Beignet (ben-YAY) comes from the early Celtic word bigne meaning “to raise” and French for “fritter” made from deep-fried choux pastry or “pâte à choux”. Beignets, a New Orleans specialty, are fried, raised pieces of yeast dough, usually about 2 inches in diameter or 2 inches square. Sprinkled with sugar or coated with various icings, Beignets make for a delightful bite of airy fluffiness.
Beignets are a version of a sweet doughnut and French fritter, however, it is square without a hole. It is considered the forerunners of the raised doughnut. However, in France Beignets come in all shapes and sizes depending on the chef and region! Beignets have been associated with Mardi Gras in France since the 16th century, and many recipes for beignets appear in French works around the same time.
In my region in the North of France near Amiens, we call them “pets d’âne” or “pednone“. Other areas in France call them “Boules de Berlin” or plain “Choux”, “Chouquettes”. What are they call where you are from?
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, room temperature and beaten
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup evaporated milk
4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
Vegetable oil for deep frying*
Powdered (confectioner’s) sugar for dusting
* Use just enough vegetable oil to completely cover beignets while frying – approximately 2 inches deep in the pan.
Using a mixer with a dough hook, place water, sugar, salt, egg, butter, evaporated milk, flour, and yeast in the bowl. Beat until smooth. Remove dough from the bowl onto a lightly-oiled surface. Form dough into an oval, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until well chilled (3 to 4 hours) or overnight.
Making the Beignets:
Remove the prepared dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured board to 1/2-inch thickness. Using a sharp knife, cut dough into approximately 3-inch squares, triangles, or circles (your choice); set aside.
In a deep fryer (we just purchased the Presto fryer perfect for home kitchen) or large pot, heat vegetable oil to 360 degrees F.
Gently slide the dough pieces into the hot oil to avoid splattering and fry the beignets (a couple at a time) a few minutes until they are puffed and golden brown on both sides; turn them in the oil with tongs once or twice to brown evenly. You’ll know your beignets are ready when they rise to the surface of the oil as they begin to puff.
NOTE: If the beignets don’t rise to the top immediately when dropped in the oil, the oil is not hot enough.
When ready remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
While the beignets are still warm, sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar and serve!
Grab yourself a cup of Café and enjoy!