved about the results. It just goes to show you that things haven't really changed in the past 80 years - a celebrity does something and it sweeps the nation. Card-carrying (seriously... there were membership cards) celebrity members of the National Dunking Association included Johnny Carson, Zero Mostel, Pearl Buck, Martha Graham and Red Skelton. Jimmy Durante even ran for president of the association.
3. Economists have said the size of the hole in the doughnut directly mirrors the state of the economy. The bigger the hole, the worse the economy is. Makes sense, really - means bakers can use less dough per doughnut and charge the same price.
4. But why does the doughnut have a hole? I mean, not all of them do, but when you think of a doughnut the first thing that usually comes to mind is the type that looks like a circle with a hole in the middle. So why that and not just a solid round of dough? Well, there are a lot of different stories. This is the one that probably goes around the most often, though: Sea captain Hanson Crockett Gregory was eating a small cake while steering his ship in 1847. The ship was suddenly caught in a freak storm and the captain quickly shoved his cake down onto a spoke of the ship's wheel so he would have both hands free for steering. Once the storm was over, he realized how convenient the hole in the middle of the cake was and ordered more just like it from the cook. Gregory himself said that he and his crew were having problems digesting the greasy cakes when he realized that cutting a hole in the middle might solve the problem. He later said the hole was the best part of the doughnuts, and told the reporter he was talking to, "You'd think so if you had ever tasted the doughnuts we used to eat."
5. The Chock Full O' Nuts Whole Wheat Donut is, according to aficionados, the Holy Grail of doughnuts. Chock Full O' Nuts was a chain of lunch counters (later resulting in the coffee of the same name) that apparently had amazing doughnuts. There are still Chock Full O' Nuts joints in the New York area, and from their website, it would appear that the whole wheat doughnut is still on the menu. So what gives? Why do so many people wax nostalgic about this doughnut? Did the recipe change? Or is it just harder to find these days? If you can fill us in on the Chock Full O' Nuts Whole Wheat Donut mystery, please do.
6. Stella Young was the original Doughnut Girl of WWI. They served trays of the fried rounds to hungry soldiers who would line up outside of the Salvation Army tents to get a little taste of deliciousness. In fact, some say that's where the term "doughboys" came from, but like the story of the doughnut hold, there are a few stories circulating on the origins of that term. Although there were lots of Doughnut Girls (AKA Sallies), Stella was the one on the cover of the sheet music for the song "My Doughnut Girl." Stella once narrowly escaped death when a bit of shrapnel hit her doughnut pan and missed her. She saved the shrapnel.
7. Washington Irving of Sleepy Hollow legend may have coined the term "doughnut." The earliest reference anyone can find of that exact word is in a short story of his dated 1808, except he was probably talking about what we call the doughnut holes today.
8. "Doughnut" is the original spelling, but "donut" has become accepted as the shortened form. Kinda like "Drive-thru" vs. "Drive through." I prefer "doughnut" myself, but "donut" goes back so far I might as well accept it: the first reference comes from The Los Angeles Times in 1929.
9. My post is a bit premature, because National Doughnut Day in the U.S. is the first Friday of June every year. Um, consider that marked down in my calendar. In pen.
10. Renee Zellweger said she ate 20 doughnuts a day in order to go from a size six to a size 14 in just three months so she could portray Bridget Jones. I wonder if she means mini-doughnuts... surely 20 full-sized doughnuts a day would have you gaining several sizes faster than three months, since doughnuts can be up to 25% fat (they absorb a lot of the fat they are fried in because they are so porous). But that's not going to stop me from eating them.
And hey - tell me about Randy's Donuts. I'm visiting L.A. over Memorial Day weekend and am curious as to whether it's worth a stop or not. Otherwise, let's discuss your favorite doughnut in the comments. For me, it's hard to top a fresh cinnamon and sugar - still warm and full of melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Mmm... [insert Homer drooling noise here]