Doughnuts: How The Favourite Dessert With A Hole Was Named

Doughnuts are one of the most beloved sweet treats in the world. They come in various shapes, sizes, and flavours, and can be found in bakeries, cafes, and supermarkets around the globe. But have you ever wondered how doughnuts got their name? 

The origin of doughnuts can be traced back to ancient times when cooks would fry small pieces of dough in oil or fat. These treats were known by various names, such as "oil cakes" and "fried dough." The modern-day doughnut, however, is believed to have originated in the mid-19th century in the United States.

The first known reference to the word doughnut appeared in a book titled "A History of New York" by Washington Irving, published in 1809. In the book, Irving described a kind of pastry called "doughnuts" that were served at a meeting of the Knickerbocker Club in New York City. According to Irving, the doughnuts were "balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks."

The derivation of the name "doughnut" remains a topic of discussion among historians. One theory suggests that it stems from the addition of nuts to the dough for flavour enhancement. Alternatively, some argue that the name evolved from a recipe where hazelnuts or walnuts were placed in the cake's centre to avoid an uncooked middle. Others believe that the knot-style shaping of the dough led to the name "dough knot," which later became "doughnut."

The term "doughnut" itself is believed to be a combination of two words: "dough" and "nut." The "dough" part is self-explanatory, as it refers to the pastry's primary ingredient. The "nut" part, however, is a bit more complicated. Some historians believe that the term "nut" was used to describe the shape of the doughnuts, which resembled a nut or seed. Others believe that the term "nut" was used as a slang term for a small, rounded pastry.

Another theory is that the term "doughnut" may have originated from the Dutch word "oliebol," which translates to "oil ball." Oliebollen are traditional Dutch treats made of deep-fried dough that are often filled with raisins, apples, or currants. Dutch immigrants brought this tradition to the United States, and it's possible that the term "doughnut" was a variation of "oliebol."

Regardless of its etymology, the doughnut quickly became a popular treat in the United States. In the late 1800s, doughnuts were sold at fairs and carnivals and were often served with coffee. During World War I, the Salvation Army popularised doughnuts as a way to lift the spirits of soldiers. The organisation's "Doughnut Girls" would fry and serve doughnuts to troops on the front lines, and the treat became synonymous with the soldiers' experience.

The origin of the term "doughnut" is a bit of a mystery. While there are several theories about its etymology, the most widely accepted explanation is that it is a combination of the words "dough" and "nut." Regardless of its name, the doughnut has become a beloved treat that has stood the test of time. Whether you prefer glazed, chocolate-covered, or filled, there's no denying the appeal of a freshly baked doughnut.