Monday, February 8, 2016

New Orleans-Style Beignets

Did everyone enjoy the big game yesterday? I really couldn't have given the smallest F about the teams this year so I did what I usually do - I watched everything other program on television except the Super Bowl and just tuned in for the halftime show and then rewatched it again on youtube later in the evening before going to bed. Yes, I am a proud American.

I do always participate in the main Super Bowl Sunday tradition of gorging on junk food though and it was glorious. I had a bunch of Americanized Mexican food (re: nachos and inauthentic tacos and dips), sipped on a beer (or three), and topped it all off with a clementine because hello, it's still the first quarter of the year and I'm trying to watch my weight. For dessert, I partook in a few hot beignets, which I am outlining below. I had smartly frozen the leftovers in anticipation of future donut-related hunger pangs and it paid off.

Back in October, I went to New Orleans for the first time. We felt like a trip to Café du Monde was obligatory so H and I went to share a plate of beignets with a cup of coffee each. Even though I felt as though the experience of chowing down on hot beignet in one of the most humid cities ever was rather hyped up, it turns out that the praise is totally valid. The beignets were super light and airy with a crisp exterior and even though the pile of sugar was excessive, it was compulsory.

As I am prone to do, I wanted to make beignets at home because I can't be popping down to Café du Monde every time I have a beignet craving. I basically came up with this by combining a donut recipe with a brioche recipe to get that buttery but light texture that I so enjoyed in NOLA. And you know what? It's pretty good.
Ingredients [yields 2 to 3 dozen mini beignets]:
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
2½ to 3 cups flour
2 tablespoons shortening
+ oil for frying
+ powdered sugar

Start by heating the milk and honey in a saucepan until scalding.
Cool the milk to 100F and then sprinkle in the yeast and set aside until foamy.
Combine the milk mixture with the egg and salt. Stir in about a cup of the flour until a runny batter forms.
Add in the shortening and the remaining flour and knead until a slightly sticky but smooth dough forms.
It should be sticky to the touch but you shouldn't have any dough stick to your fingers.
Oil the dough and cover. Leave to rise for 6 to 8 hours.
The dough will almost triple in size. Punch down and then roll out on a lightly floured surface to about ½" thick.
Cut the dough into 1" to 2" squares.
If you're not keen on cooking up all of the beignets in one go, you can always refrigerate the extra or freeze them for future consumption. Frozen dough should be defrosted in the fridge overnight prior to frying.
Heat up a few inches of oil in a pan to 350F and fry the beignets, flipping occasionally to promote even browning. It'll take about 2 to 3 minutes total for the little donuts to cook through.

You'll know the oil is hot enough if the dough immediately floats and puffs up as soon as it's dropped into the oil but takes a minute or two to brown. If the dough sinks and there are no bubbles, it's too cold. If it browns in under 30 seconds, the oil is too hot.
Drain the beignets on newsprint or paper towels and then pile onto a plate and dust with powdered sugar.
I used a pretty normal amount of sugar, but if you wanted to go Café Du Monde style all the way, you could always just spoon it on instead of using a sifter.
These beignets are super light and fluffy with a crisp exterior and come pretty close to my NOLA beignets experience.
Here's the recipe page:

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