Doughnuts: A classic American breakfast treat.
The creation of these bits of deep-friend dough that are iced, sprinkled, glazed or filled with cream is credited in part to Elizabeth Gregory, a New Englander who in the 19th century made the treats using the nutmeg and cinnamon her son, a ship's captain, brought home. According to the Smithsonian, Gregory would put nuts in the center of the pastry where the dough might not cook through.
Today, doughnut shops pack the United States.
Doughnut giant Dunkin' Donuts has more than 10,000 stores worldwide and sales of about $8.8 billion. The company is still expanding, which will result in 12 Dunkin' Donuts stores in Eastern Iowa by 2018.
But why can the mere mention of a warm glazed doughnut right off a Krispy Kreme conveyor belt make someone salivate? And why do people line the blocks when a new Dunkin' Donuts opens in Coralville or on Blairs Ferry Road in Cedar Rapids?
"People have an attraction to fried foods — the flavor, the texture is appealing," said David Horsfield, department chair for Kirkwood Community College's Hospitality Arts program. "Add to that the sugary goodness and people love them."
The doughnut's oils carries and retains flavor, while a dose of fat tantalizes the taste buds, and the cinnamon often used in many recipes opens up consumers' palettes to better detect flavors, said Horsfield and Loughton Smith, the bakery chef instructor at Kirkwood.
"Further tempting the doughnut customer is the smell," Smith said. "Walk within 50 feet of a doughnut shop and the aroma of freshly fried, warm doughnuts is seductive. Add to all of that the visual experience of gazing across a wide variety of colors, textures and shapes in a bakery case, and it takes a great deal of self-control to eat just one or two."
But the attractiveness of a doughnut comes from more than just taste and smell. Research is showing that highly processed carbohydrates, which include both fats and sugars, like doughnuts, actually trigger the dopamine receptors in the brain’s reward center, said Sally Barclay, a clinician at Iowa State University's Nutrition Clinic for Employee Wellness.
This brings the brain great pleasure, she said, which drives the individual to want more.
However, even with doughnuts popular place in American culture and consumers' taste buds, doughnut shops in the Corridor haven't fared well in the past. Dunkin' Donuts, Donutland and Krispy Kreme locations have all closed down over the years.
"We're kind of the last man standing," said Vicki Zinkula, owner of Donutland, 4307 Center Point Road NE in Cedar Rapids.
Zinkula believes some of the stores' closings are more from mismanagement than a lack in consumer interest. She said her handmade fresh-baked doughnuts have brought in a stream of regulars since the time it opened up shop about 40 years ago.
"They're a feel-good treat," she said.
The doughnuts have certainly hooked Garlene Knight and Arlene Moss, both of Cedar Rapids. The two women, who were sharing a large fritter-like doughnut and some coffee Friday morning, said they frequent the shop on an almost weekly basis.
Knight said she has childhood memories of making doughnuts with her mother and grandmother. And now her grandchildren regularly bring over Donutland doughnuts for the family to share.
"That's probably because they just want to eat them themselves," Moss joked.Dunkin' Donuts opened a store in Coralville on June 26. Its Blairs Ferry Road location is set for fall, according to Eastern Iowa Foods.