You can call them whatever you’d like, as all three names are acceptable. However, if you’re trying to order them from a bakery, you might have better luck with one of these names, depending on where you’re at.
First, a brief description of the treat so that we all know what we’re talking about: They’re small, fried balls of dough, identical in taste to a donut. They might be sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon, sprinkles, or frosting, but they’re also available glazed or plain.
The generic name for this baked good is “donut hole" (or “doughnut hole,” if you prefer), and the reason is fairly obvious: In the old days, bakers would literally cut the hole out of the center of circular donuts. Otherwise, the center of the donut would be undercooked.
At some point, someone decided to start frying those little balls of dough, although we’re not sure who came up with the brilliant idea (we know that a woman named Elizabeth Gregory invented the modern donut and that her son takes credit for punching out the middle, but the actual inventor of the edible donut hole is lost to history).
With that said, major bakery chains use different names to describe them, and that’s where the different terminology comes into play. Canada’s Tim Horton’s donut shops call them Timbits, a play on their name—they’re “bits" compared to Tim Horton’s normal-sized donuts, we suppose.
Dunkin' Donuts, a bakery chain that’s incredibly popular on the East Coast, refers to them as “Munchkins” because they’re a smaller version of a donut (hence, they’re munchkin-sized donuts, or donuts for munchkin-sized people). Dunkin' Donuts holds a trademark on the name, so you won’t find your local bakery selling donut holes under that moniker. If you’re from the East Coast or any part of the world where Dunkin' is the go-to donut shop, you probably know them as Munchkins.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject, Dunkin' Donuts USA, Inc. lists “doughnut holes" as the description of the treat in their trademark filing, so that might be the best evidence the donut-hole crew has on their side.
So, when you’re ordering your breakfast, use whatever name you think is appropriate. If you’re going for the most generic name possible, “donut holes" is certainly the most descriptive choice.
As I studied a box of Timbits today, I wondered aloud how there could possibly be donut centres that are powdered with fillings when that type of full sized donut has no hole. I was shocked and dismayed as hubby announced that Timbits were not made from donut centres. He said he was sure there was a machine. I researched and found that this was in fact correct. Timbits are made with a machine and they are cut to a size slightly larger than the centre hole of a donut. So now I ask you....where do all the real donut centres go?
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