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Entries in donuts (20)

Wednesday
Jan262011

Holey Grail: Why Do Doughnuts Have Holes?

If you are a truly devoted doughnut lover, it's likely that this doughy dilemma has come up in your mind: why do doughnuts have holes? 

Turns out, there are a few tales out there. Let's discover them together, shall we?

At least three versions of the story involve a Mr. Hanson Gregory, a seafarer who turned tall-tale-teller in his golden years. According to a 1938 article in The Tuscaloosa News,

it remained for an old New England Sea captain, one Hanson Gregory, from Camden, Maine, to introduce the hole in the doughnut, as we know it today. As an old man he liked to tell his story many times--how as a boy he had been watching his mother frying doughnuts and had noticed that the centers always remained partially uncooked and doughy. 'Mother', he said, "leave a hole in the center." Laughingly, she obliged him and never went back to the old way. Her method was widely copied.

There is also an unlikely, but wholly (holey?) enjoyable, version of the story, also involving Gregory, which goes thusly (according to the Lewiston Evening Journal): "one legend is that he liked to munch fried cakes while steering his craft. One day, in 1847, the seas were rough and he needed both hands to control the rudder. So he slapped several cakes on the spoke of his wheel, making holes."

And third, there is a lighthearted variation on the lightened fried doughnut rounds which states that Gregory purposefully poked a hole in the doughnut to lighten it up "because he had already lost six men overboard due to the heaviness of the doughnuts".

Of course, according to aforementioned Lewiston article, another New Englander, Henry Ellis, of Hyannis, MA, argued there was even a more outlandish story behind the doughnut hole: "An Indian's arrow aimed at a housewife pierced a round of fried cake". The article does not back this up with any evidence, but you know, this could just be further proof that it wasn't all making nice and Thanksgiving in the early US.

Of course, Hanson Gregory's tales get even more street cred based on the fact that he's the only one commemorated as doughnut hole inventor who boasts a historical plaque: it's true. In Rockport, ME, you can find a plaque inscribed with the following: "In commemmoration. This is the birthplace of Captain Hanson Gregory, who first invented the hole in the doughnut in 1847. Erected by his friends, Nov. 2, 1947."

And beyond that, the oldest article I could find on the subject points to Gregory as well (from the Washington Post, March 26, 1916), which I found here:

Old Salt” Doughnut Hole Inventor Tells Just How Discovery Was Made And Stomach of Earths Saved 

Boston, March 25.—The man who invented the hole in the doughnut has been found. He is Capt. Hanson Gregory, at present an inmate in Sailor’s Snug Harbor, at Quincy, Mass. Doughnut cutters have made fortunes for men; millions eat doughnuts for breakfast and feel satisfied. Doctors do not assail the doughnut. And all of this owes its being to Capt. Gregory, who made the doughnut a safe, sane and hygienic food. 

It’s a long story, mates; but as the 85-year-old chap relates it, it’s only too short. Outside the fact that Capt. Gregory is a bit hard of hearing, he’s as sound as new timber. 

He’s a product of Maine; and so Maine can lay claim to the discoverer of the hole in the doughnut, along with the discoverer of new ways to evade the prohibition laws. But Capt. Gregory’s discovery is of real use in the world; millions have risen, and millions more shall rise up, and call him blessed. 

‘Bout ‘47 Was the Date. 
“It was way back—oh, I don’t know just what year—let me see—born in ‘31, shipped when I was 13—well, I guess it was about ‘47, when I was 16, that I was aboard ship and discovered the hole which was later to revolutionize the doughnut industry. 

“I first shipped aboard the Isaac Achorn, three-masted schooner, Capt. Rhodes, in the lime trade.  
Later I joined other crews and other captains, and it was on one of these cruises that I was mawing doughnuts. 

“Now in them days we used to cut the doughnuts into diamond shapes, and also into long strips, bent in half, and then twisted.  I don’t think we called them doughnuts then—they was just ‘fried cakes’ and ‘twisters.’ 

“Well, sir, they used to fry all right around the edges, but when you had the edges done the insides was all raw dough.  And the twisters used to sop up all the grease just where they bent, and they were tough on the digestion.” 

“Pretty d—d tough, too!” profanely agreed one of the dozen pipe-smoking fellows who were all eyes and ears, taking in their comrade’s interview by The Post reporter. 

