Beignets first graced New Orleans tables a few hundred years ago when they were brought over by French colonists. While the French had popularized them and spread them across modern-day Louisiana, Canada and everything in between, their roots actually go much farther back. The very first beignets, or, at the time, ‘scriblita’ were actually made in ancient Rome during 5th century BC. These ‘scriblita’ were a gooey, moist dough dipped into boiling fat and sugared. Yum???
Over time France adopted and adapted the sugary doughnuts into their own pastry, and in the 17th century, the beignets followed them to America. The French took up shop in Acadia in east coast Canada. Little did they know, though, that only a hundred years later the British would take control over the entire region. This led to the forced migration of Acadians working their way south where they’d eventually land in Louisiana an ultimately, New Orleans. These Acadians made a home there and brought with them plenty of their own regional and French dishes along with the French language. They were met with the melting pot of Native American, Spanish, Carribean and French culture already present in the city. Today they are called Cajuns and they make New Orleans and the world a better place with globally inspired dishes, traditions and festivals.
Anyway, back to the beignets. Nowadays, literally over a thousand years later, these puffy pillowy treats are a New Orleans staple. If you want to make them at home (and why wouldn’t you!) here is the traditional recipe. The ingredients are basic, and the process is simple.
Here’s what you need: 3/4 cup warm water, 1 tbsp instant yeast, 1/2 cup evaporated milk, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 tbsp vanilla, 4 cups flour, 3 tbsp butter, oil and powdered sugar. First, combine the warm water and yeast, allow it to activate.
Combine evaporated milk, sugar, salt, eggs and vanilla. mix and then add to yeast mixture.
combine with flour and mix
Melt butter and add to the dough mixture
work with hands for a few minutes until smooth, add flour (only if needed) Coat lightly with oil and let rise for 2 hours.
‘punch’ the dough to get out excess air and begin working with your fingers to make a mat
roll out dough approx. 1/4-1/3 inch thick
prepare your cooking oil – tip: use a chopstick or wooden spoon to test the oil. If it begins to bubble lightly around the object, it’s ready. You can also do this with a grain of rice – if it floats to the top immediately it’s ready.
cut your begneits into squares
fry until puffy and golden on both sides
I set mine on a paper towel while I was finishing the batch, then transferred. Now the fun part! Sugar.
Douse those babies in powdered sugar and you’re ready!
Serve right away and enjoy with cafe au lait!
• 3/4 cup warm water
• 1 tbsp instant yeast
• 1/2 cup evaporated milk
• 1/3 cup of sugar
• 2 farm eggs
• 1/2 tbsp vanilla
• 4 cups flour
• oil – sunflower or any flavorless oil
• powdered sugar
• combine yeast and water, wait five minutes while it activates
• mix together evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla and eggs
• stir yeast mix with evaporated milk mix and combine
• add wet mix to flour and combine
• stir in melted butter and work with hands on a floured surface until smooth (add more flour to dough only if necessary)
• cover and let rise for 2 hours
• roll out dough to approx 1/3 inch thickness and cut into squares
• fry in oil until puffy and golden
• sift, sprinkle or smother with powdered sugar
• enjoy with some New Orleans jazz and cafe au lait!