Happy National Doughnut Day! Today we celebrate those sweet wheels of deliciousness that pop up in every flavor imaginable. We’re bringing you a fall doughnut recipe that you’ll want to drop everything for and try immediately. Nothing says autumn goodness like Apple Cider Doughnuts. First, let’s find out how long we’ve been enjoying these popular pastries.
While they may not have been eating Krispy Kreme, it isn’t surprising that those ingenious Greeks and Romans were some of the first to realize the gift that is fried dough. They would take strips of dough, fry them up and then coat them in golden honey, or fish sauce if they were in the mood for a savory treat (we’re not surprised the fish sauce doughnut didn’t make it to Dunkin Donuts’ menu). The Greeks may even have been the originator of the treasured doughnut hole. Loukoumades are balls of dough coated in honey and sugar that some say they go all the way back to the time of the original Greek Olympics. The Greek poet Callimichus says they were called “honey tokens” and were served to the winners of the games.
Fried dough has a long and glorious history in many parts of the world, popping up in various ancient cultures. In the Middle East there were dough balls covered in sugary syrup, from India we have various fried breads like naan and delicacies such as the samosa, and Asia gave us the wonton. Each of these doughnut cousins have ancient roots that contributed to the dessert we all know and love today.
Once fried dough made its way into Europe during the Middle Ages, it really took off. Many cookbooks from that time period yield recipes for a type of doughnut more akin to the crepe. Various cultures put their own spin on the recipe by changing the garnish to everything from sugar to oranges. In some areas the saccharin garnishes were difficult to obtain and so, much like the Greeks and Romans with the fish sauce doughnut, they added savory accompaniments such as meat and mushrooms.
You might be wondering when the hole made its appearance. That little hole is the reason Americans claim to have invented the first doughnut. But let’s all be honest, a doughnut without a hole tastes just as sweet. The Pilgrims and Dutch settlers brought the hole-less doughnut to the New World with them and its fame spread rapidly. It does bear mentioning that the Dutch strongly proclaim that they were the first ones to poke holes in doughnuts so that they could be dipped into coffee. The Americans tell a different story of a young sailor/captain named Hanson Gregory who was of Dutch descent. There are various versions of the tale. In some, Captain Gregory plants one of the doughnuts his mother made him on a steering wheel spoke to keep his hands free during a storm, thereby creating the holed doughnut. Other versions suggest that Gregory simply did not like the uncooked center of the doughnut and he poked a hole in the center to rid the pastry of its gooey portion.
No matter how it happened, we’re all just so happy that it did. Today we can enjoy many different types of doughnuts to suit every taste: cake, glazed, jelly-filled, gluten free, vegan, with and without holes or just the holes themselves!
Celebrate Doughnut Day with AntiquityNOW and be grateful that the ancient fish sauce doughnut didn’t catch on.
For those who want to see how doughnuts are made, here’s a How Stuff Works video on the production of Krispy Kreme’s glazed and filled doughnuts.
Apple Cider Doughnuts
*Recipe courtesy of Taste and Tell blog.
Yields 12 doughnuts.
- 2 red apples
- 1 1/2 cups of apple cider
- 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 4 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- 2/3 cups of sugar, divided
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable shortening
- 1 large egg plus one egg yolk
- 1/4 cup of buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- vegetable oil, for frying
For the glaze:
- 1 cup of apple cider
- 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
For the cinnamon sugar topping:
- 1 cup of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- Core the apples and coarsely chop. Combine the apples with the 1 1/2 cups of cider in a saucepan and set over medium heat. Cover the pan and cook until the apples start to soften, 8-10 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until the cider is completely reduced, 10-15 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender to puree until smooth. You should have about 1 cup of sauce. If you have more, return to the pan and continue to cook down until you only have 1 cup of applesauce. Let the sauce cool slightly.
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and nutmeg. In another bowl, mix together the sugar and the shortening with a mixer on medium speed until the mixture looks sandy. Beat in the egg and the egg yolk, then the applesauce mixture. Scrape the bowl as needed. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk and vanilla, then the remaining flour. Do not overmix.
- Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and flour. Pour the dough out onto the parchment paper, and with floured hands, pat it into a 7×11-inch rectangle. (The dough will be sticky.) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to make the doughnuts, heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large heavy pot to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside.
- Start the glaze by simmering the 1 cup of cider in a small saucepan over medium heat until it is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Whisk in the powdered sugar until the glaze is sticky and smooth.
- In a shallow bowl, mix together the 1 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.
- Flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto the surface. The dough is still a bit sticky, so make sure there is enough flour down so that the dough doesn’t stick. Lightly roll the dough out to a 9×12-inch rectangle. Using a 3 inch doughnut cutter (or a 3 inch biscuit cutter plus a 1 inch cutter for the center) cut out 12 doughnuts. Add 2 or 3 doughnuts at a time to the hot oil and fry until golden brown and cooked through, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to the paper towel lined baking sheet to cool. Repeat with the rest of the doughnuts, including the doughnut holes.
- Once cool enough to handle, dip the top of each doughnut into the apple cider glaze, then dip into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Serve the doughnuts warm.
 Avey, T. (2011, June 3). National Doughnut Day – The History of Doughnuts. Retrieved October 31, 2014.
 Loukoumades. (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2014.
 Scully, T. (2005). The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. Boydell Press.
 Avey, T.
 Sagon, C. (2002, April 18). Hole Truth On Origin Of Doughnuts. Retrieved October 31, 2014.