The exact origin of doughnuts is unknown, but credit has been given to the Dutch in the early 19th century, American Hansen Gregory in 1847 and the wife of Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale around 1800. Doughnuts are fried dough pastries that can be shaped in the form of rings, balls known as "holes," or spheres filled with cream or fruit.
The concept of fried dough can be found in many different cultures. One theory related to the origin of the donut comes from Dutch records. The Dutch made "olykoeks." or oilcakes, which were balls of cake dough fried in pork fat, then filled with nuts or fruit. When they immigrated to the American colonies, the Dutch brought their olykoek tradition with them. They were then developed into the ring-shaped doughnut by Hansen Gregory aboard a ship in 1847. Gregory punched a hole in the center of the ball to remove the center, which was often left uncooked.
In 2013, an American food historian discovered a recipe more than 200 years old. The recipe for the "dow nut" was found in in a cookbook by the British Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale, and was most likely written between 1800 and 1808. As of 2014, her recipe is considered to be the oldest doughnut recipe.
The origin of the word "doughnut" is also unknown. Its first recorded use is in 1809 in "A history of New York" by Washington Irving.