Unfussy, sugary and fried. French Bakery Beignets are nothing like what you’d expect from French pastries, yet they are quintessentially French. 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). They are also very popular during street fairs and carnivals across the country. And like most French, I often cave in to the temptation of grabbing one whenever I hit a street festival in France.
What are French Bakery Beignets, exactly?
You can find carnival fried doughs with so many different shapes, textures and names in France: the crisp “Bugnes” or “Oreillettes” from the city of Lyon, the “Ganses” from the city of Nice, “Shenkeles” from the Alsace region, the “Nuns Farts” from Brittany… and finally the most famous ones – the classic French Bakery Beignets.
Unlike a lot of French beignets that are made from fried “Pâte à Choux”(Choux Pastry), these French Bakery Beignets are made from a yeasted dough kneaded with a generous amount of butter. This dough is essentially very similar to a brioche dough, which is then cut into small circles and then fried. The fried buttery pillows are then filled with a filling of your choice – fruit jam, nutella, pastry cream…
Note: These French Bakery Beignets shouldn’t be confused with the “Beignets” from New Orleans, imported in the 18th century by the French colonists. New Orleans Beignets are smaller, lighter, hollow inside and rolled in powdered sugar. These New Orleans Beignets are often what people in the US/Canada call “Beignets”, but they differ a lot from French Bakery Beignets – what French people call “Beignets” in France.
I think making your own French Bakery Beignets in your kitchen is a fun project to tackle on a weekend. The dough needs to rest for a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes – so make sure you have ample time on hand. The frying and the filling of the beignets takes about 30-40 minutes.
Homemade beignets are a little bit more labor intensive than making a simple cake. But once you bite into one of these warm buttery pillows – you’ll see how they are worth your time and effort.
Like most fried treats, beignets are best enjoyed the day they’re made.
Cooking tips for making Fench Bakery Beignets:
- By hand or in a stand mixer. I make these French Bakery Beignets by hand, like most of my recipes. I especially like to knead the dough by hand at the final stage (when incorporating the butter) so I can have a good feel for the texture of the dough. It should be soft and still quite sticky on your hands. Do not get discouraged and do not be tempted to add more flour. For convenience, this recipe can be made in a stand mixer too, using the hook attachment.
- This recipe is made with 1 packet of traditional yeast (8g), also known as dry active yeast. I specifically developed this recipe using this yeast for convenience, since these packets of traditional yeasts are available in any grocery store.
- Traditional yeast needs to be re-hydrated in warm milk with sugar. Make sure you don’t warm the milk to too high a temperature (no higher than 105°F (40.5°C) or this will kill the yeast.)
- Take your eggs and butter out of the fridge at least 1 hour before you start, so they are at a nice room temperature.
- Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free location and do not rush it. The ideal rise temperatures are between 80°F – 90°F (26.6C-32.2C). Higher temperatures may kill the yeast and keep the dough from rising; lower temperatures will slow the rise. Keep this in mind, if you are baking on a hot Summer day or chilly Winter day. I like to place the dough to rise in the oven (off) – it’s draft-free and usually slightly warmer in there than in my kitchen.
- For the filling of the Beignets, use a chopstick for poking a hole and a piping bag for filling. I use raspberry jam in this recipe, which is my favorite for Beignets. But feel free to get creative and use other fillings such as other fruit jams, nutella, pastry cream or lemon curd.
I hope you’ll love these French Bakery Beignets as much as I do!
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1 Packet (8g) traditional yeast (active dry)
1 cup milk (2% or whole)
¼ cup (50g) + 1 tbsp (15.g) sugar
4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5.7g) salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
85 g or 3/8 cup or 6 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature & cubed
6 to 8 cups of vegetable oil
½ cup (100g) sugar
About 1 cup raspberry jam (or any filling of your choice)
Step 1 - In a small saucepan, over low heat, combine the yeast, milk and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Warm up the milk until it reaches no more than 105°F (40.5°C) - if you have a thermometer - or until it is barely just warmer than lukewarm. Turn off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes.
Step 2 - In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and ¼ cup of sugar. Dig a well in the middle and add the two eggs and milk/yeast mixture. Stir to combine until you get a rough ball of dough that leaves the edges of the bowl clean. If using a stand mixer, use the hook attachment.
Step 3 - Start incorporating the cubed butter, in small additions (4-5 additions in total), kneading the dough well between each addition. The cubed butter should be well incorporated before you add more. The dough will be soft and quite sticky. Shape the dough into a ball, place at the bottom of the bowl and cover the bowl with a clean cloth. Let the dough rise at room temperature for at least 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Step 4 - After 2 hours, the dough should have doubled in size and be soft and elastic. Punch the dough to deflate it and turn it onto a clean and lightly floured working surface. Roll out the dough into a ½ inch thick rectangle. Use a 4-inch round cookie cutter to cut out discs. Place the discs onto lightly floured parchment paper. Keep some scraps of dough for testing the oil heat later. Cover the dough discs with a clean cloth and let rise for 30 minutes more. The dough circles will lightly rise again.
Step 5 – Preparation before frying. Pour ½ cup sugar onto a plate. Line another plate with paper towels to absorb the oil from the beignets. Using scissors, cut squares into the parchment paper with the dough discs – you need each disc to be on a paper square; this will make it easier to drop each them into the frying oil.
Step 6 – Fill a large heavy bottomed pot with the vegetable oil, about half the way up. Heat the oil to 350F or until a scrap of dough dropped in the oil immediately starts to bubble. Take the first discs of dough and flip them over into the oil (without the parchment paper attached). Work in batches of 3 beignets at a time max. Fry beignets until golden brown, flipping them half way (about 2-2.5 minutes on each side). Transfer finished beignets with a slotted spoon to the paper towel plate. Let cool about 30 seconds and transfer to the sugar plate, rolling the beignets into sugar until evenly coated. Transfer onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Step 7 – For filling the beignets, poke a whole into each beignets using a chop stick and gently fill them with jam using a piping bag.
Did you make this recipe?
I’d love to know how it turned out! Please let me know by leaving a comment below, rate the recipe and/or share a photo on Instagram: tag @pardonyourfrench and hashtag it #pardonyourfrench. Bon Appetit!