With a glance at the perfervid interrupter, the discoverer continued: 

“Well, I says to myself, ‘Why wouldn’t a space inside solve the difficulty?’ I thought at first I’d take one of the strips (Col. 2—ed.) and roll it around, then I got an inspiration, a great inspiration. 

“I took the cover off the ship’s tin pepper box, and—I cut into the middle of that doughnut the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes!” 

“Were you pleased?” 

“Was Columbus pleased?  Well, sir, them doughnuts was the finest I ever tasted.  No more indigestion—no more greasy sinkers—but just well-done, fried-through doughnuts. 

“That cruise over, I went home to my old mother and father in Camden, Me., where I was born. My father, Hanson Gregory, sr., lived to be 93, and my mother lived to be 79. She was a pretty old lady then. I saw her making doughnuts in the kitchen—I can see her now, and as fine a woman as ever-lived, was my mother. 

Taught Trick to Mother. 
“I says to her: ‘Let me make some doughnuts for you.’ She says all right, so I made her one or two and then showed her how. 

“She then made several panfuls and sent them down to Rockland, just outside Camden. Everybody was delighted and they never made doughnuts any other way except the way I showed my mother. 

“Well, I never took out a patent on it; I don’t suppose any one can patent anything he discovers; I don’t suppose Peary could patent the north pole or Columbus patent America. But I thought I’d get out a doughnut cutter—but somebody got in ahead of me. 

Hole “Cut Out,” His Joke. 
“Of course a hole ain’t so much; but it’s the best part of the doughnut--you’d think so if you had ever tasted the doughnuts we used to eat in ‘31. Of course, lots of people joke about the hole in the doughnut.  I’ve got a joke myself:  Whenever anybody says to me: ‘Where’s the hole in the doughnut?’ I always answer: ‘It’s been cut out!’” and the old chap laughed loud and longat his little sally, while the rest joined in. 

So there he sits—in the Snug Harbor by the sea. And whenever there’s doughnuts on the day’s fare, Capt. Gregory takes a personal pride trying to do what nobody’s succeeded in doing yet—in trying to find the hole in the doughnut. And whenever the old salts rally him about it, he always springs his little joke: 

“The hole’s been cut out, I guess!” to the delight of the whole shipful. 

While Gregory certainly has the flashiest connections to the doughnut hole, I'd just like to offer up a couple more bits of food for thought: 

Some say that the Pennsylvania Dutch were responsible for making the first holey doughnuts in the US, cutting the centers to ensure even frying and easier dunking. 

Another theory that I personally have is that an explanation for the doughnut hole may be twofold: while the ease in even frying certainly makes sense, it also seems that the doughnut was rising in popularity in the US around the same time as the bagel, which were frequently sold on sticks on the Lower East Side of New York City. Could this easy mode of selling have perpetuated the ring around the doughnut?

Oh, and finally, what of the dough from the middle? Interestingly, those little doughnut dots we love so much aren't necessarily cut from the same dough as the doughnut: "commercially made ring doughnuts are not made by cutting out the central portion of the cake but by dropping a ring of dough into hot oil from a specially shaped nozzle. However, soon after ring doughnuts became popular, doughnut sellers began to see the opportunity to market "holes" as if they were the portions cut out to make the ring."

Seeking more holey grail? You might want to check out this article on Barry Popik, this one on Mr. Breakfast, or the fascinating Wikipedia entry. And of course, if you call yourself a doughnut devotee but don't own Donuts: An American Passion by John T. Edge, you really should remedy that immediately. It's a great book.

Wednesday
Jul282010

Orange You Glad? The Orange Glazed Cake Donut from Family Donut, Seattle

I like fruit, really I do.

Just not in dessert, where my philosophy is "if you're gonna do it, do it". I don't like the creeping suspicion that my sweet treat might be a little healthy. 

However, when it's in glaze form on a cake donut, as in the case of the Orange Donut at Family Donuts, a greasy spoon of a donut shop if there ever was one, I find it acceptable.

First off, it's a cake donut, which means that it's delightfully oily and decidedly not low-fat. Believe it or not, the citrus flavor permeating the fried dough is actually kind of nice--it cuts through the flavor of "fry" which can sometimes be lacking in dimension. The orange flavor is in the cake donut but also the glaze, which is applied liberally.

To put it mathematically? Crisp citrus orange flavor + hefty round of fried dough = TOTAL YUM.

Family Donut Shop, 2100 N. Northgate Way, Seattle.

