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Hertfordshire Home of the Doughnut

Posted on: 11th March 2015 By: Sue Davies

Hertfordshire can claim to be the birthplace of the doughnut.  A recipe for “dow nuts” appears in The Recipe of Book of Barnoness Dimsdale c. 1800.  Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale lived in Hertford, to the east of St Albans, and the recipe in her handwritten book was thought to have been the earliest known recipe. However, on the other side of St Albans another Hertfordshire author refers to fried dough cakes in a book published 50 years before.  The Country Housewife’s Family Companion by William Ellis of Little Gaddesden, near Hemel Hempstead was printed in 1750 and includes the following recipe;

“How to make Hertfordshire Cakes, Nuts and Pincushions – These are much used in Hertfordshire, for giving farmers servants a changeable dinner now and then to their satisfaction; for if they are made as they should be, the men are generally fond of them.  To do which, our housewife puts skim milk and hogs-lard over the fire, and warms them only for mixing.  Then she take some flour, sugar, yeast, and an egg or two, with the powder of Jamaica spice, and makes a paste of these, and the milk and fat, as if for pye-crust; and when it is work’d and rolled enough, to the thinness of about a quarter of an inch, she cuts it out in two-inch square pieces, and boils them in hogs-lard in a little kettle, or in a stew pan or frying pan.  Others roll this paste in the shape of walnuts and dress them in the same manner as the square pieces are.
p. 455 of the reprint produced by Prospect Books  in 2000 and with an introduction by Malcom Thick.

The photo above shows goodies from the American chain Dunkin' Donuts which has recently opened a shop in St Albans.  Should we suggest that they start making square "Hertfordshire Pincushions"?