15 Delicious Facts About Doughnuts

istock
istock

Doughnuts are everywhere. Over the last century, few pastries have inspired as much long-lasting enthusiasm, or as many film and television tributes, as the humble ring of fried dough.

Although we’ve been gobbling down doughnuts by the baker's dozens for years, most of us don’t know that much about their delicious history. Here are 15 tasty facts about the iconic pastry.

1. Over 10 billion doughnuts are made in the U.S. each year.

The American doughnut industry is huge, with numerous fast food chains dedicated to their production. Canada, meanwhile, produces fewer doughnuts (approximately 1 billion per year), but with its lower population, actually has the most doughnut shops per capita of any country in the world.

2. There are 10 people living in America with the last name "Doughnut" or "Donut."

At least that was the total in 2011. It's unclear whether "Doughnut" was their given last name, or whether they changed it out of passion for the pastry. Meanwhile, 13 people have the first name “Donut,” making it the 245,396th most popular name in the United States.

3. Washington Irving was the first writer to describe doughnuts in print.

Washington Irving, who is best known as the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, described the pastry as "balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks.” He is widely believed to be the first writer to wax poetic about these delicious concoctions.

4. Voodoo Doughnut used to sell "medicinal" doughnuts, which were coated with Nyquil or Pepto Bismol.

Portland, Oregon-based Voodoo Doughnut is famous for its wild doughnut flavors. For a while, the doughnut shop even offered NyQuil- and Pepto Bismol-coated doughnuts (the latter were dipped in Pepto Bismol, sprinkled with Tums, and marketed to customers who’d had too much to drink and wanted a snack that was easy on the stomach). The doughnut shop was eventually forced to retire its medicinal flavors after the FDA stepped in.

5. "Spudnuts" have dough made of potatoes instead of flour.

Made with mashed potatoes or potato starch, potato doughnuts were once so popular they had their own fast food chain: Spudnuts. The mostly defunct chain (there are apparently a few independent locations hanging on, but the parent company no longer exists) was founded by two brothers—an appliance salesman and drug store clerk—in the 1940s. They were the first fast food doughnut chain to open in Los Angeles.

6. Boston has the most doughnut shops per person.

Bostonians really love their doughnuts: The city has one doughnut shop for every 2480 people according to AdWeek.

7. The French used to call their doughnuts "nun's farts."

The airy fried dough fritters—slightly different from the American circular doughnut—are called pets de nonne in French, which translates to “nun’s farts.”

8. There's some truth to the "cops love doughnuts" trope.

Back in the 1950s, police officers on the graveyard shift would stop by doughnut shops—which were among the few establishments open late—to do paperwork and have a snack. Eventually a reciprocal relationship developed: Doughnut shop owners welcomed the protection of police officers, and police officers liked having a place to chow down late at night, so the association stuck around.

9. Renée Zellweger ate 20 doughnuts a day to gain weight for the Bridget Jonessequel.


iStock/kievith

Renée Zellweger needed to gain weight fast to reprise her role as the eponymous heroine in 2004's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. The actress claimed to have eaten “a Big Mac and chips, potatoes swimming in butter, pizza, milkshakes, and 20 doughnuts” every day to hit her weight goal in time for shooting.

10. Doughnuts were once declared "the hit food" of the century.

At the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair—which was billed as "A Century of Progress"—doughnuts were given the lofty title of "Hit Food of the Century of Progress." Because they were fresh and the automated machines made them quickly, they were cheap and became "a staple of the working class" during the Depression, according to Sally Levitt Steinberg, whose grandfather invented the doughnut machine.

11. Clark Gable taught movie audiences how to properly dunk doughnuts in It Happened One Night.


iStock/DarcyMaulsby

In 1934's It Happened One Night, Clark Gable's character outlined the rules for proper dunking etiquette to co-star Claudette Colbert. "Dunking's an art," he explained. "Don't let it soak so long. A dip and—plop, into your mouth. If you let it soak so long, it'll get soft and fall off. It's all a matter of timing. I ought to write a book about it."

12. A New England ship captain claimed to have invented the hole in doughnuts.

Elizabeth Gregory, mother of 19th-century ship captain Hanson Gregory, would famously make fried dough pastries for her son and his crew to take on their voyages. Though the elder Gregory may have been an early doughnut innovator (she packed the pastries with nuts, and flavored them with cinnamon and nutmeg), it was Captain Hanson Gregory who claimed to have invented the actual doughnut hole, calling it "the first doughnut hole ever seen by mortal eyes."

13. Doughnuts were served to soldiers during WWI.

During World War I, Salvation Army workers would bring soldiers doughnuts and coffee in the trenches of France to cheer them up and remind them of home.

