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America’s notable donuts can be fragile or heavyweight, old-fashioned or artisan. They are the all-day snack of cops and truckers, the traditional sugar splurge at church-basement meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the only proper thing to eat at autumn cider-pressing parties.
By definition, donuts are deep-fried, and while the classic shape is a ring with a hole in the middle, donuts also can also be rectangular (known as a long john), holeless (frequently filled with jelly or cream and known as a cream puff), fritter-flat (generally containing fruit), or spherical and bite-size (aka “donut hole”). Regional variations of the donut include beignets of southern Louisiana, malasadas found in Portuguese bakeries of Hawaii and the Northeast, and Scandanavian donuts at Minnesota’s Lindstrom Bakery.
The two basic styles of donut are cake and raised, the former leavened with baking powder and dense like cake, the latter airweight, made with yeast and usually frosted. Most donuts are made with flour dough; some cake donuts include mashed potatoes in the batter for greater creaminess.
Aside from the fact that a warm one is taste-buds heaven, the search for donuts is a special Roadfood pleasure because it leads to casual joints where eaters of every stripe enjoy a pastry so unfussy that it flouts utensils and rarely comes on a plate. A good donut in hand with a hot cup of coffee in the background is democracy for breakfast.
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