Deep-fried pastries known as doughnuts have a long history in Europe and its origins may be found in early Middle Eastern cuisine. As oliekoek, they were brought to America by the Dutch in New Netherlands (oil cakes or fried cakes). Doughnuts were as American as apple pie during World War I. Doughnuts rapidly took over as the Salvation Army’s go-to delicacy because it was simpler to heat oil in a cast-iron skillet than to find ovens on the battlefield when the volunteers sought to bake pastries to offer to the men.
However, it is widely acknowledged that the early Dutch settlers in New York City brought native foods with them, notably olykoeks, or “oil cakes.” In essence, this cuisine consisted of dough lumps that had been cooked in hog grease. They were also known as “oil balls” or oliebollen in English. Whatever the case, an American sailor by the name of Hanson Gregory claimed to have invented the ring-shaped fried dough with a hole in the center that we now refer to as doughnuts in 1847. According to Hanson, the early doughnuts did not yet have a hole in them, and while the surface of the delicacy was typically crispy, the interior was still undercooked.
Regarding the name, some people speculate that it may have originated from the tiny size of the original delicacies or from the fact that the Dutch stuffed the uncooked dough’s interior with real nuts and other components. The women who prepared the delicious delights overseas during the war were known as Doughnut Lassies, and they were a tremendous hit. The popularity of the desert grew as American troops came home, bringing with them their newly acquired appetite for doughnuts. Early in the 20th century, several regions changed the name from “doughnut” to “donut,” but the shorter form became more popular after the first Dunkin’ Donuts shop opened in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1950.