HOMER loves them – that’s Bart’s dad, of course, not the Greek storyteller. And US television cops seemingly can’t get through the day without washing down their coffee with at least one – one dozen, that is.
Of course, doughnuts were once simply round, sweet and with a hole in the middle, a naughty treat that was all the better for leaving sugar all over fingers that begged to be licked clean.
Now they’re deep filled, cream, jam, chocolate, iced, glazed, sprinkled and calorie-laden – the antithesis to the anti-obesity good health message.
Tomorrow, Edinburgh gets a taste of what the fuss is all about when American doughnut giant Krispy Kreme opens its first city outlet. Expect doughnut delirium at Hermiston Gait as when the chain opened its Cardiff store in 2011, around 1000 people camped outside waiting patiently, perhaps even salivating slightly, for their first taste of a Glazed Original, Chocolate Kreme or a Millionaires Shortbread.
They’re bad, but also devilishly good. So just what is it that makes these sugary, fat-laden, deep-fried cakes such a global phenomenon?
1. Doughnuts are thought to originate in Holland, and were so greasy that they were – perhaps unfortunately – named oliekoeks.
2. The story goes that a Dutch cow kicked over a bucket of boiling oil over some pastry mix, creating the first doughnut.
3. Perhaps the Austrians weren’t terribly impressed by the first doughnuts. They call them krapfen.
4. The French have a charming name for one type of doughnuts – pet de nonne, or nun’s fart. Legend goes a nun was cooking when she broke wind and she let the spoonful of dough she was holding fall into boiling oil, making a doughnut.
5. A 19th century pioneer was Elizabeth Gregory, a New England ship captain’s mother. Her son’s spice cargo included nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon rind, which she combined to make a fried dough cake.
6. Her son, Captain Hanson Gregory, is said to have invented the hole when his ship lurched and his treat ended up impaled on the ship’s wheel.
7. During the First World War, the Salvation Army cooked the troops doughnuts in tin buckets filled with hot oil and served them straight on to the end of their bayonets.
8. Doughnuts became even more popular when a Russian refugee in New York called Adolph Levitt invented the doughnut machine and founded the Doughnut Corporation of America.
9. The Doughnut Corporation of America published a doughnut recipe book including treats like Donut Rarebit – a melted packet of processed cheese, some milk and a spell under the grill – and Donut Prune Salad.
10. Doughnuts were the stars of the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago, when the mechanised production methods saw them billed as a futuristic snack.
11. The first national doughnut day was held in America in 1938 for the Salvation Army. It is still a regular event on the US calendar and in several other countries including Iceland.
12. Perhaps the most likely explanation for the hole is that early doughnuts when cooked on the outside were often raw in the middle. Fed up of customers with sore bellies, cooks created the hole.
13. More than ten billion doughnuts are eaten in America every year – and one in three of the population is obese. Krispy Kreme sold 50 million doughnuts in the UK last year.
14. If America is home of the modern doughnut, Canada is the capital, with more doughnut outlets per capita than any other country.
15. In Indonesia they enjoy donat kentang, a kind of fried cake made from potato, and in Japan they use red adzuki bean paste for their version.
16. Germany has Berliner jam
doughnuts. When John F Kennedy famously announced “Ich bin ein Berliner”, there was some confusion that he was declaring himself to be jelly doughnut.
17. The average iced doughnut is a diet-busting 200 calories. A Krispy Kreme Millionaires Shortbread doughnut packs 389 calories. The good news is that the hole is calorie free!
18. Jam filled doughnuts have less calories than ones with holes in the middle as there is more surface area on ones with holes which soaks up fat during frying.
19. Ernest Hemingway included donuts in a story called The Mercenaries. Gertrude Stein used “the hole in the donut” to metaphorically describe the inner beings of people.
20. Shop bought doughnuts can have ten times as many ingredients as homemade ones including dough conditioners to make them swell up and mould inhibitors to keep them fresh.
21. Doughnuts are particularly linked to trans fats, which prolong the shelf life of products but are associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke.
22. The Krispy Kreme outlet in Manchester was among the prime target for looters during the riots of 2011.
23. Comic Jimmy Carr has been known to lavish his audiences with Krispy Kreme treats, and Cheryl Cole sent Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am a box to celebrate his album success.
24. Paul Hollywood of the Great British Bake-off loves a jammy doughnut. Aged 13, he made 1000 inedible doughnuts at his dad’s bakery having mistook sugar for salt.
25. Finally, television cook Fanny Craddock infamously treated the nation to a fine display of doughnut making on live television in the 1970s, prompting a fellow presenter to praise her efforts with a sincere hope that all their doughnuts would turn out to be just like . . . Well, where on Earth was Homer Simpson when we needed him?