The invention of doughnuts indeed made many people very happy. However, most of the popular doughnuts we know today are way too different from the original ones.
Arab cooks started frying up small portions of unsweetened yeast dough in medieval times, drenching the plain fried blobs in a sugary syrup to sweeten them. These Arab fritters spread into northern Europe in the 1400s and became popular throughout England, Germany and the Netherlands.
The fried dough bun, what we today call doughnut, was born in Holland in the seventeenth century and crossed the Atlantic with emigrants from this country who populated cities like Pennsylvania. There this pastry product was baptized with the name of “doughnut“, and there it acquired the hole that has made it so famous.
For close to 200 years, doughnuts have come with no hole in the centre, the spot being a more modern addition.
The centre hole was added to the doughnut, or rather, removed in the bun, in 1847 when the sailor Hanson Gregory pierced the buns to make them fry better. Hanson Gregor was an American who claimed to have invented the ring-shaped doughnut in 1847 aboard a lime-trading ship when he was 16 years old. Gregory was dissatisfied with doughnuts’ greasiness twisted into various shapes and with the raw centre of regular doughnuts. A plaque today commemorates his “feat” in his hometown.