Great recipes from Lyon: bugnes

The bug? The only dessert in Lyon whose tradition has been maintained for at least five centuries.

At Shrove Tuesday, it’s time for bugnes à l’éperon, so we inevitably make a full bagnon.”

In Lyonnais speaking, the bugne evokes both a dessert, the nature of a person and a hairstyle.

1. Tortillon shaped donut,
Take ! Give me flour… and oil! We’ll make bugs! With Glaudia! You can come and eat if you want!”(Father Cracker)
2. Dumb, clumsy person. Innocent insult.
And if ever the world here were to be so blessed that they would no longer eat bugnes, as long as they were they would all be big bugnes.
3. Old hat.
4. Straight as a bug, straight as an “I”.

The section you are reading being essentially gourmet, we will only be interested in the edible bugne, otherwise we would swallow our hats.

You should know, as an appetizer, that there is two bugnes schools in Lyon : that of the plump and soft, slightly chubby, called “à éperon” (from the name of the little serrated wooden wheel, similar to the spur of the rider) which are made from a yeast-based dough from the baker, and those of fine and crunchy, without yeast, inspired by marvels or auricles. The former are more often the work of charcutiers-caterers, while the latter are more often found among bakers-pastry chefs – although.

Rongeon, “La Jeanne”, Madame Gorguet and the Ladies of Saint-Pierre

Anyway, it is, in both cases, beignet, a preparation composed of a dough that is fried in oil.

From a historical point of view, the bugne is attested in Lyon from 1538, in a document reporting purchases of bugnes made by the municipality, on the occasion of meals of honor offered by the City. François Rabelais mentions them a little later, in 1548, in the first version of his Quarter Poundsuites of “facts and words” of Pantagruel.

In 1557, the Supplement to Lyonnais worthy of memory gives an overview of some of the best bug addresses. First there was Sieur Rongeon who rented a small shop in rue du Vert-Galand (now rue due la Bourse) – Rongeon, Bagatelle & company : his eatery was then the most famous in the city. So much so that the Lyonnais made a proverb out of it: whoever hasn’t eaten fried food from Rongeon, hasn’t eaten anything good”.

He even asked the Consulate to obtain the monopoly of frying in Lyons, which the king’s lawyer and the public prosecutor refused once again. There was also the “La Jeanne” bugne factory, established on rue du Paradis (today rue David Girin, between rue Childebert and rue Confort) which “broke down all the others, both its good bugnes (and its considerable sales: in twenty years, it amassed 20,000 crowns). Her shop was taken over by Madame Gorguet who, “pushed her talent to a higher degree”, to the point of being venerated by all lovers of bugnes, and who hid to make her dough, which she then gave to several young girls. they had under his orders to give it the shape of bugnes.

Flat or swollen, the real schmilblick

According to historian Bruno Benoît, in the Historical Dictionary of Lyon, “the word bugne is a phonetic deformation of Old French donutwho gave donut ; as to the name of donuthe comes from bumpdue to its swollen shape.” However, in 1794, the “Tableau du Maximum” of foodstuffs from the Rhône department (which establishes an alphabetical census of the main foodstuffs), mentions both “fine bugnes, said to be made with a funnel, 15 sols per pound” and “common bugnes, known to be made at La Guillotière, 19 sols per pound”. Which doesn’t help the schmilblick.

Brunot Benoît’s father, however, seems to decide… against his son. In his work Lyon cuisine (co-written with Henry Clos-Jouve, 1972), this curious and funny spirit, a great defender of local history, notes that“a scent of flowers cradled the first bugnes: the rose bugnes invented by the Ladies of Saint-Pierre in the 16th century and then taken up by fryers at the end of the 18th century.” He adds, on top of that: “Now the common penny bugnes, the spur bugnes, which were eaten during times of penance, were not scented with rose.” And to conclude that the fryers were cutting out chains of bugnes, “in the shape of crowns and strung on a string”. A fact that Nizier du Puistpelu – founder of the Académie du Gourguillon, one of the most emblematic associations advocating the defense of Lyon’s traditions and past – had already noted in 1879 in Lyon’s Vieilleries : “How are bugnes made? It is known to be a handful of dough, shaped into a crown and fried in oil.” And wanting to have the heart net of its composition, which would indicate if there was yeast and therefore if they swelled, he asked a bourgeois of Lyon, the Sieur des Guénardes, “learned as not one and witty as he is learned” to check the thing “experimentally”. Conclusion: brewer’s yeast. The bugnes lyonnaises are therefore indeed at the origin inflated, called “spurred” and in the shape of a crown.

Ceremonial culinary aspect

If the debate – flat or chubby – goes on and on, one thing is certain: bugnes were eaten on Shrove Tuesday, the last day of the carnival, on the eve of Ash Wednesday. As historian Nadine Cretin (Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) explains, “It’s a day when overeating is allowed because it was supposed to have magical value, and this ceremonial culinary aspect is essential. Marked by masquerades and by the recommended consumption of “fat”, particularly ritual pastries (pancakes, donuts or bugnes, waffles…), the day is clearly opposed to the Lenten fast that follows, a “lean” period of forty days before Easter.”

Mardi-Gras or the first Sunday of Lent was also called Bugnes Day.

The bug! This is what is known only in Lyon. At ten leagues we no longer know what it is. Nizier du Puitspelu

Getting lost in Lyon, walking at random (…), eating a good bugne, drinking a glass of Brindas…” (L. Daudet, Towards the King, 1920)


The recipe for Bugnes Lyonnaises from Léon de Lyon

former restaurant with two Michelin stars (1978 – 2008), under the leadership of Jean-Paul Lacombe

Ingredients for 6 to 8 people

500g flour

70 g of sugar

· 1 pinch of salt

· 4 eggs

3 cl of Grand Marnier

40g soft butter

Oil for frying

· Icing sugar

The device must be prepared the day before in order to rest.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a hook, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the eggs, the Grand Marnier and finally the soft butter.

(If not, by hand, sift the flour and arrange it in a fountain. Add the sugar, salt, eggs and butter).

Work until the dough is smooth.

Keep refrigerated overnight.

Heat the oil to 170°C.

Roll out pieces of this dough very thinly with a rolling pin, cut them into rectangles using a grooved roller.

Fry them in hot oil.

Leave to cool and dust them lightly with icing sugar.

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