June 7th is National Donut Day. The holiday was created in 1938 by the Salvation Army, to honor the women who served donuts to servicemen in World War I (at that time, it was called the Great War).
From its first appearance in 17th-century English, the word evolved from dough-nut to doughnut to donut (see the doughnut history below).
But the latest evolution in the doughnut category is very recent:
Dominique Ansel, an innovative French pastry chef with a bakery in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City, has invented the Cronut.
As things do in the digital age, it quickly became a craze, with long lines waiting to buy the 250 Cronuts made daily, and scalpers selling the $5 Cronuts for $40.
The original Cronut, invented by pastry chef Dominique Ansel of New York City. Photo courtesy Dominique Ansel Bakery.
WHAT IS A CRONUT?
A hybrid of a croissant and a doughnut, the secret recipe includes the puff pastry layers of a croissant but with a hole in the middle. The dough is injected with the filling of a doughnut, then fried and glazed like a doughnut. The result: a crunchy outside and a soft inside.
Ansel has registered the name Cronut. (Registration, which entitles the name to a “tm” mark, is the step before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approves the mark, at which time the tm becomes an ®.)
Dominique Ansel is a French pastry chef who spent seven years at the legendary Parisian bakery, Fauchon, ultimately arriving in New York City for a six-year stint as executive pastry chef at Daniel.
In November 2011, he opened Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City. His excellent skills, coupled with a vivid imagination, have produced innovative delights, of which the Cronut is just one.
Pillsbury’s version of the Cronut, called the
Crescent Doughnut. Photo courtesy Pillsbury.
MAKE YOUR OWN CRONUT-TYPE PASTRY
Pillsbury got on top of the trend and created its own version of the Cronut—one that everyday folks can create at home. The recipe uses the dough of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, prepared vanilla pudding instead of custard, jelly or pastry cream; and a drizzle of salted caramel.
It doesn’t have the complexity of the Cronut, but it’s close enough. More importantly, it’s easy to make. For some people, that beats lining up on the street at 6 a.m., waiting for the Dominique Ansel Bakery to open at 8 a.m.
1. HEAT oil in deep fryer or 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. to 325°F.
2. SEPARATE crescent dough into 4 rectangles. Firmly press perforations to seal. Stack 2 rectangles on top of one another. Fold in half widthwise to make tall stack. Repeat with remaining 2 rectangles.
3. Use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut 1 round from each stack; use 1/2-inch biscuit cutter to cut small hole in center of each round. Reroll remaining dough to cut a third doughnut.
4. FRY the doughnuts in hot oil 2-1/2 minutes on each side, or until they are a deep golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Cool 5 minutes.
5. CAREFULLY SPLIT doughnuts in half. Place pudding in decorating bag fitted with a tip, and pipe half of the pudding onto bottom half of each doughnut. Top each with some of the caramel sauce; sprinkle with salt. Cover each with top of doughnut.
6. MIX powdered sugar in small bowl with enough milk to create a spreading consistency. Spread on tops of doughnuts. Drizzle with additional caramel sauce.
Although dough was fried in oil as far back as ancient Rome, food historians generally credit the invention of deep-fried yeast doughnuts to Northern Europeans in Medieval times.
The word doughnut refers to the small, round, nutlike shape of the original doughnuts—the hole came later. “Donut” is an American phonetic rendering from the 20th century.
Doughnuts were introduced to America in the 17th century by Dutch immigrants, who called them oliekoecken, oil cakes (i.e., fried cakes). In the New World, the doughnut makers replaced their frying oil with lard, which was plentiful and produced a tender and greaseless crust.
Other immigrants brought their own doughnut variations: the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Moravians brought fastnachts to Lancaster, Pennsylavnia and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, respectively; the French brought beignets to New Orleans.
By 1845, recipes for “dough-nuts” appeared in American cookbooks; chemical leavening (baking powder) was substituted for yeast to produce a more cakelike, less breadlike texture; and inexpensive tin doughnut cutters with holes came onto the market.