The history of beignets, the Louisiana State doughnut made famous at New Orleans' Cafe Du Monde, is as interesting as the dish is tasty.
According to food historian Cathy Kaufman, it is thought beignets were first introduced into the Mediterranean area of France by Spaniards in the late Middle Ages. Documents from that time period refer to deep fried balls of dough as pets de nonne, which were also known as "Spanish beignets." The origins of the word beignet are likewise unknown, but a plausible argument can be made that the word originated from the Celtic word "bigne" which means "to raise."
While the exact origins of beignets is cause for debate, it is known that the French colonists of the eighteenth century are responsible for introducing the deep fried pastry to New Orleans. Some believe it was the Ursuline nuns of France who brought the recipe with them when they came to Louisiana in 1727. The original beignets were fried fritters sometimes filled with fruit. Today they are most commonly served as a square piece of fried dough liberally covered with powdered sugar and an occasional sprinkle of cinnamon.
The restaurant most often associated with beignets is the Cafe Du Monde, located on Decatur Street in the French Quarter just across from Jackson Square. Cafe Du Monde was established at the New Orleans French Market in 1862 and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, only closing for Christmas Day and the occasional hurricane.
The beignets at Cafe Du Monde are traditionally served with cafe au lait, strong chicory laced coffee lightened with milk.
Kaufman, Cathy. (2009). "Where Does the New Orleans Mardi Gras Beignet Come From?"