Square, round, thin, lumpy, perfect, huge, stuffed. Drizzled, drenched, soaked, and smothered. Beignets can be found all over the earth at home, in fine restaurants, and in the street. Beignet is one of the most universally recognized names for fried dough desserts. Beignets can be made from OSO-ONO Fried Dessert Dough.
dictionary, a beignet (also known as beigne) is "A square
doughnut with no hole: a New Orleans coffeehouse selling beignets,
an insidious Louisianian cousin of the doughnut that exists to get
powdered sugar on your face (Los Angeles Times).
As you can see by this small sampling of photos, there are lots of variations on the traditional square beignet.
According to this source, the word beignet comes from the early Celtic word "bigne" meaning "to raise." Beignet is also French for "fritter." The early French colonists of the 18th century brought the recipe and custom of making fritters (fritters beignets) to New Orleans. According to the 1901 Picayune Creole Cookbook, published by The Picayune, a leading New Orleans newspaper: The ancient French colonist brought the custom of serving sweet entremets and eaters, such as Beignets, Compotes, Soufflés, Gelees, etc., from the old mother country to Louisiana . . . The custom of serving these sweet entremets spread from New Orleans to other portions of the United States . . . For many years the beignet was made in the shape of balls or squares and covered with mocha frosting. Later the beignet was cut in the shape of a doughnut and raised doughnut was born.
Here's one story as to the beginnings in New Orleans. In 1863, as the (United States) Civil War was coming to a close, a simple coffee house opened near the New Orleans open market, presently the French Market. This coffee house served up strong coffee (some say it was purposely made extra strong to dissuade the unaccustomed palates of the unwelcome Union military) and its soon to be famous beignets fried squares of pastry generously topped with powdered sugar. Source
Regardless of origins of the beignet, Cafe du Monde (originally established in 1862) has certainly done its part to make beignets a household word in America. Its a "must stop" if you find yourself in New Orleans.Cafe du Monde
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