Beignets and Mardis Gras. As a family, we love pancakes for breakfast and we certainly don’t wait for Pancake Day. This year as Honey is older I think I will have to invest in a second pancake pan to keep up. Number one daughter Lilly is a dab hand at pancake batter and can now measure out the ingredients pretty much by eye. So at least some of the work in the kitchen is shared. But this weekend as a back to school treat I made us all Beignets. They are like a sweet doughnut, but the beignet is traditionally square-shaped and without a hole. Beignets are considered the forerunners of the raised doughnut and are a favourite during Mardis Gras.
Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras
Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras and the world famous Carnivals in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans developed from the Christian tradition of eating special rich foods before the fasting season of Lent. The word carnival itself comes from “carne levar” (to take away meat) which is often omitted from the diet during Lent. Alongside the partying, street parades, partying and partying ( can you tell I’m a fan ) is the food. In New Orleans take your pick of Gumbo, Etouffee, Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, Fried Calamari, Andouille Sausage, Beignets and King Cake.
It is said no Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a King Cake, also known as Twelfth Night Cake. This cake is actually a sweetened yeast bread, similar to brioche, baked in a ring shape. A king cake is frosted with gold, green, and purple icing. As you mix the batter is mixed the maker of the King Cake hides a token in the cake. These tokens can be a dried red bean or a figurine of a baby, representing Christ as a child. When the cake is cut and shared, the finder of the hidden treasure is said to enjoy good luck for the coming year. This is a tradition almost identical to a silver sixpence dropped into a Christmas plum pudding.
What are beignets?
In New Orleans beignets are often enjoyed with café au lait, café au lait is strong dark roast coffee and chicory, served with equal part hot milk. The place to try a beignet is the landmark Cafe du Monde coffee stand, established in the New Orleans French Market in 1862 and still operating today, twenty-four seven. Beignets are THE menu, nothing else is served and you can expect a wait in line if you arrive during peak hours and even longer if you want a table. So
here is my recipe for the second staple of a New Orleans Mardi Gras, traditional Cajun Crocialles or Beignets, crisp deep fried dough dipped in sugar. The recipe requires a two to three hour resting period so while you wait, go grab yourself a drink and as they say in New Orleans ‘ Laissez les bon temps rouler ‘ or Let the good times roll!