What wouldn’t I do for a plate full of delicious warm French beignets coated in cinnamon sugar? They are so tender but not to the point where they melt in your mouth in seconds before you can actually enjoy them. I love soft beignets that are a bit more on the chewy and dense side. I prefer to take pleasure in every bite rather than eat air. If this is the way you prefer your beignets too, you’re on the right page.
I get so much joy from biting into a chewy and soft beignet that’s still a little bit warm. I always end up with sugar all over my fingers and craving some more. Nothing beats the deep sense of comfort spreading through my body and all the childhood memories that French beignets bring me. It might just be my favorite dessert. Simply the best.
A LITTLE PATIENCE GOES A LONG WAY
French beignets are small balls of deep-fried sweet enriched dough coated in sugar. Biting into a donut brings such a sense of comfort. It’s a dessert for the soul that cannot fail to instantly make you feel better. It’s the ultimate treat! Making French beignets from scratch isn’t difficult at all but it does take time. This is a yeast-based recipe that starts with a sponge (traditional French leavening method) and will then require to prove twice, first the dough and then the shaped donuts. Trust me they are well worth the wait, you only need patience and to plan beforehand.
TRADITIONAL ALSATIAN DONUTS
I admit I tweaked my family’s beignets recipe a bit to make them just the way I like. However, they are still enough similarities with the donuts from my childhood for me to call these beignets ‘Fasenachtskiechle’. These French beignets are from Alsace-Lorraine (the North-Eastern region bordering Germany) and they are traditionally made for Shrove Tuesday. My mum grew up there and even though we moved to the Caribbean when I was 5, she still made Fasenachtskiechle every year during carnival. You don’t need to wait for Shrove Tuesday to have beignets though, I make them all the time!
I call them French beignets because these are the type of donuts (only slightly smaller and rounder) you’ll most commonly spot in French bakeries all year round. Real French beignets are different from the square donuts covered in powdered sugar from New Orleans, which are also called beignets. My paternal grandmother was Polish and my dad says these beignets are very similar to Pączki. I never had one but I’ll take his word for it.
SIMPLE DONUTS ROLLED IN CINNAMON SUGAR
French beignets taste beautiful on their own, simply rolled in sugar with a hint of cinnamon. But if you have a sweet tooth you can fill the donuts with your favorite chocolate spread, pastry cream, jam or curd using a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle. In my family, these French beignets were served for lunch for Mardi Gras alongside fruit preserves. I would pick a plain donut any day of the week because I want to actually taste the dough.
My husband (who is Turkish) always complains that French beignets that are simply glazed or rolled in sugar are tasteless because Turkish donuts (lokma) are soaked in syrup. You better have some tea or coffee nearby when you eat lokma because it’s so sweet your heart will start racing. The only thing lokma tastes of is syrup, don’t even try to taste the dough. (Yes I took it a bit personally but I’m done ranting, simple sugar donuts FTW).
KEEP AN EYE ON THE TEMPERATURE
Obviously deep frying in hot oil can be dangerous so be careful while frying, especially with little ones nearby desperate for some warm donuts. It’s important to check the oil temperature before cooking (and also while cooking) each batch of French beignets. If the oil is too hot, the exterior of the donut will become very crispy and dark but the center will remain raw. If the oil is too cold, you will end up with sad soggy greasy beignets because they will have absorbed too much moisture.
Having a digital thermometer is so helpful when you’re making donuts, there is no second-guessing and it will save you so much trouble. Stay near your stove, keep an eye on your French beignets and the oil temperature and you’ll soon be rewarded with amazing donuts.
CAN I MAKE THE DOUGH IN ADVANCE?
If you want to have French beignets for breakfast you can make the dough and leave it covered in the fridge overnight. Then take the dough out of the fridge and leave it to rise until doubled in size in a warm environment (oven preheated to the lowest temperature for a few minutes and then turned off for example). Once the dough has risen you can continue with step 4.
➝ Can I freeze French beignets? Totally! You can either freeze them:
- raw; after having shaped the donuts and waited for them to have doubled in size, carefully place the baking tray in the freezer. Once frozen solid you can place the French beignets in a freezer bag or a container and keep them in the freezer for 2 weeks. Thaw the beignets at room temperature for 5h before frying them as per instructions.
- cooked but without the sugar coating; once completely cooled place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place the tray in the freezer and once frozen solid put the French beignets in a freezer bag or a container. You can keep fried donuts in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw them overnight in the fridge or at room temperature (it’ll be quicker) and roll them in sugar.
Are you looking for other French desserts? Here are some of my favorites:
- My mum’s chocolate marble cake (Marbré)
- Alsatian apple tart (Tarte aux pommes)
- Chocolate custard (Crème dessert)
These delicious French beignets are chewy yeast donuts coated with cinnamon sugar. Biting into a sweet and slightly dense beignet that’s still a little bit warm is pure joy, so don’t miss out !
For the French beignets dough:
- 120ml water (½ cup)
- 8g active dry yeast (2 tsp)
- 100g caster sugar (½ cup)
- 500g all-purpose flour (3 ½ cups)
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 120g Greek yogurt, at room temperature (½ cup)
- 40g butter, melted (3 tbsp)
- groundnut oil, for frying
- 70g caster sugar (⅓ cup)
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- Make the sponge. Warm the water until it’s around 32°C (90°F), pour into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast and 1 tsp of sugar. Whisk until combined and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the mixture stand for 10 min, until foamy. Mix in 105g of flour (¾ cup), cover again and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 30 min.
- Make the dough. Tip in the sugar, the rest of the flour and the salt and mix until combined with one of your hands. Then add in the egg, yogurt and the cooled melted butter. The dough might look dry at first but it will come together after a few minutes.
- Knead the dough. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for 10 min. The dough should be smooth, only slightly sticky (refrain from adding more flour) and bounce back lightly when pressed. Scrape the dough into a large greased bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap or a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm environment until doubled in size, about 1h30 to 2h. I usually place my dough in an oven preheated to the lowest temperatures for a couple of minutes (and then turned off).
- Shape the beignets. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lightly dust it with flour. Punch the dough and fold it on itself to remove the air. Divide the dough into 11 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a tight ball between the palms of your hands and place them slightly apart on the tray. Loosely cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for 15 min (they only need to puff up just a bit).
- Fry the beignets. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon on a deep plate. Line another plate with paper towels. Heat a pan over medium heat no more than a third full with oil to 180°C (355°F) or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Gently place the beignets, 2 or 3 at a time, and cook for 2min30 per side. Check that the oil is still at the right temperature for the duration of cooking. French beignets take on color quickly because of the high amount of sugar in the dough BUT you do need to fry them long enough so that they cook through. They will soften while cooling down so don’t worry about them being/looking overcooked.
- Finish up! Carefully remove the beignets from the pan using a slotted spoon and drain them on the paper towels. Roll the beignets in sugar while they are still warm and a bit oily (the sugar will stick better) and place them on a cooling rack. Repeat the frying (check the oil temperature before cooking each batch), draining and rolling process until all of the beignets are ready.
French beignets are best eaten the day they’re made but you can keep them in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
You can keep beignets in the fridge (and you should if you filled them with a cream-based filling) but they will dry out faster.
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 413
Keywords: french dessert, shrove tuesday recipe, french mardi gras recipe