They’re doughnuts leavened with yeast. Think of them as sort of the America League of doughnuts. The National League is made up of cake doughnuts, which are leavened chemically, usually with baking powder.
The more interesting question is: what are raised doughnuts related to? If you’d like to test your baking mettle, have a look at the recipe below and see if you can figure out what it resembles. A sponge preferment. Lots and lots of yeast. A very, very long mixing time with soft butter added in stages at the end. Anyone? Anyone? Yes, you in the back with the powdered sugar mustache. Right: brioche.
Brioche, as you may recall, is a very eggy, buttery form of bread, commonly thought to be French. The word certainly is, but the item itself was probably invented by the Viennese, who were really into those types of decadent breads back when modern brioche first came onto the scene around 1800.
Surprised? Don’t be. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when it comes to baking, all roads lead back to Vienna.