A chocolate donut is a fried bread-based confection that is either made with, topped with, or filled with chocolate. Donuts and donut-style desserts are popular in many countries around the world. Chocolate varieties are generally considered to be something of a North American invention, however, and are most popular within the United States. There are many different varieties of chocolate donut, but all are generally recognizable in appearance and taste.
The most traditional chocolate donut is little more than fried bread that is topped with chocolate glaze or frosting. Plain donuts are generally egg-based bread dough that has been fried in hot oil or animal fat. They are usually shaped into a ring, usually with a diameter of about 4 inches (about 10 cm) and a palpable hole through the center.
Donut dough is almost always very sweet. Some chocolate donut varieties add to this sweetness by incorporating chocolate directly into the dough. Chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and even artificial chocolate flavoring are all common means of creating chocolate donut flavors. Most of the time, these confections have a distinctly dark brown color, and in many ways resemble little chocolate cakes.
Making donuts by hand is one of the most traditional methods. Homemade donuts are usually made by rolling dough into thick ropes that then must be connected, end to end. Very thick dough is sometimes rolled into a round, then a hole shape is cut out of the center with a cookie cutter or other circular object. Commercial outfits typically use donut molds to ensure consistent shape, as well as to save time in the bakery.
Once the dough is shaped, it is usually dropped into vats of hot oil or fat to fry. The heat of the oil cooks the dough, crisping the exterior and imparting a distinctive fried flavor. Cooks who enjoy the taste of donuts but who are a bit more health-conscious may also choose to bake their donuts, often with an egg wash to get a similar shiny exterior. Baking donuts can approximate the fried taste, but rarely rivals it.
Frosting or glaze is added once the donuts are done cooking. For plain donuts, chocolate frosting lends a distinctive flavor and is what transitions them from “plain” to “chocolate.” Donuts with flavored dough can also be frosted for a double-dose of flavor, though glazing with plain icing or powdered sugar is also common. As the glaze is being applied, many cooks will also add sprinkles, crushed nuts, or coconut flakes for added texture and flavor potentials.
Chocolate filled donuts and bar donuts are common variations, but usually require a different cooking process. Both are still traditionally fried, but neither carries the distinctive ring shape. Filled donuts are often round, but instead of a hole, they have a chocolate center. Bars are essentially long rectangles that can be filled. More often, though, they are simply topped with chocolate-flavored glaze.
Most filled donuts start out as plain rounds. Chocolate is injected into their centers after cooking. Dough usually expands in oil, leaving pockets of air that chocolate ganache, frosting, or cream can fill. It is sometimes also possible to make these donut desserts by forming the dough around filling before cooking, though this generally requires special tools or forming molds.
A chocolate donut is generally considered a chocolate dessert, but is also a popular breakfast food, particularly in the United States. Bakeries and dedicated donut shops often begin selling the confections first thing in the morning. They are popular accompaniments to coffee or milk, and are the favorite morning treats of a great many children.