The Great American Doughnut

The doughnut is one of those guilty pleasures that almost everybody can relate to. It feels indulgent not only because of its delicious sugary goodness, but also because it harkens back to a simpler time when desserts didn’t have to be sugar free, or only after dinner, when a meal was something we held in our grubby hands and wiped from the corners of our sticky mouths. The doughnut speaks to the child in all of us, and nobody says it better than Brooklyn-based doughnut shop, Dough, which celebrated their one year anniversary last week.

The imagery of the doughnut feels distinctly American. And even though some variation of the delicious treat has been enjoyed around the world for ages, there is some truth to this sentiment. The advent of the doughnut machine came in 1920 in New York City, by Adolph Levitt, a Russian immigrant. This meant the facilitation of proliferation of a more uniform treat. Furthermore, according to an advertisement for the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago, Levitt’s technological feat would make doughnuts, “the food hit of the Century of Progress.”

Dough, and other shops of its ilk across the country (like Doughnut Plant in NYC; Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, OR; Dynamo Donuts in San Francisco, CA) seem to have responded to decades of the highly normalized doughnut with rebellion. Rather than the mass-made doughnuts of yesteryear, they’ve instead created small batch, handmade, highly specialized pastries with high quality ingredients. The doughnut, once the pedestrian food of the factory worker, assembled in the same manner to the commodities that the eaters themselves produced, has gotten a makeover. Dough, in particular, brought artisan doughnut-making to a new level boasting classic flavors, like Cinnamon Sugar and Glazed, as well as out there culinary combinations, like Hibiscus, Tropical Chili, or Chocolate with Earl Grey.

On the day that marked the close of Dough’s inaugural year at their Flatiron location, the BTR office (fortunately located just a couple of blocks away) enjoyed a Salted Caramel Chocolate doughnut, and a Lemon Buttermilk Cake doughnut (received for free, in honor of their anniversary). The first was big, light, and fluffy; the second, smaller, denser and with a distinct citrus tang. Both were absolutely scrumptious. There is a reason doughnuts are iconic. They’re good, they’re cheap, and, no matter what form they take, they’re here to stay in NYC.