Northern Virginia is not exactly close to New Orleans, but one small business owner in Loudoun County is giving his customers a taste of “The Big Easy.”
Scott Bilstad, owner of Bilstad’s Beignets in Ashburn, is known for serving up beignets — deep fried squares of dough sprinkled with powdered sugar that are typically featured in French American cuisine. They’re most commonly associated with Louisiana cuisine, and are extremely popular in New Orleans.
They are similar to doughnuts, but are just different enough to be highly unique.
“Essentially, the flour we use is a little lower in protein, so it’s not as dense,” Bilstad said. “We also sheet it thinner, and then we cut them into squares.”
Bilstad has been making them professionally for about four years now.
“The bottom line is they’re good,” Bilstad said with a smile. “Through time, I just kept working with it, changing it, switching up flours. We cut the shortening a little bit, we use different fryer oil which allows them not to absorb so much oil [and] gives them a little bit of shelf life.”
Bilstad didn’t plan on making a business out of beignets. He started frying them up when he was in the Navy and it immediately sparked his interest.
“A fellow shipmate of mine who I worked with taught me how to make doughnuts,” Bilstad said. “I took that recipe and tweaked it a bit to make my own version of beignets.”
According to Bilstad, they reminded him of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
“Krispy Kreme was always my favorite doughnut, so I knew there was something there,” Bilstad said.
As one might imagine, Bilstad’s business gets pretty busy around the holiday season, with families placing large orders for parties and other get-togethers.
Customers don’t necessarily have to go to the actual store along Ashburn Road, however. Bilstad has a mobile unit that he takes all around Loudoun County.
“It is pretty booked up every weekend through December,” Bilstad said, adding that he’ll be taking the food truck to farmers markets, tree lighting ceremonies and holiday festivals around the area.