It’s almost Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). In Lyon, Mardi Gras is practically synonymous with a specific pastry called a bugne. Dating back to the Middle Ages, bugnes are donut-like deep-fried pastries sprinkled with sugar. This town goes absolutely crazy for les bugnes, partly because Lyon is where they were first created and sold. There are records that describe the bugnes’ crisp textures from the 16th century. Cold cut meat stores in Lyon sold the bugnes just before Lent (due to their high, high fat content!)
French bugnes come in two shapes and sizes: the crunchy bugnes (bugnes lyonnaises) and soft bugnes (pillow bugnes!). The crunchy ones are cooked in very hot oil with the dough spread out thinly and knotted once or twice and often have a lemony zest. The softer, doughier bugnes are made with thicker leavened dough.
Legend says that hot bugnes were once sold to travelers along the road between Dijon and Arles in France. I say, who cares where they were sold? As long as they were originally from Lyon and still sold in Lyon during the month of February, I’m as happy as can be. The bugnes are in every bakery, grocery store, and office in Lyon…Lyon, you are truly France’s gastronomic capital.