The circular or ringed doughnut is famous for its doughnut hole.
A doughnut (also spelled donut), is a sweet, deep-fried piece of dough or batter. The two most common types are the torus-shaped ring doughnut and the filled doughnut, a flattened sphere injected with jam, jelly, cream, custard, or other sweet filling. A small spherical piece of dough, originally made from the middle of a ring doughnut, may be cooked as a doughnut hole. Baked doughnuts are a variation that is baked in an oven instead of being deep fried.
Ring doughnuts are formed either by joining the ends of a long, skinny piece of dough into a ring or by using a doughnut cutter, which simultaneously cuts the outside and inside shape, leaving a doughnut-shaped piece of dough and a doughnut hole from dough removed from the center. This smaller piece of dough can be cooked or re-added to the batch to make more doughnuts. A disk-shaped doughnut can also be stretched and pinched into a torus until the center breaks to form a hole. Alternatively, a doughnut depositor can be used to place a circle of liquid dough directly into the fryer. Doughnuts can be made from a yeast-based dough for raised doughnuts or a special type of cake batter. Yeast-raised doughnuts contain about 25% oil by weight, whereas cake doughnuts' oil content is around 20%, but they have extra fat included in the batter before frying. Cake doughnuts are fried for about 90 seconds at approximately 190°C to 198°C, turning once. Yeast-raised doughnuts absorb more oil because they take longer to fry, about 150 seconds, at 182°C to 190°C. Cake doughnuts typically weigh between 24 g and 28 g, whereas yeast-raised doughnuts average 38g and are generally larger when finished.
After being fried, ring doughnuts are often topped with a glaze (icing) or a powder such as cinnamon or sugar. Styles such as fritters and jelly doughnuts may be glazed and/or injected with jam or custard.
As well as being fried, doughnuts can be completely baked in an oven. These have a slightly different texture from the fried variety with a somewhat different taste due to the lack of absorbed oil—and so have a lower fat content.
There are many other specialized doughnut shapes such as old-fashioneds, bars or Long Johns (a rectangular shape), or with the dough twisted around itself before cooking. In the northeast USA, bars and twists are usually referred to as crullers. Doughnut holes are small spheres that are made from the dough taken from the center of ring doughnuts or made to look as if they are. These holes are also known by brand names, such as Dunkin Donuts' Munchkins and Tim Hortons' Timbits.
Doughnuts have a disputed history. One theory suggests that doughnuts were introduced into North America by Dutch settlers, who were responsible for popularizing other American desserts, including cookies, cream pie, and cobbler. This theory is bolstered by the fact that in the mid-19th Century doughnuts were called by the Dutch olykoeks ("oily cakes"). However, there is also archaeological evidence that the pastries were prepared by prehistoric Native Americans in southwestern USA.
Hansen Gregory, an American, claimed to have invented the ring-shaped doughnut in 1847 aboard a lime-trading ship when he was only sixteen years old. Gregory was dissatisfied with the greasiness of doughnuts twisted into various shapes and with the raw center of regular doughnuts. He claimed to have punched a hole in the center of dough with the ship's tin pepper box and later taught the technique to his mother.
Food Timeline -- Doughnuts
"Doughnuts are deep-fried cakes with a long European history and roots in still earlier Middle Eastern cuisine. They were introduced to America by the Dutch in New Newtherland as oliekoecken (oil cakes or fried cakes)...The were eaten during the Dutch Christmas season...and for special occasions throughout the year. Once in the New World, the Dutch replaced their frying oil with the preferred lard (far more available here), as it produced a tender and greaseless crust. The other ethnic groups brought their own doughnut variations. The Pennsylvania Dutch and the Moravians who settled in North Carolina made fastnachts on Shrove Tuesday, and the French established beignets in New Orleans. Ultimately, the English American cooks adopted them as well. By 1845 doughtnuts appeared in American Cookbooks as staples, and the weekly Saturday baking (breads, cakes, and ies) included doughtnut frying. In this same antebellum period, two changes in technology contributed to a basic alteration of the doughnut. Chemical leavening (notably baking powder) was substituted for yeast, producing a more cakelike and less breadlike product. In the same era inexpensive tin doughnut cutters with holes were manufactured commercially and sold widely."
---Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith [Oxford University Press:New York] 2004 (p. 408)
(Oxford English Dictionary)
A small spongy cake made of dough (usually sweetened and spiced), and fried or boiled in lard. Freq. made in the shape of a thick ring.
1809 W. IRVING Knickerb. (1861) 90 An enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks.
1847 THOREAU in Atlantic Monthly June (1892) 757 The window was..the size of an oblong doughnut, and about as opaque.
1861 R. F. BURTON City of Saints 104 note, The Dough-nut is properly speaking, a small roundish cake made of flour, eggs, and sugar, moistened with milk and boiled in lard.
1870 HAZLITT Brand's Pop. Antiq. I. 48 At Baldock, Herts, the children call..[Shrove Tuesday] Dough-nut Day, from the small cakes fried in brass skillets over the fire with hog's lard.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
[app. a. Du. cruller, f. crullen to curl: cf. EFris. kruller curl, paper-curl, LG. kroll-koken wafer-cakes.]
A cake cut from dough containing eggs, butter, sugar, etc., twisted or curled into various shapes, and fried to crispness in lard or oil.
1818 W. IRVING Sketch-Bk., Leg. Sleepy Hollow, The doughty dough-nut..the crisp and crumbling cruller.
1866 HOWELLS Venet. Life vi, A species of cruller, fried in oil, which has all seasons for its own.
1890 G. RUDMANI Royal Baker (N.Y.) 8 [Recipe].
9 March 1791, New York (NY) Daily Advertiser, pg. 2:
If not equal, yet a partial benefit may be derived from it since, we retain in our constitutions, some specific qualities, visible in theirs, and since, we live in a cold country, as well as the Dutch.
13 December 1802, New York (NY) Commercial Advertiser, pg. 2 ad:
And on Monday next will be Published,
By G. & R. WAITE, price 75 cents, handsomely
bound in red, for the pocket
THE FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE,
OR COMPLETE WOMAN COOK;
An Appendix, containing receipts for making Pumpkin-Pie, Dough Nuts, Sausages, Blood Puddings, Cranberry-Tarts, Peach Sweetmeats, Pear do. Quince do. Green Gage do.; to pickle Peppers and Beets; to make Maple Suage, Maple Molasses, Maple Beer, Spruce Beer out of the essence, do. out of Shred Spruce; to make Pork-Pie, Bath Pudding, Pot-Pie, Short Gingerbread, Wharfles, Crullers; methods of raising Turkies, method of destroying the putrid smell which meat acquires during hot weather, &c. &c.; together with a Bill of Fare for every month in the year.
30 January 1808, The Times (Boston, MA), pg. 29, col. 2:
...then the company sat round the large round table to their tea, while a plentiful supply of fire-cakes and dough-nuts furnished out the repast;...