First and foremost, let’s make sure we are saying the word correctly. Spelt B-E-I-G-N-E-T, it is pronounced Bayne-yay. This French word translates to the English word, fritter. Most importantly, the YAY is built right in so you know eating one is going to be a good time! Or at least that has been our experience. Or pretty much the experience of anyone whose traveled to New Orleans!
So, what are beignets? Britannica has a quick definition, French-style fried square doughnuts. Now, while on the surface level this is a very accurate description, beignets are so much more than a doughnut! They are made with a delicate dough know as Choux pastry, which consists of a high water content. This causes the dough to puff up as it is being fried, creating airy, golden brown perfection. Traditionally, beignets are coated in a large amount of powdered sugar, but that doesn’t mean they cant be enjoyed with a warm chocolate ganache or strawberry sauce.
Now, many associate beignets with the state of Louisiana. In fact, the beignet was named the state’s official doughnut in 1986. But the origin of this yummy treat goes back to the 17th century. As French settlers traveled down the Eastern coast of Canada they brought their recipes with them and settled in an area known as Acadia. They would stay in Acadia for hundreds of years until being forced out by the British. As they migrated farther south they would eventually land in Louisiana, picking up influences from many other cultures along the way. These Louisiana settlers would later be known as Cajuns, and would be attributed with bringing beignets to the United States.
The number one place to find these fluffy pieces of heaven is none other than the Café Du Monde, which has been in operation within the French Market District since 1862. In 1958 the fried dough was officially renamed beignets, paying homage to the cultural influence of France. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a coffee shop in the city of New Orleans that doesn’t offer beignets, especially during Mardi Gras. This HUGE celebration kicks off the Lenten season, where Christians participate in fasting practices for 40 straight days. Many have been known to treat themselves to rich and decadent treats like beignets before the fasting begins.
At MTI, we LOVE Mardi Gras and cannot wait to fry up some tasty beignets in the AutoFry to jump start the festivities. Laissez les bons temps rouler!