14. One California doughnut shop became a movie star in the 1980s—and still is.


Getty Images

Featuring a massive 32-foot doughnut sculpture atop its low, flat roof, Randy's Donuts is one of the most iconic Hollywood doughnut shops. The store, which opened in the 1950s as part of the now-defunct Big Donut Drive-In chain, has appeared in numerous movies, including Earth Girls are Easy (1988), Get Shorty (1995), The Golden Child (1986), Crocodile Dundee (1986), and Iron Man 2 (2010).

15. They were once called olykoeks.

Though many countries have independently developed their own version of doughnuts, the Dutch are widely credited with bringing the fried pastry to America prior to the Revolutionary War, originally calling them olykoeks, meaning "oily cakes."

This article originally ran in 2016.

15 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of The Great British Baking Show

Netflix
Netflix

by Sarah Dobbs

If you’re an American fan of The Great British Bake Off you probably know it better as The Great British Baking Show (though its most devoted fans simply call it GBBO, which saves a lot of time). The show's tenth season recently kicked off on England’s Channel 4, and is streaming for American audiences via Netflix (though only one episode is being rolled out per week).

A bona fide global sensation, the baking competition has the power to cause otherwise rational human beings to immediately run to their nearest supermarket in search of obscure ingredients like psyllium or Amarula cream liqueur. It’s a charming, retro, warming hug of a TV show. But how much do you know about what goes on behind the scenes? Without destroying any of your illusions, here are some secrets about how the producers whip up one of the world's most beloved cooking shows.

1. The reason why it has two different names is simple.

A scene from The Great British Bake Off
Netflix

If you’ve ever wondered why the series is called The Great British Bake Off in England and The Great British Baking Show in America, the answer is simple: Pillsbury. The Pillsbury Bake Off, which kicked off in 1949, is probably America’s most famous baking contest. And the company didn’t want there to be any confusion among viewers, hence The Great British Baking Show.

2. Each oven has to be tested every day.

It’s difficult enough to make a cake that Paul Hollywood won’t declare either under- or over-baked without having to worry about whether your oven is working properly. So for every day of filming, every oven has to be tested. And because this is a baking show, they’re tested with cakes. Yes, every day every oven has a Victoria sponge cake cooked in it, to make sure everything’s working exactly as it should be.

3. Every time someone opens an oven door, there's a camera watching them.

To make sure they catch all the drama, GBBO producers insist that every time a bake is put into or taken out of an oven, the moment must be caught on camera. So whenever a baker wants to put their goodies into an oven, or check if they’re ready to come out, they need to grab someone to make sure the moment gets captured on film. (Which must be a hassle for the first couple of weeks, when there are more than 10 bakers all trying their best to produce a perfect bake at once.)

4. The contestants have to wear the same clothes all weekend.

It’s a minor thing, but have you ever noticed that the bakers wear the same clothes for an entire episode, even though it’s shot over two days? For continuity purposes, the contestants are asked to wear the same outfits for the entire weekend. If you’re the kind of baker who ends up with flour all over your shirt whenever you bake up a loaf of bread, the second day of filming could be a bit of a nightmare.

"Luckily they change the aprons so we don't look like a Jackson Pollock painting by the end of it," 2013 champion Frances Quinn told Cosmopolitan. "I think layers [is the answer], but even then you still have to wear what you had on, on top. Difficult."

5. The contestants don't have a lot of downtime.

Having any time to spare is not something that season seven contestant Jane Beedle remembers happening regularly for the contestants. "Maybe once or twice, and when they did we would just sit and have a cup of tea and chat with the people around us,” she told the Mirror. "They don't like it if you have nothing to do, so they try and make the challenges as difficult as possible to keep you busy."

6. The temperature in the tent can make or break a bake.

Sue Perkins, Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, and Frances Quinn in 'The Great British Bake Off'
BBC

Forget setting the oven to the correct temperature—the temperature inside the tent is just as important to a bake. "It's completely alien to your own kitchen at home,” Quinn told Cosmopolitan. “The temperature fluctuates—you'd be making a meringue and it would start raining, or we'd try and make pastry and it would be 27 degrees outside. The technical challenges and lack of time and lack of fridge and work space are the enemy on that show."

7. The illustrations are created by Tom Hovey, after the episode has filmed.

You know those fun illustrations of the confections that pop up when each baker explains what they’re going to make that day? Those are all drawn by illustrator Tom Hovey. He was working as a video editor on the first season of GBBO when the producers realized they needed an extra visual element—so he offered his illustration skills. And while we see the illustrations on screen before the bakers attempt to make them a reality, Hovey told the BBC he draws them “a pack of photos of the finished bakes from the set after each episode has been filmed … I sketch out all the bakes quickly in pencil to get the details, form and shape I am after. I then work these up by hand drawing them all in ink, then they’re scanned and colored digitally, and then I add the titles and ingredient arrows. It's a fairly well streamlined process now.”

Even if a bake goes horribly wrong, Hovey said his “illustrations are a representation of what the bakers hope to create. Even if the bakers don't produce what they’ve intended to I have a degree of artistic license to make them look good.”