Family Donut Shop on Urbanspoon

Thursday
Jun032010

Beyond A Baker's Dozen: Sweet Links for National Doughnut Day

Upon first glance, these Doughnut Seeds might appear to simply be cereal cleverly packaged for sale for a tidy little profit.

But you're so wrong, because oh, the places these doughnut seeds could go. In honor of National Doughnut Day, here are several things to which doughnut seeds can aspire:

They could become delicious doughnut pies:
They could become athletic heros (just donut!):

Or maybe Trompe l'oeil bagel-and-cream cheese doughnuts:
They could become Red Velvet Cake doughnuts:
They could become any number of these clever donuts:
Or maybe they'd grow into doughnut lookalike cookies:
They could grow up to be the inspiration for portraits:
They could become German chocolate cake doughnuts:
They could become the anchor for some delicious Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict:
Or perhaps a doughnut burger:
Or maybe even a wedding cake substitute:
They could become the hopeless quandary:

They could be a saving grace at a Texas airport:
They could be the crowning glory on a Doughnut Upside Down cake:
They could become the sweetest thing for 500 miles around in South Dakota:
They could make cupcakes even better.
They could be the subject of a tell-all, such as the amazing book Donuts: An American Passion by John T. Edge (which I think everyone should read!) 
They could be a Los Angeles landmark...

Or they could be written up in fancy doughnut day articles on MSN.

So there you have it--who knows what could happen when you plant these sweet seeds?

Saturday
May152010

Bittersweet: A Tale of Donut Despair Diverted in Portland, OR

I want to tell you a sad, sad story about Delicious Donuts in Portland, Oregon.

Based on many accounts, this is the donut place in Portland--"better than Voodoo" was the bold claim of one trusted source.

But I couldn't tell you for myself, because I've never tasted them.

Oh, I've tried. In the past, when showing at the Crafty Wonderland fair in its old location at the Doug Fir Lounge, I had tried to score a doughnut on my way to the fair, but each and every time I was confronted by this sign:

I wasn't too put off though--generally I was heading over there at 11 a.m. or so, and I can understand if a popular shop might be sold out by then. If anything, it heightened the anticipation.

And on a more recent trip to Portland for the Crafty Wonderland spring fair, I was prepared, and got up early on a Sunday morning and headed over to the donut shop, a spring in my step from the sweet prospect of glazed and fried  goodness in my near future a bit before 8 a.m. Cars were parked outside, and I felt hopeful: this was gonna be my day.

But here's what I found:

The only difference? The sign was slightly nicer. But somehow, this provided little comfort.

Sold out of donuts before 8 a.m. on a Sunday? I can understand if you're a popular place, but come on. If you're selling out that early, you need to make more donuts.

Yes, I was facing deep donut despair, but happily this story has a sweet ending: because a mere few hours later I was delighted with a surprise Voodoo Doughnut, thoughtfully delivered by friends Mary and Dave Sheely. Delicious Donuts might be the best, but Voodoo definitley won my sweet affections on this fateful day.Delicious Donuts, 12 Southeast Grand Avenue Portland, OR 97214-1112 - (503) 233-1833.

Voodoo Doughnut, 22 Southwest 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR 97204-2713, (503) 241-4704; online at voodoodoughnut.com.

Thursday
Jan142010

Do or Donut: The German Chocolate Cake Donut from Rocket Donuts, Bellingham WA

Every so often, a donut comes along that can only be described as a holey experience.

And this baby is worth a pilgrimage to Rocket Donuts in Bellingham, Washington: The German Chocolate Cake Donut. 

Now, the whole theory behind Rocket Donuts, which boasts a cool, sci-fi inspired interior, is that "donuts just ain't serious business"--the idea being that donuts are an indulgence, something fun, and something to be enjoyed. No, they're not healthy, but they do you good. 

But while they claim not to take themselves seriously, the donuts are indeed serious business. With a gorgeous display filled with varieties including a perfect Homer Simpson pink frosted cake donut with sprinkes, pretty crullers, several vegan options, and even a devilish maple bacon bar (not one of the vegan options), deciding on just a couple of flavors was difficult. 

Ultimately, we (myself and CakeSpy buddy Nicole) chose several cake varieties, including the chocolate frosted cake with coconut on top, the Homer Simpson (my term, not theirs), and the donut of the month, the German Chocolate Cake.

