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Donut Day
Bear Claws, Crullers, and Holes

Donut Day
  • A history of New York (by )
  • Peck's Bad Boy and His Pa (by )
  • Peck's Bad Boy Abroad (by )
  • Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus (by )
  • Peck's Bad Boy with the Cowboys (by )
  • Peck's Bad Boy in an Airship (by )
  • The Virginia Housewife: Or, Methodical C... (by )
  • Favorite Recipes (by )
  • The new household discoveries; an encycl... (by )
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National Donut Day, established in 1938, occurs the first Friday of June and honors the Salvation Army’s “Doughnut Girls” and the Red Cross’ “Doughnut Dollies” who served donuts to soldiers in the trenches during World Wars I and II, respectively. Although primarily a U.S. holiday, donut shops around the world have been known to hoist a cinnamon roll in celebration.

In its simplest terms, the donut--or doughnut--is deep fried dough, either yeast dough or a dense, cake-type dough. The pastries can be filled with cream, jelly, or custard. The exterior of the donut may be dusted, frosted, glazed, and topped with any ingredient or combination of ingredients: usually sugar or maple, nuts or candies, chocolate, cinnamon, and fruit.

The humble, delicious, and oh-so-fattening donut is not a recent culinary invention. Archeologists have found fossilized evidence of fried dough in excavations of Native American settlements. The first recorded recipe for donuts comes from an early cookbook published in 1803. Washington Irving referred to “doughnuts” in his History of New York (1839) However, the donut as we have come to recognize it evolves from pastries made by Dutch immigrants to Manhattan.
As history has it, Captain Hanson Gregory claimed fame as the one to have popularized the ring-shaped donut in 1847, when he was 16 years old. Dissatisfied with the greasy texture and uncooked center of the usual donut twist, he punched a hole in the center of the dough with the ship’s tin pepper box and taught the technique to his mother, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was then credited with taking advantage of her son’s cargo of spices to add flavor to the sweet, fried dough.

History credits author George W. Peck with the first printed use of the American spelling “donut” in his mean-spirited “Peck’s Bad Boy” series (Peck’s Bad Boy and His Pa, 1883; The Grocery Man and Peck’s Bad Boy, 1883; Peck’s Bad Boy Abroad, 1905; The Adventures of Peck’s Bad Boy, 1906; Peck’s Bad Boy at the Circus, 1906; Peck’s Bad Boy with the Cowboys, 1908; and, Peck’s Bad Boy in an Airship, 1908).

For some traditional, historical donut recipes, consult The Virginia Housewife: Or, Methodical Cook (1836) by Mary Randolph; Favorite Recipes (1903) by Cumberland Presbyterian Church; and, The New Household Discoveries: An Encyclopedia of Recipes and Processes (1917) edited by Sidney Levi Morse.

By Karen M. Smith

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