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Known in diner lingo as a sinker or life preserver, the donut (aka doughnut) is a ring-shaped pastry. It cooks in hot oil. When it emerges you can glaze it, frost it, or sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar. Breakfast basic, coffee companion, anytime snack, the donut is a lovable pastry.
The world of donuts divides into two fundamental varieties. Yeast-raised donuts deliver cloud-like satisfaction. They don’t weigh much. You can eat them by twos and fours. (Think Krispy Kreme.) Cake donuts, leavened with baking powder, weigh more. They dunk well, too. Some cake donuts include mashed potatoes in the batter. That creates a creamier crumb and an even more lovable pastry.
Not all donuts are rings. A broader definition must also include the donut hole (a small sphere) and the holeless donut. Holeless donuts also are known as Bismarks, frequently filled with custard or fruit. The rectangular long john comes plain, filled, or frosted.
Every region of the country likes donuts, no place more than the Northeast. Noteworthy regional donuts include New Orleans’ beignet, cider donuts in the Midwest and Northeast, malasadas in Hawaiian and Yankee Portuguese bake shops, and fastnachts made with potato batter in Pennsylvania Dutch country.