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The Donut - A Dessert with a Past and Future

A quintessentially old-fashioned fried dessert, doughnuts (as they were originally called) are basically ring-shaped portions of dough fried till they are golden brown, crisp on the outside and tender and soft on the inside. Originally a Dutch delicacy, doughnuts were brought to America in as early as 1809 and there has been no looking back for this delectable confection ever since. Considering it has been around for over two centuries, the variations that this modest treat has gone through is phenomenal. From the method used to make them to the vast array of glazes and toppings used for decorating them, the humble doughnut has certainly come a long way. Today it is successfully produced commercially and with its various toppings, it has become an on-the-go, scrumptious snack item devoured by all.  Also called ‘donut’, it is hugely popular in most parts of the world and one doesn’t really need a reason to indulge on these ambrosial goodies.

There are a number of ways in which the donut can be prepared, right from the ingredients used to the way they are cooked. Donuts were formerly made using cake flour and this is how the cake donut got its name. This recipe involves the use of baking powder and hence the structure of this donut is dense and crumbly like a cake. It is less time consuming as it doesn’t need to be proofed as opposed to its yeast counterpart. The cake donut itself can come in a number of flavours as there are in cakes and on its own, a cake donut is sweet making it quite an enjoyable treat without a glaze or topping. The yeast donut recipe, on the other hand, uses yeast and is the more popular of the donut recipes used today. These donuts are characteristically lighter and airier due to the presence of yeast allowing the dough to rise making it porous. Even though they are more time consuming as they have to be proofed, they are still preferred due to their airy texture and moist, chewy mouth feel. However, on its own the yeast donut is less sweet and cannot be consumed without a glaze or filling due to the flavour which yeast imparts to the donut. The egg-free donut is a recent addition to the list of variants and is quiet popular in the Indian sub-continent that by and large comprises of vegetarian consumers. With similar texture and mouth feel of the traditional donut, this egg-free version has successfully achieved the ideal taste profile thereby making it a hit even with mainstream consumers. In addition to this, there are the gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan versions of donut that are the proof that this extremely versatile product type can cater to a variety of dietary preferences.

One can be easily mesmerised by the plethora of glazes, toppings and fillings that are today an integral part of the donut and will only increase as bakeries compete to come up with unique variants of their own. Even savoury donuts have managed to find a spot on the menu as a permanent resident of the donut menu as more and more people become adventurous to try out new flavours. Be it grilled cheese, pizza, pickle-flavoured or sriracha donuts; savoury is the latest trend in donuts making them an all-rounder and enjoyable to nosh on any time of the day. Be it a breakfast pastry, an afternoon snack or an after-dinner dessert, the donut fits beautifully into every meal making it exceptionally diverse. The assortment of donuts available is sometimes mind-boggling, right from the classical chocolate glazed to the tiramisu inspired donut, the innovative mash ups that this old-timer has seen is remarkable.

Though donuts are traditionally deep fried, they can also be shallow fried or baked making it lower in calories and hence a favourable option for the health conscious. As it takes a mere five minutes to fry, the donut is incredibly successful in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) segment and the number of outlets that have opened and continue to open only confirm the popularity of this indulgent dessert. They are also manufactured in bulk as there is a huge scope in the urban segment market that relies heavily on packaged confectionary items.

There is no doubt that the donut has the potential to entice the masses with newer variants of old-time classics leading to an increase in demand which will continue as more and more brands get adventurous with flavours, toppings and fillings. Ever since its inception in the 1800’s the donut has managed to secure its place in the market for two centuries and by the looks of it, this share will only see an increment as the donut is here to stay. 

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