The exact history of donuts isn’t known. It is likely that some version has existed since man first started using fire and making dough. The shape of donuts, however, is not as much of a mystery.
In 1847, an American ship captain claims to have been the first person to ever put a hole in a donut. Before then, the dough was fried in hot oil and the outside of the finished product was crispy but the inside was still uncooked. This made for horrible digestion and a not-so-tasty treat. Captain Hansen started thinking and wondered what would happen if the middle was simply removed. What he discovered was a scrumptious treat that had the crispy outside and cake-like inside we have come to love.
Before the Hole
Before people started cooking donuts with holes in them, Dutch cooks tried to get rid of the raw middles by shaping the dough around some kind of filling that didn’t require cooking. This idea quickly caught on and spread. This is thought to be the predecessor of today’s filled donut.
While the reasoning that was quoted by Captain Hansen is considered the most logical one, there are two others that are popular.
Bagels were starting to become popular in New York City and bakeries often displayed them on spindles. It seemed to donut bakers that doing the same with the donuts might get them in front of customers easier, so they started putting a hole in them to make this possible. It is thought, however, that this explanation isn’t very likely.
Our favorite origin story takes us back to Captain Hansen. It was rumored that the young Captain enjoyed his donuts above all other foods. His mother reportedly always sent some with him on his voyages. One day he was faced with a horrible storm at sea and he needed both hands free to steer the ship. Not wanting his donuts to get lost, he reportedly jammed them onto the spokes of the ship’s wheel, keeping them nearby for when he could eat them once the storm had passed and the ship was out of danger.
Historians agree that the practical reasoning of trying to prevent uncooked middles is most likely the real reason donuts have the shape they do. For more interesting donut history facts, check out this article on the history of the donut. If reading about tasty donuts has gotten you thinking about how good one would taste, take a trip to your nearest Shipley Do-Nuts shop today.
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