This time of year, when Mardi Gras is in full swing and Fat Tuesday upon us, I long for all things Creole, Cajun and well, downright bad for me like king cakes and hurricanes. Beignets are the easiest of the Creole treats to craft – simply yeast-leavened fried dough. This particular beignet recipe can be prepared ahead of time and is of course, super scrumptious. Because let’s face it, you can’t beat doughnuts.
If you’ve visited the city of New Orleans, for Mardi Gras or otherwise, then I dare say you’ve enjoyed beignets and café au lait (coffee with milk). If you haven’t met the Crescent City in person, I’m here for you.
There’s no real trick to the trade besides ensuring your yeast is ready for action by proofing it in warm water, and then dumping – yes, dumping powdered sugar on the sweet, hot doughnuts. This is the way it’s gone down for decades on the riverside Café du Monde patio, the most infamous of all New Orleans beignet shops. The ground of the café is literally white from all the sugar. For the ultimate experience, procure some coffee with chicory to sip alongside the steaming, powdery sweets.
Chicory? It’s a woodsy, herbal root, and part of the signature blend of Café du Monde coffee, although this type of brew is more or less a New Orleans staple. If you look, you might even find coffee with chicory on your local grocery store or World Market shelves.
If you don’t want to fry up the whole batch at once, you can keep the dough wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator one more night. Otherwise, simply halve the recipe. Use a 200°F oven to keep undusted but fried beignets warm. Or just eat them as soon as they come out of the fryer. On Fat Tuesday, or any other day that demands doughnuts!
New Orleans Beignets
- 1 envelope of active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
- 1⁄2 cup warm water
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 2 large eggs (slightly beaten)
- 1 tsp of salt,
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup shortening (butter will burn in the fryer)
- 4-8 cups of all-purpose flour
- Canola oil for frying
- Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (dumping)
- Combine yeast, one-half cup of hot tap water (105° to 115°) and teaspoon of granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let stand for five minutes (if it doesn’t foam, the yeast is bad).
- Microwave the other cup of water with shortening until just warm (about 30 seconds). Stir to melt shortening.
- Add milk, remaining granulated sugar, eggs, salt and shortening water to mixing bowl and beat on low speed to combine.
- Slowly beat in flour until a shaggy mass forms (see picture below). Depending on your location and the weather, it can be anywhere from four to eight cups of flour. The dough should just hold together, but not be completely cohesive.
- Roll dough into a ball (or smaller separate rounds) and store in the refrigerator covered in plastic, overnight, for up to 24 hours. Likewise, let the dough proof, covered in an oiled bowl in a warm spot, until doubled in size.
- Heat three to four inches of canola oil to 360°F over medium heat in a dutch oven or large stock pot (use a candy or meat thermometer).
- On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a quarter-inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2-inch squares.
- Fry beignets until light golden brown on both sides, flipping once. The doughnuts fry up fast in about a minute, but if they brown too quickly, turn the heat down slightly. Drain on paper towels and dump on loads of powdered sugar to serve!
Snap Shot: Dough Steps
The shaggy mass…
The rounds to proof or refrigerate overnight…
And the rolling and cutting before frying.