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Food writers weary of reprinting recipes for no-grease latkes and rehashing the "applesauce or sour cream" debate have this year devoted an increasing number of

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The Search for A Hanukkah Doughnut Hole

Donut-sales0509-2.jpg
Food writers weary of reprinting recipes for no-grease latkes and rehashing the "applesauce or sour cream" debate have this year devoted an increasing number of feature column inches to sufganiyot, the Israeli jelly-filled doughnuts that took hold as a Hanukkah food in the 1950s. To many American Jews, the pastries seem somehow more celebratory than shtetl-style pancakes of potato, onion and matzo meal.

But doughnuts present a problem for party hosts, who know their guests are unlikely to chow down on 300-calorie, saucer-sized sugar spheres while daintily sipping wines and cocktails. And in Seattle, more than 50 miles from the nearest Dunkin' Donuts Munchkin or Tim Horton's Timbit, freshly-made holes can be hard to find.

Street Donuts and Daily Dozen Doughnut Company both offer downsized doughnuts, but their products have the distinctive o-shape of a traditional ring doughnut, not the cute poppability of a perfectly round hole. (Sticklers might also note their doughnuts are unfilled.)

"I'll make them for special occasions," says Top Pot's Mark Klebeck. "But, typically, we don't because we have the dies set up, so it interrupts everything."

Doughnut machines miraculously produce doughnuts without holes, so bakeries no longer have byproducts to sell. At Krispy Kreme, stores serving holes are equipped with specialized extruders for spitting out lumps of dough.

Krispy Kreme sells two varieties of holes, neither of which is filled with jelly: "original glazed," made from a yeast-raised dough and glazed cake. The cake holes are denser than their yeast-based cousins, so they "bounce around" when fried in shortening, producing seamless orbs, spokesman Brian Little explains.

The Krispy Kreme in SoDo only carries yeast-raised holes, which exit the extruder in triangular constellations. "They can be flipped as threes," Little says. "Then our people just kind of pull them apart to expose the actual hole."

Much like a buttermilk biscuit, the finished product bears a jagged scar from the separation, but Little insists it should still be considered a hole. "We do not chop up regular doughnuts," he says.

Although Little says holes are as popular as ever, the first few pages of a Google search for the term "doughnut holes" are dominated by Medicare references. But 70 years ago, doughnut hole reverence was so widespread that the Doughnut Corporation of America mounted a mock trial to determine how the doughnut got its hole. As recounted by John T. Edge in his doughnut survey Donuts: An American Passion, participants proposed an Indian warrior shot an arrow through a Pilgrim woman's fry cake; suggested a sailor impaled his pastry on a ship's wheel and theorized a young boy poked out the centers of his mother's perpetually soggy cakes.

Contemporary eaters wondering where all the holes went may have to prepare the snack themselves. The Christian Science Monitor this week ran a recipe for Hanukkah doughnut holes, explaining "doughnut holes (are) less of a commitment than doughnuts and leave guests free to sample everything else." Those no-grease latkes may not be outdated yet.

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