Alongside crêpes and waffles, French beignets are part of the most famous dishes prepared in France for the occasion of Mardi-Gras or Carnival. The pastry usually consists of deep-fried dough and is a sort of doughnut. Beignets originate from France and, depending on the region, can be prepared in many ways. Hence, they have different names: bugnes, merveilles, oreillettes, corchevets, vautes, etc. In Alsace alone, there are several varieties of beignets, including Fasenachtskiechle (similar to Berliners) and Schenkeles.
In the USA, Beignets are the official state doughnut of Louisiana. How this tasty treat ended up in the Pelican State is a typical American migration story. Unfussy, sugary, and fried. These plump buttery pillows rolled in sugar and filled with jams are found on most bakery stalls in France and are kids’ favorites at the time of the “goûter” (mid-afternoon snack). French cooks eventually developed two basic types of pastry: doughs that use yeast as a raising agent, and those that rise with their own steam. Doughs that are moist enough to use steam to fluff up are called choux pastries. Traditional beignets are a choux pastry. The term beignet can be applied to two varieties, depending on the type of pastry. The French-style beignet in the United States has the specific meaning of deep-fried choux pastry.
Beignets can also be made with yeast pastry, which might be called boules de Berlin in French, referring to Berliner doughnuts, which lack the typical doughnut hole, filled with fruit or jam. In Corsica, beignets made with chestnut flour (beignets de farine de châtaigne) are known as fritelli. In Canadian French, doughnuts are referred to alternately as beigne or beignet.
French settlers brought beignets with them as they migrated to the eastern coast of Canada, a region called Acadia, in the 17th century. Thousands of Acadians endured a forced migration as the British took control of the region a hundred years later. Many Acadians settled in Louisiana, where their descendants became known as Cajuns. Acadians brought their cuisine, as well as their language, with them as they migrated south. Today, beignets are most associated with the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.
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