While all flavors had a dense and flavorful crumb, the flavor of the month really took the cake. The donut itself had an understated chocolate flavor which wasn't overpowering, but rather perfectly balanced by a thick slathering of traditional coconut-rich German chocolate cake frosting, which added moisture and richness to every bite. The sweet little cherry on top not only added an extra dose of sweetness, but it sure was cute too (and cuteness cannot be underrated in baked goods).

To sum it all up? When classic cake flavor meets cake donut, each bite is like a little jaunt to Bliss City. Of course, if you don't like coconut, bet you wouldn't turn away one of these:

Rocket Donuts, 306 W. Holly St. (Corner of Holly and Bay, Downtown Bellingham), 360.671.6111; online at rocketdonuts.com.

Rocket Donuts on Urbanspoon

Tuesday
Sep222009

Pastry Road Trip: Deliciously Dense Donuts at Wall Drug, South Dakota

Vanilla Frosted Donut, Wall Drug, SD
CakeSpy Note: This month I drove to and from Chicago on a Pastry Road Trip: here's the beginning of several installments detailing the deliciousness I discovered!

Wall Drug is a tourist trap of epic proportions: you've barely entered South Dakota when you start to see billboards proclaiming "Wall Drug--Only 500 Miles!". From that point on, every few miles you'll see another Wall Drug sign or billboard, some advertising products or services, some simply updating you on how much closer you are.
Welcome to Wall Drug (South Dakota)
By the time you've actually reached Wall, South Dakota, you'll be so curious that you've basically got to stop.

Of course, I had a reason beyond mere curiosity: I had heard the donuts were fantastic.
Donut Factory
I pulled into Wall at about 5 p.m. and unfortunately the "Donut Factory" section of Wall Drug had already closed for the day, but there were still fresh donuts (and ice cream and cookies too) available in their cafe. I picked up two cake donuts: maple frosted and vanilla frosted.
Donut in the Hall of Heads, Wall Drug, SD
I offered to share with some of the little critters nearby, but it seemed they had no stomach for donuts.

How to describe these donuts? They were extremely dense--none of that light-as-air business here. The cake was very moist and pleasingly greasy, but tastefully so--it didn't leave an oily slick in your mouth. The frosting was rich and flavorful--the maple had a deep, earthy-sweet flavor and the vanilla was surprisingly thick and rich--and it was soft and held together beautifully (nothing is worse, to me, than donut frostings that are hard and flake off!). To put it in a nutshell, these donuts tasted very old school. In a good way.

Wall Drug, 510 Main Street, Wall, SD; 605-279-2175. Online at walldrug.com.

Bonus! Though I couldn't find their donut recipe, the Food Network does have a pie recipe donated by Wall Drug; check it out here!

Monday
Jul132009

Dead Men Doughn't Bite: An Epic Donut Battle in NYC

Coffee and Donut
As discovered via the New York Times, today in NYC, mass hysteria broke out as Tim Hortons opened its first locations in the city, in 12 locations which had previously been Dunkin' Donuts locations. The doughnut wars had begun.

While the NY Times article (which focused on Dunkin' vs. Tim Hortons) resolved that neither company's doughnuts were noticeably more delicious and concluded that "mass-produced doughnuts are achieving total global mediocrity", the subject has clearly brought out some strong feelings in doughnut fans.

While I had previously thought that the ultimate US Donut battle was between Dunkin' and Krispy Kreme, apparently Tim Hortons is a new challenger in the ring.

Personally I'm a DD fan for life--probably the result of having grown up on the Jersey Shore, where there are so many locations that their pink-and-orange logo seems etched into my childhood memories--but I realize that this is probably nostalgia, rather than doughnut quality, speaking.

But it does bring up an important point: which of these kingpins of the doughnut industry do you prefer, and why? Or if you can't stand any of them...why not?

Thursday
Feb192009

Holey Yum: Donut Pies

Donut Pies!

Donuts play nice, don't they? They're so open to collaboration. There's donut bread pudding. Donut burgers. Donut muffins. Donut soup.

