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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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doughnuts are fried, doughy pastries leavened with yeast or chemical leaveners. They are found in myriad forms, shapes, and manifestations in almost every culture that has discovered the joys of fried food. In Alpine Tyrol, yeast-raised rounds are filled with preserves or cream; in New Orleans, sugar-dusted squares are a perfect partner for chicory-laced coffee. New Englanders have cider-scented dough circles and East Asians enjoy chewy pon de rings. See fried dough and fritters.

Perhaps the first reference to a doughnut-like pastry comes from Athenaeus, in the Deipnosophists (third century c.e.). Enkrides is “a small pastry deep-fried in olive oil and covered with honey afterward,” he writes, a description that could easily apply to current Greek loukomades, though whether they were yeast-raised, as they are now, is anybody’s guess. See athenaeus. Doughnut predecessors also pop up in the medieval Muslim sources. Zalabia (the spelling varies) and luqmat al-qadi sometimes took the form of yeast-raised lumps of dough, as they do today. Morocco’s doughnut-shaped sfenj have a clear ancestor in a recipe for isfunj found in an anonymous thirteenth-century Andalusian cookbook. See middle east; north africa; and zalabiya.