Thursday, April 1, 2010

On a Lazy Weekend Morning.. Can't Beat Beignets!!

Known in some shape or form all over the globe, deep fried dough looks to be an universal language. From Spanish churros and buñuelos to European crullers and zeppolas to Chinese you-tiaos and all the way back to the United States' 200+ year amour for the hot, fluffy, powdered sugar-crowned beignets, everyone seems to have an innate love for choux pastries.

Choux is a traditional french dough that has a high moisture content in which steaming is the method by which the dough rises. It's the dough by which we make creampuffs (profiteroles) and eclairs. It doesn't need a leavening agent, but sometimes yeast and other leavening ingredients are added to a recipe. Such is the case with the lovely puffy, fluffy, slightly chewy beignets. But differing from the classic method of baking choux dough, beignets are fried.

The verdict seems to be out among food historians as to by whom and exactly when the delicious fritter was brought to us yanks from the European motherland - but a general consensus seems to lie with french colonists who came to the port of New Orleans, Louisiana in the 18th century. Since then, beignets have been nationally associated with the city, and in 1986 were deemed the “official doughnut” of Louisiana. And when you're in Louisiana, you eat your beignets with a piping hot cafe au lait made with coffee, milk and chicory (chicory was used back in the day as a “filler” for expensive coffee but it actually lends itself extraordinarily well to balancing and smoothing out the bitterness of dark roasts).

So I got this recipe, which is actually widely distributed online – It's such a cinch to make, and you do up the dough the night before so you have something in the morning that you can roll out fast and fry quickly.

Beignets (yeast dough recipe)

1 ½ c. Warm water (looking for between 105-110*F)
1 pkg Active Dry Yeast (or 2 1/4 t. from jar)
½ c. Sugar
2 Eggs
1 c. Evap milk
1 t. Salt
¼ c. Shortening or Butter, softened
7 c. Flour
Oil for frying
10x Sugar for topping

~ In a bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water for 5 minutes – Blend in sugar, eggs, milk, and salt
~ Mix in ½ flour until smooth - Mix in shortening and then add remaining flour til just combined
~ Cover and chill for 4 hours or overnight
~ On a floured surface, knead the dough a bit and roll out to 1/8 inch. Cut into 2 in squares and fry in 360*F oil (or in a deep fryer) for about 2 minutes on each side or until puffed and golden brown. Keep warm in a low oven
~ When serving, pile on the powdered sugar and don't skimp! Serve with hot coffee

Now this recipe will get you a buttload of beignets so for your average family of 5, you can use about half this amount and chill/freeze the rest.

Beignets can be adapted to a number of flavors and can be filled with both fruits and savory items (vegetables, meats, cheese). I saw a sweet potato beignet recipe that looks very interesting.. Just another new thing I learned about beignets today.

MISE (left out the shortening but you need that too – pretty simple though eh?)
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Dough chilled overnight
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Rolled and cut into squares
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Frying – the dough pulled a bit when I was cutting it so they're more like rhombus-es rather than squares. Lawl.
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Finished Product! NOM!!
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These would be just as lovely topped with a yummy fruit compote, or drizzled with honey, agave nectar or maple syrup! And some spices thrown into the dough would take them to another level I'm sure! Cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, anise.. The sky my friends..

Bon Appetite!