The other day as I bit into my chocolate glazed doughnut, a thought struck me. Why do doughnuts have holes? They could easily just look like any other pastry without a gaping hole in the center, so I figured there must be a reason for their distinctive shape.

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Megan Prendergast

The Story Behind the Doughnut Hole

According to Food52, the boring theory behind why doughnuts have holes is because it was necessary. Once bakers started adding egg yolks to their doughnut recipes, the dough became super rich, which made it difficult to cook the pastries evenly. The center would be gooey and raw while the edges would be crisp. The simple solution? Get rid of the middle entirely.

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Phoebe Melnick

The more interesting theory has to do with an 1850's New England ship captain's mother named Elizabeth Gregory. Being a dope mother, Elizabeth packed her son a huge supply of fried dough for one of his voyages. It was on this voyage that Captain Gregory is credited with creating the first doughnut with a hole.

Why did he do this? The Smithsonian offers a variety of theories. Some historians say it was probably to save ingredients. Others think that he may have thought the hole would make the doughnuts more digestible. 

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Emma Glubiak

My personal favorite theory is that Gregory needed both hands to steer his ship during a storm, so he skewered some of the pastries on the spokes of the ship's wheel. Now that's a man who wouldn't sacrifice his doughnuts for anything. 

Sadly, the first theory about needing a hole in order to cook the doughnuts evenly is the most probable explanation. Gregory himself is quoted in a Washington Post article from 1916 saying, "[I] cut into the middle of that doughnut the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes!" Which is a pretty dramatic way of saying that he intentionally cut the hole through the doughnut.

But hey, I think I'll choose to believe that the doughnut hole was a happy accident resulting from a terrible storm and a man who couldn't bear to lose his doughnuts even if it meant risking his life.

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Andrea Kang

Whatever theory you decide to believe, one thing is for certain: doughnuts are one of the best desserts ever created. Don't forget to pay homage to Captain Gregory and his mom on National Doughnut Day on November 5th by going out to get some doughnuts or by baking your own.