Time Travel Kitchen

Doughnuts and Coffee Carts

When people ask me what I miss about New York, the list always includes the coffee carts that are on every corner in midtown and downtown.

When I left New York five years ago for Chicago, my brother Michael gave me a ceramic version of the classic NYC paper coffee cup, so I could have my morning tea in it. Such a sweet gift - pictured above.

Street vendors have been selling food and drink to New Yorkers since 1691, when it was still called New Amsterdam.

During my years there I’d stop at a cart every morning on my way to work, chat a little with the vendor and it would start the day right.

And because I was a regular, I’d sometimes get a free doughnut.

Something akin to our modern doughnuts first arrived in New Amsterdam as the Dutch ‘olykoeks’ or ‘oily cakes’, not a great name, but I’m sure they were good.

In WWI, French women delivered doughnuts to soldiers in the trenches, and by 1920 the first doughnut machine was producing them by the thousands in New York City.

Doughnuts and coffee were again brought to troops overseas during WWII. This time they were provided by the American Red Cross volunteers in England and France known as ‘The Doughnut Dollies”, who drove single-decker British buses into the field, filled with coffee, doughnuts and other provisions for the soldiers.

In 2021, doughnuts remain one of the most popular desserts in America.

The recipe I made today is adapted from the 1931 First Edition Facsimile of The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer - but I baked them instead of frying. I’d purchased a set of inexpensive doughnut pans and wanted to take them for a test run.

Trust me when I tell you, I love fried doughnuts—but these were delicious and so light and I didn’t have the clean-up after that comes with frying. Here they are, baking away in my new oven.

And here’s the recipe with my notes below.

- spray pan with non-stick cooking spray

- unless you fry them, you don’t have to form the dough - just spoon into pan. You could use a pastry bag, but I found using a spoon just as easy.

-fill about 3/4 full

- the yield is 12 doughnuts (I halved the recipe)

- oven temp is 350 F

-bake for 12-15 minutes, rotate in oven at 6 minute mark.

- test with toothpick for doneness, it should come out clean

- let cool in tray on rack for 5 minutes then turn over and tap the back of pan, the doughnuts should pop out easily

- these are old-fashioned cake doughnuts, not raised doughnuts, so there is no yeast in them

- I chose to dust with confectioners powdered sugar, but you can have plain or top with whatever you like, cinnamon sugar would be nice

- if you don’t have bread flour, use all purpose flour

- Enjoy!

Next week I’m making an apple dessert, I haven’t decided yet which one though, they all look good!

Also, if you would share this newsletter with anyone you think might enjoy subscribing to it I’d really appreciate it.

Thank you for following along with me each week - is there any Fall dessert you’d especially like to see here? Let me know in comments or send me an email, I’d love to hear.

And to my friends and family in New York—I’m thinking about you! ❤️

See you soon.



‘The History of the Doughnut’, David A. Taylor, Smithsonian Magazine, March, 1998

‘From Chuck Wagons to Pushcarts: The History of the Food Truck’ The History Channel , April 2014