The Military-Industrial Doughnut

There’s a reason why the cake doughnut and the military work together so well. Yeast-raised doughnuts are fussy things, requiring time and many steps to prepare. The dough must be mixed, kneaded, raised, rolled, cut, proofed and then finally fried. Cake doughnuts require far fewer steps, plus don’t need any special environmental conditions. It’s all due of course to the miracle of chemical leavening. Unlike yeast, chemical leaveners are field-ready: just mix and go. Stir a little baking powder into your dough and you can have a doughnut in a matter of minutes. A comparable preparation with yeast will take you four hours…a mighty long time, especially when you’re dodging shrapnel bombs and mustard gas.

The point was definitely not lost on the inventor of modern baking powder, Dr. Alfred Bird, whose first customer for his brand new product was the British military. They employed it with great success in the Crimean War of 1854. Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred. At least they had a little quick bread with them.

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