And now, Donut Pie. Don't be fooled by the photo at the top: these are no typical donuts. They're in fact little morsels of pie crust, with filling rolled inside of them and then fried. While they're certainly not health food, they certainly are delicious: crispy, not too-sweet, easy to make, and completely open to improvisation with flavor. Here's how we made them:

Donut Pie
Donut Pies
  1. First, choose your favorite pie crust recipe (we used this one). We made the equivalent of a single pie crust, and the yield was about 15 mini Donut Pies.
  2. Next, decide what your filling would be. For our filling, we mixed one ripe banana, a small amount (1/4 cup, adding more to desired thickness) of heavy whipping cream, and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and two pinches of cinnamon. We mashed it until it was incorporated, but still a little bit lumpy. You can fill them with just about anything you'd use in a pie though. Let your filling sit to the side.
  3. Roll out your pie crust, and then score into strips. The strips should be about 2.5 inches wide, but as long or as short as you'd like. The length will determine how large the donut's circumfrence will be, so if you like mini donuts, keep them shorter.
  4. Donut Pies
  5. Lengthwise, spoon a small amount of filling in each strip. Be sure to leave a small gap of space at the top and bottom of the strip.
  6. Donut Pies
  7. Fold the crust over the filling lengthwise, so that you have a long, narrow, filled "log" of pie crust with filling inside.
  8. Donut Pies
  9. Form into a circle.
  10. Donut Pies
  11. Since we don't have a deep fryer, we then filled a frying pan on  with about 2 cups of canola oil, set to high heat, and once hot gently placed the donuts several at a time into the fryer, frying each side about 3-4 minutes or until golden.
  12. Donut Pies
  13. Gently remove from frying pan and place on paper towels to blot excess oil.
  14. Donut Pie
  15. Garnish as desired: with additional fruit topping (as above), whipped cream, ice cream, or for a more donutty look, chocolate icing (as seen on the chocolate topped ones) and sprinkles or swirls. Yum.
Donut Pies

Wednesday
Sep102008

Holey Sweetness: An Unexpected Visit to Shipley Do-Nuts in Houston

Shipley's do-nut
Sometimes, when life gives you lemons...well, you know the rest. However, in the recent case of an unexpected 3-hour flight layover in the Houston Airport, it wasn't lemonade, but sweet, sweet donuts that sweetened our day.

We're talking about Shipley Do-Nuts, of course.
Shipley's Do-Nuts saved my life
Shipley Do-Nuts was founded in 1936 in Texas (when donuts retailed for 5 cents a dozen) – they now boast nearly 200 locations in Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. While on previous visits to their website we were inclined to rage against the chain as having a contrived sort of nostalgic atmosphere, it must be said—on our visit to the Houston airport, all of the employees were almost alarmingly upbeat, and we were ultimately won over by the old-school packaging—but more importantly, by the donuts. These donuts weren’t extraordinary, but sometimes that’s not such a bad thing--nostalgia is often comfort, is it not? They were certainly solid—our choice, the cherry-frosted (and rainbow sprinkled!) raised donut, was just greasy enough to provide a solid base for the smothering of cherry frosting, which recalled another glorious nostalgic taste memory: the cherry dip coating from Mr. Softee.
Shipley's in the Houston Airport

While we’re not going to denounce all other donuts in favor of Shipley’s (hey, there’s room for everyone!) we can indeed say that they made our layover sweet, and that we’re very happy to have made their acquaintance.

(Cakespy Note: At the time of our visit, we were not aware of the recent immigration scandal at Shipley’s, so we have chosen to just focus on the donuts in this writeup. Any reader thoughts?)

For locations, visit www.shipleydonuts.com

Tuesday
Oct022007

Napoleon of the Stumptown: Portland Coffee Takes Seattle

Stumptown Coffee has opened in Seattle, and it's caused quite a stir in the
city. To some, it's seen as an invasion in an already saturated boutique coffee market: are Caffé Vita, Espresso Vivace, Caffe Ladro and Uptown Espresso really not sufficient? And yet at the same time, there are the coffee enthusiasts who are flocking to the newly-opened Capitol Hill location.

But Cakespy is here to report on something much more important than coffee alone: what's going on in their pastry case?

Well. We're happy to say that Stumptown has embraced their new hometown by stocking their pastry case with lovely carbohydratey treats from Seattle favorites Mighty-O Donuts and Macrina Bakery. Beautiful cake doughnuts, biscuits, dill scones with cream cheese--we have to say, they have a major leg up on nearby Caffé Vita's pastry case, which always looks a little sad.

Oh, and the coffee is pretty good too; their espresso was strong and smoky yet still remarkably smooth; in fact, our only complaint is that they serve their French press coffee from a pump-top dispenser (which, granted, might just be a personal thing).

Stumptown Coffee Roasters, 1115 12th Ave (near Madison St.); second Capitol Hill location opening soon at 1605 Boylston Ave. (at Pine St.); online stumptowncoffee.com.

Stumptown Coffee in Seattle

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