With their settlement, Dutch doughnuts, olie koeken (literally ‘oil cakes), or olykoek may have arrived in New Netherlands. While there is no hard evidence that olie koeken were made by these settlers, they did have knowledge of them, as they were popularized in a seventeenth-century Dutch cookbook, De Verstandige Kock (The Sensible Cook). Within this cookbook was the earliest known printed recipe for the olie koeken. Peter Rose, author of The Sensible Cook: Dutch Foodways in the Old and the New Worlds, calls the olie koeken the forerunner to the doughnut and were generally made to be eaten as treats.
Olie Koeken’s consisted of flour, eggs, apple, milk, and yeast. The yeast would cause the dough to rise, but this turned out to be insufficient in the cooking process. As the dough would rise to a certain point, a person preparing the olie koeken would then throw it into a pot of oil to cook. Depending on the temperature, the olie koeken more than likely would burn on the outside before the center would cook thoroughly. When this was found, more than likely during the writing of Sensible Cook, the preparation would change. The same ingredients would still be utilized, but the addition of dried fruits, almonds and apples placed in the middle of the dough ball to help the cooking process.
So why is the Dutch olie koeken referred to as a doughnut? The word dough nut is often attributed to Washington Irving in his 1809 History of New York. Within his work, Irving describes a gathering of early New Yorkers, and the foods that they ate. These foods ranged from pork dishes to deserts. The deserts, according to Irving, were an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called dough nuts, or oly koeks. This, according to Mullins, was the first instance that the Dutch olykoek and doughnut are described as similar if not interchangeable dishes.
However, there are warning to the Washington Irving tales that tell the readers to be careful on how much we believe him, as his History of New York, is the equivalent to today’s satirical news source, The Onion.
Other instances of these olie koeken’s being referred to as doughnuts come from Susannah Carter’s The Frugal Housewife, published in 1765 in London, then again in 1803 in New York. Doughnuts were becoming commonplace in America, due in part of the Dutch. By the end of the Revolutionary War, doughnuts were being accepted as truly American. So much so, that in 1796, according to Dutch folklore, a lady named Mrs. Joralemon, a genuine vrouw, or “Dutch Housewife”, is said to have opened the first doughnut shop in Manhattan in 1796.