Saturday, September 28, 2013

French Quarter Beignets

A still warm beignet cloaked in confectioners' sugar must be included on the long list of pleasures that is New Orleans. To have beignets, in various shapes, with mugs of steaming coffee at the Cafe du Monde, or elsewhere in the French Quarter of the city, is a near perfect way to start a day or end a night of revelry. While I can't take you there, I can show you how to enjoy this treat in your own kitchen with a quiet cup of coffee and a table and floor relatively free of sticky powdered sugar. While I've tried, I can't find a way to keep the powdered sugar off your face. Everyone will know exactly what you've been doing. For the uninitiated, a beignet is a warm, crisp piece of fried dough that is topped with a heavy layer of confectioners' sugar. Food historians believe French colonists brought beignets to New Orleans in the 18th century. Some believe the Ursaline nuns brought the recipe with them from France, others believe the Acadians, who were expelled from Nova Scotia, introduced them to the people of New Orleans. No one is sure how the donuts got their name. The Celts had a word "bigne" that meant to raise. The French called donuts "beignet". We know for sure that beignets are made with yeast and while they are allowed to slowly rise, how they got their name is not at all important to those who love them. This recipe makes about 48 donuts. The good news is that the dough keeps well for about five days when it's refrigerated. That's important on several levels. Though beignets should be thought of as a dessert and can be eaten anytime, once fried and cool they quickly lose their appeal. Day old, they become bird-fodder or the base for bread pudding. You can cut this recipe in half to produce a less gargantuan quantity. These should always be served warm. If I haven't frighted you away and you actually make these, I know you'll love them. They are addictive. Here's the recipe for your downfall.

French Quarter Beignets


1-1/2 cups lukewarm water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 eggs, room temperature slightly beaten

1-1/4 teaspoons salt

1 cup evaporated milk

7 cups all-purpose or bread flour

1/4 cup shortening, melted and cooled to room temperature

Nonstick spray

Oil, for deep-frying

3 cups confectioners' sugar


1) Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

2) In another bowl, beat eggs, salt and evaporated milk together. Whisk egg mixture into yeast mixture.

3) Mix 3 cups of flour into yeast mixture. Add shortening and continue to stir while adding remaining flour. Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put dough into bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours.

4) Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.

5) Place confectioners' sugar in a paper or plastic bag. Set aside.

6) Roll dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into 2-inch squares. Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until golden color. Drain on paper towels for a few seconds then place in bag with confectioners' sugar and toss to thickly coat. Serve warm. Continue until all beignets have been fried and coated. Yield: 48 donuts.

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