doughnuts with different icing and decoration on top

As the great poet Homer once said: “Doughnuts. Is there anything they can’t do?”

Ok, that was Homer Simpson rather than the Ancient Greek writer of the Iliad and the Odyssey, but I’m sure he’d have been equally enamoured with them if they hadn’t been invented 3,000 years after he died.

Doughnuts, widely regarded as deep-fried dough balls or rings, were most likely conceived by Dutch settlers in the US during the 19th century. The location is certain, but the inventor is hotly disputed. This theory is usually accepted because doughnuts were originally called “olieloek” – Dutch for “oil cake”.

Whether they’re ball-shaped or have a hole in the middle, they have become a famous (sometimes infamous) part of US culture and food cultures all over the world. From boozy Croatian fritule to thick, crispy Japanese Andagi, they find their way into every county’s cuisine – and what’s a US cop drama without a rotund officer eating a doughnut?

Tonight, the Great British Bake Off competitors take them on for their showstopper challenge. We’re expecting some pretty special doughnut recipes, given how incredible the éclairs looked last week. Of course, they will have to be pretty special to beat our amazing selection…

Croatian Fritule

Croatian_Fritule_Ren_Behan

Now my favourite kind of doughnut, these boozy bad boys are frankly ridiculous. Lemon zest, vanilla and brandy all come through the soft dough to make for a great wintery treat, especially with a glass of sweet wine or, better still, some mulled wine or cider.

Don’t they just look fantastic? And it gets better. Georgina Hayden from Jamie’s food team has given these an extra twist by spicing them like hot crossed buns and throwing in some orange zest too. Delicious and just as good in autumn as at Easter!

Not all doughnuts have to be sweet. If you don’t believe me, try these beer-battered cheesy hush puppies from the US, the home of deep frying. According to Jamie, their name comes from the time of the Great Depression, when loads of people were going hungry. When they did get a bit of food, their hungry dogs would hang around whining, so they’d throw these little buns to them to keep them quiet. Personally that doesn’t sound right to me – who would throw these away?!

Vegan doughnuts

Look at the picture and they may seem like the closest to a traditional doughnut we have, but these are the most miraculous of the four because they are totally dairy free, so vegans “doughnut” miss out (sorry). Despite that, served warm they are crisp, sweet and utterly incredible ­­– especially dipped in the quick raspberry sauce we’ve given you.