Potato Doughnut (History and Original Recipe)

Glass doughnut stand is EAPG manufactured in 1894 by McKee Glass known as “Jubilee,“ “Isis” or “Radiant Daisy and Button.“

Doughnuts are an American comfort food and part of the American cuisine. There are many tales and stories as to how the doughnut came about and got its name. But food historians agree that the Dutch settlers brought the fried dough to America. They fried sweet dough in pork fat called olykoeks (oily cakes). The sweet dough balls were filled with fillings of apples, prunes and raisins because the centers would not finish cooking and stayed doughy. The filling solved the problem because the filling only needed heated through. Early recipes told cooks to make nut size balls of dough to place in hot fat, which is probably where the name doughnut came from. Captain Hanson Crockett Gregary takes credit for the first doughnut holes in the Boston Post. Again there is many tales that goes a long with the why he had holes put into his doughnuts. The most popular is so he could hang them on the steering wheel of his ship, but the hole did solve the problem of a doughy center.

Archaeologist found petrified doughnut in an ancient ruins in the South West, but it is impossible to determine how they were made. So it is safe to say that American Natives also fried bread shaped like doughnuts.

By the mid 19th century the doughnut had become common in American homes. The delicate fried cake was easier to make over a wood stove then to bake a cake because the temperature was hard to control in an oven. The invention of baking powder also made the doughnut quicker to make. But yeast raised doughnut was made the most often and still remains the most popular even today. The cook had better control over how long the dough browned in a large skillet of hot fat and could see when to turned them over and removed them when done. The skillet could be positioned on the stove top where the heat was not too hot for the fat to burn. One of the common household items made for serving was called a salver, which was a small cake stand for doughnuts and was given as a gift to a bride. They are still collected today by early American pressed glass and silver plate collectors from the last half of the 19th century.

During the first world war, the American service men were fed doughnuts by the French so they could have some comfort food from home. Thus they became known as “dough boys.” After the war, doughnut became a snack food and was often served at theaters, also doughnut where served in breakfast restaurants as part of their menu. Many bakeries across the country mass produced doughnuts in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The first doughnut machine was invented by Adolph Levit who by the mid 1930’s was making 25 million a year manufacturing and selling doughnut machines to bakeries. At the Chicago’s World Fair in 1934 the doughnut was called “the food hit of the Century Of Progress.”

Many doughnut shops opened in the middle of the 20th century. Some of them were chain bakeries, that are still in business today. Also chain coffee house also featured the doughnut in many styles and flavors to go with their coffee. It is still popular to pick up a dozen doughnuts on the way to work to share with other employees over morning coffee.

I am sharing with you the original recipe for potato doughnuts by Glenna Snow published in 1938 in the Akron Beacon Journal. Her recipe launched a doughnut chain called Spudnut Shops in the 1950’s making potato doughnuts. They are still in business with about 50 shops. The potato doughnuts are the lightest doughnut you can make and easy to do. From Glenna Snow’s Cook Book, Third Edition, page 120 date of publication unknown because the front pages are missing.

Potato Doughnuts

Mix 1 cup hot mashed potatoes, 1 ½ tablespoonfuls melted butter or lard, 1 cup granulated sugar, ½ cup sweet milk, 2 small eggs, 4 cups flour, 2 ½ teaspoonfuls baking powder, ½ teaspoonful salt and 1 teaspoonful nutmeg. Pour on floured board and roll out as thick as desired (about ¼ inch). Fry in deep fat in a skillet that has rather high sides. The broad surface allows more doughnuts to be fried at one time. When brown on one side, turn, brown on other side.

Note*  After I cut out the doughnuts I put them on a cookie sheet and chilled them before I fried them. Other recipes for potato doughnuts that I found on the internet called for the dough to be chilled first. I wanted to keep as close to the recipe as possible for this test run.

Note* Handle the dough lightly and don’t knead to much because it does toughen it. The dough is not sticky and only needs a light flouring to roll out. The ones that I cut out first was the fluffiest when fried. I didn’t fry doughnut holes this time but when I make them again I will do that and cut them out of the scraps of dough instead of putting the dough together to roll more doughnuts. I did get 21 doughnuts from the batter. I used a deep chicken frying skillet with deep sides. The only problem I had frying was guessing at first how dark to brown the doughnuts. They have a wonderful flavor to them and this recipe is not real sweet. I used the half of can of vanilla frosting I had left over from the date nut bread to frost the tops. I did that while they were still warm and sprinkled chocolate jimmies on them. Glenna doesn’t give any instruction on how to frost or roll in sugar. I guess that was understood you knew how to do that.

I also used the doughnut cutter that came from the same relative that the cook book came from. She told me years ago that her children liked her cake doughnuts and she made them often. You can tell by the pages of this cook book that yes, she did make doughnuts often. The page was booked marked with a recipe cut from a newspaper for clam bake and on the back side there is a report that mentions President Harry Truman was going to make an announcement. The rest of the story is cut away but it gives me idea of when that recipe was clipped.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. trkingmomoe says:

    Reblogged this on Once Upon a Paradigm and commented:

    Everyone likes doughnuts. Did you ever think how it all got started. This is American cusine at it’s finest.


  2. shadeydaze says:

    Thank you for this…Once more love hearing about the history of them …will definitely give them a go… they sound delicious.


  3. trkingmomoe says:

    Thank you. They are good and my family has almost eaten all of them. They have a different texture then commercial made ones. I rather like them over the bakery style ones.


  4. dikkday says:

    As soon as I touch yeast, it dies.

    Some chemical/biological problem I assume.

    Don’t lecture, I have attempted using yeast a hundred times over the last eight years.

    One loaf out of five looks like bread.

    And bread was really the only thing my poor mums was good at. hahahaha

    Actually I gave up bread for diet Lent this month.

    Diet Lent is when you are so fat you have not seen your feet in years if you are standing up.

    the end


  5. Coming back this morning to use the recipe – making Sunday Doughnuts for Mr. Picky-eater andme – can’t wait!! Thanks again for the recipe.


    1. trkingmomoe says:

      I hope they turn out for you. Thanks for stopping by.


  6. doug snow says:

    I am happy to see you using my grandmother’s (Glenna Snow) cookbook on your recipe blog. She would be very proud to see people referring to her cookbook in 2013. She prepared many of these recipes for me in my childhood. She was quiet a special lady.

    Doug Snow


    1. Denise Conley Stanton says:

      Hi Mr. Snow, my mother has a copy of Glenna Snow’s cookbook that my father gave to her before they were married. He worked for the Akron Beacon Journal in the mid 1960s and found a bunch of the cookbooks down in the basement. He and my mother were dating and he decided to give her a copy (after asking his supervisor of course). That was her first of many cookbooks! We have used the Christmas Cookie recipe on pg. 98 of the 1947 edition all of my life. They are the best “cut out” cookies we have ever tasted. So, we love your grandmother’s Christmas cookie recipe and hope she would be happy to know that it will be passed on to a 3rd generation!


  7. I’m definitely going to have to try these… luckily I have three (kids) very willing volunteers. You’re right though, few consider how their favourite snacks started out. Awesome Post 😀


  8. Utahbooklover says:

    I enjoyed your ideas on how they came to be called doughnuts. But I want to point out the original recipe for Spudnuts uses potato flour, not potatoes. Johnny O’s in Logan UT uses the actual Spudnut recipe which you can verify at their site: johnnyosspudnuts.com


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