Every culture has its own favorite fried desserts (i.e. churros, cannolis, etc.) and inhabitants of the US are no exception. Donuts – or doughnuts if you have the desire to be more accurate and the time to spell all of that out every time – are so culturally significant here, mostly by the hands of cops across the country, but no one really knows where they’ve come from. Like every other pastry I will ever write about, donuts have a very convoluted past, one built mostly on speculation, but how they came to the US is indisputable.
Upon colonizing the East Coast, Dutch colonists contributed to the development of one of this country’s favorite treats by providing us with the treat from which donuts are the primary successor: Oliebollen. Directly translating to “oil balls” or “oil cakes” if referring to them by the name “olykoeks,” donuts as they have come to be directly descended from Dutch settlers in New York and these deliciously fried treats they brought from home.
Many people speculate about the history of donuts because of their unique design. The hole is baffling to most, though it was very obviously implemented to resolve uneven frying issues, but I think the most interesting donut trivia was developed in the post- rather than pre-donut world.
Donuts have become a symbol here, not only for police officers or our country’s glutinous reputation, but it has also become a sort of staple form for pastry chefs to use for innovative culinary experimentations. To put that in layman’s terms, the evolution of the donut into things like the cronut or the new (and extremely intriguing) mochi donuts has become the most interesting thing about the humble fried dough rings we love so much.
Though I have never had an ACTUAL cronut, I have had enough knock-offs to know that the original inventor, Chef Dominique Ansel, is nothing short of brilliant; however, I think my favorite rendition of the franken-donut is that which is the love child of donuts and mochi. These new donuts display a beautiful juxtaposition between the chewy texture of mochi and the former “crust” layer developed in the oil. Between the textural experience and the unique flavor profile, as they are dipped in less traditional glaze flavors like black sesame, macha, and passionfruit, this
Japan-originated take on donuts is a cut above the rest. My first taste of the black sesame “pon de ring” (as they are called by the creators at Mister Donut) was a true religious experience.
Having said that, my Dutch roots shudder at the thought that anything can replace oliebollen in their original form, no matter how gross the name is.