While there are some words in the French language that American English speakers either mispronounce or don’t even know where to begin in terms of pronunciation, thankfully beignets are not included in that “group.” Beignet is the French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux paste. Although there exist variations of fried dough in many different cuisines, the origin of the term beignet is specifically French. They were brought to Louisiana in the 18th century by French colonists (back when Louisiana was a colony of the French) and quickly became a part of New Orleans Creole cuisine.(In fact Beignets were declared the official state doughnut of Louisiana in 1986.)
Although there are numerous places in New Orleans where you can find beignets, the most famous spot (and has been for decades) is Cafe du Monde in Jackson Square. It serves nothing but beignets covered in excessive amounts of powdered sugar, cafe au lait and coffee with chicory.
I got in the mood this past week for some Creole cuisine and along with the shrimp po’boys and Cajun pirogues (hollowed out zucchini that are then topped with a vegetable medley mixed in with cheese and bread crumbs), beignets seemed like the perfect dessert. However, we sat down to dinner somewhat late (8:30 PM) that night and so the beignets were put on hold for a couple of days until Sunday morning when I roused myself out of bed and made them to have at breakfast.
I used a Paula Deen recipe I found on the Food Network which I think is the first Paula Deen recipe I have ever tried. You do need to allow the dough to rise for at least two hours and if you’re currently in the midst of a heat wave as most of the United States is, you shouldn’t have any problem with your dough rising to majestic proportions. I placed the dough on a sunny windowsill and within a couple of hours it had more than doubled.
(I made half the recipe and that was more than enough in terms of servings.)
French Quarter Beignets
Recipe courtsey Paula Deen
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 granulated sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup evaporated milk
7 cups bread flour (I used self-rising flour)
1/4 cup shortening
Oil, for deep frying
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Mix water, sugar and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.
In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt and evaporated milk together. Mix egg mixture to the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, measure out the bread flour. Add 3 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the shortening and continue to stir while adding the 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 the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.
Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch squares. Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden color. After beignets are fried, drain them for a few seconds on paper towels, and then sprinkle them with sugar.