Bite and Booze by Jay D. Ducote

Thursday, September 15, 2016

TX takes LA: Beignets

by Rachel Hamburger, intern

As a Texas girl that made the “big move” (4 hours) to Baton Rouge to go to LSU, I quickly realized that Cajun culture was no joke. While mourning the loss of all my Tex-Mex faves back in Houston, I had no choice but to fill the void with some Cajun classics.

I had never really tried most of the Louisiana staples like gumbo, jambalaya and boudin, but there is one staple that I was all too familiar with: beignets. Growing up, I was a frequent customer at Crescent City Beignets in Houston. My go-to order was the beignet strips (which I now know is the non-traditional option) with the classic powdered sugar, and not so classic chocolate and vanilla sauce drizzled on top.

The first time I visited Café Du Monde in New Orleans, I was shocked that they only had beignets in square form. I wanted my beignet strips (beignets that basically look like human fingers… kind of creepy.) After trying the classically shaped pastry, I finally understood why that’s the form they’re typically served. The ratio of golden crunchy crust to doughy steamy goodness is perfection. While the beignet strips from Crescent City Beignets will always hold a nostalgic place in my heart, I have a new found appreciation for their classic predecessor.

Experiencing this classic Louisiana treat at the place of all places got me thinking: What is the origin of this heavenly dessert that has somehow camouflaged itself as a breakfast food?

I did a little research and here’s what I found:

French settlers brought the recipe for the beignet when they migrated to a region called Acadia in Eastern Canada in the 17th century. Some believe it was the French Ursuline Nuns in particular.

So, how did the beignet get from Canada all the way down to Louisiana?
A hundred years after the French settled in Acadia, the British took over and forced them to migrate. Many made their way to Louisiana! They became known as the Cajuns, and brought their food and language with them. Beignets are most associated with the French Quarter in New Orleans, but are a tradition all over Louisiana.

How are these hole-less doughnuts on steroids made?
Beignets are choux pastry (a light pastry dough moist enough to puff up with steam, aka no yeast is needed to make them rise). They are prepared fresh to order, or at least should be because they are so much better that way. They take a nice hot bath in vegetable oil, and are fried until they’re golden brown.

Once they come out of the fryer, they are covered in copious amounts of powdered sugar. Beignets are traditionally served with café au laits (hot coffee mixed with steamed milk) and in some parts of Louisiana there’s also chicory mixed in there. I’ll tell y’all all about chicory in my next post. I highly recommend you dipping your beignet in café au lait.

All this talk about beignets got you hungry for them? Here’s a couple places right here in Baton Rouge where you can go grab some today!

Coffee Call: 3132 College Dr, Baton Rouge, LA 70808 (They’re open till 2AM every night!)

Rue Beignet: 18135 E Petroleum Dr, Baton Rouge, LA 70809

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