8. The contestants don't interact with the judges very much.

“They very much tried to keep it unbiased,” Quinn said about how the bakers don’t spend much time interacting with the judges. “We saw a lot more of Mel and Sue. Mary and Paul would purely come in to do what we called the royal tour—where they'd come in and find out what you were making, and then they'd come back in for judging. You're not in the same hotel having sleepovers! You form more of a relationship after the show when you see them at things like BBC Good Food or whatever—but they need to keep their distance [on the show]. They're there as judges."

9. Making sure that the technical challenge is actually possible is one person's job.

Sandi Toksvig in 'The Great British Bake Off'
Netflix

Another vital behind-the-scenes role is that of the food researcher. It’s down to them to make sure that the elaborate concoction the judges have decided the bakers have to whip up is actually possible, given the ingredients, instructions, and time the bakers will be allowed.

The tent presents its own challenges, too, because it could be hot or cold, depending on the weather, and it tends to have quite a wobbly floor, which can make delicate decorating work trickier than it might otherwise seem. “The tent is just mocked up, so the floor is really bumpy and bouncy because you’d got so many camera guys running around,” Quinn told the Irish Examiner.

10. The show got into some trouble for its partnership with Smeg.

Part of GBBO’s homey charm has to do with the setup of the tent where the bakers do their cooking, and few appliances spell “retro” as well as a colorful Smeg refrigerator. A viewer fed up with what they described as “blatant product promotion” wrote to the Radio Times to complain, and an investigation was launched into the series’ agreement with Smeg. As BBC guidelines state that a series may "not accept free or reduced cost products" in return for "on-air or online credits, links or off-air marketing,” the broadcaster ended up having to write the company a check for all the times their product got some screen time.

11. There are never any leftovers.

The judges only take a mouthful of every bake, which seems to leave an awful lot of leftover pastries, cakes, and ridiculously complicated bread sculptures. But don’t worry—none of it goes to waste. “The crew eats all the leftovers," Beedle told The Mirror. "We get some brought to us in the green room so we can taste each other's bakes, but it's only slithers."

12. Hundreds of season five viewers wrote in to complain about "sabotage."

Midway through season five, contestant Iain Watters had a bit of an issue with his Baked Alaska. Realizing that his ice cream had not yet set, he threw the entire dish into the trash rather than serve the judges a subpar dessert and was sent home as a result. Footage from the episode made is seem as if fellow contestant Diana Beard had removed his ice cream from the freezer. Beard left the show at just about the same time due to health issues, but some viewers (811, to be exact) smelled sabotage—and wrote in to the show’s producers to complain. Media watchdog group Ofcom looked into the matter, but said that they had assessed viewers’ complaints and “they do not raise issues warranting further investigation under Ofcom’s rules.”

Paul Hollywood took to Twitter to clear up what became known as “bingate,” tweeting: “Ice cream being left out of fridge last night for 40 seconds did not destroy Iain’s chances in the bake off, what did was his decision BIN.”

13. Mary Berry watched Breaking Bad backstage.

Although it looks pretty nonstop on screen, there’s quite a bit of downtime during the show’s filming days. Especially for the show’s judges and hosts. Former judge Mary Berry had one unique way of passing the time: binge-watching Breaking Bad. “It’s shocking,” Berry told The Telegraph. “Then you get into it and you think: ‘Have I seen episode four or five?’ You get hooked. It’s better than motor racing, which [my husband] Paul watches—though I’d prefer Downton Abbey.” She’d apparently rope former hosts Mel and Sue into watching it with her on occasion. What better way to relax during a long day of baking than by watching Walter White, umm, baking?

14. The application form is no joke.

Fancy your chances in the Bake Off tent? If you’ve been inspired by the show and reckon you could nab a couple of Star Baker titles, brace yourself: The application form is a whopping eight pages long, and it’s full of probing questions. As well as giving details of your hobbies, lifestyle, and level of experience with various types of baked goods, it also asks applicants to describe their baking style, and answer a couple of existential-sounding questions.

"It's a long application form. I think it's designed to put some people off, essentially," fourth season contestant Beca Lyne-Pirkis said. "It asks you about everything you have done, good and bad. It's designed to get information about your character, stories, mishaps and successes."

Still fancy applying? Though submissions are not open at the moment, you can keep your eyes open for when the next batch of contestants are being accepted here.

15. The audition process is a grueling one.

If you happen to make it through the application process, the audition process is even more difficult. “Every person who makes it into the marquee has passed a rigorous series of tests,” GBBO creator and executive producer Anna Beattie told The Telegraph. In addition to the application form, The Telegraph reported that there is “a 45-minute telephone call with a researcher, bringing two bakes to an audition in London, a screen test and an interview with a producer. If they get through that, there is a second audition baking two recipes … in front of the cameras, and an interview with the show psychologist to make sure they can cope with being filmed for up to 16 hours a day.”

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port. 

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 Kickstarter goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100-$120 if you pledge fast. You can back the ChopBox here.

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