How to make Beignets

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Start to Finish: 1 hour, plus chilling time

Servings: 6

Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate

Beignets are the traditional doughnut of Louisiana. Most closely associated with New Orleans, where they can be found in numerous cafes and shops, beignets were traditionally fruit-filled fritters brought down to the south by Acadians. The modern version of beignets are square-shaped, yeast-raised doughnuts covered with a hefty layer of powdered sugar. They have no filling and are traditionally served alongside a cup of chicory coffee. This recipe, adapted from ones by What’s Cooking America and Southern Living, produces smaller beignets, so there are three to a serving.

Ingredients

Yeast Mix

  • 1/2 cup warm water

  • 3 teaspoons or 1 packet instant yeast

  • 1/2 cup and 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar

  • 2 whole eggs, beaten

  • 1 cup evaporated milk

  • 1 teaspoon salt

Beignet Dough

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/4 cup shortening, melted

  • 7 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • Vegetable oil for frying

  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Directions

Yeast Mix

Combine the water, instant yeast and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar in a large mixing bowl and let rest 5 minutes. Stir to ensure the yeast and sugar have fully dissolved.

Using an electric mixer, beat in the eggs, evaporated milk and salt.

Beignet Dough

Microwave the water and shortening on HIGH for 30 to 45 seconds, until very hot. Pour the water, shortening and salt into the yeast mixture and mix on low to thoroughly combine.

Beat in the flour gradually, adding a 1/2 cup at a time. Set the electric mixer at a medium speed to prevent overmixing, which can cause the beignets to be tough and dense. Stop adding flour after 4 cups, and beat until a smooth blend is formed.

Continue adding flour gradually, adding a total of 6 1/2 to 7 cups of flour to the dough. Once the flour is fully mixed in, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for between 6 and 24 hours.

Tip

  • The longer the beignet dough chills for, the more flavorful the beignets will be, as the yeast has more time to flavor the dough.

Frying the Beignets

Fill a large pot with at least 3-inches of vegetable oil and heat on medium-high, until the temperature reads 365 degrees Fahrenheit with an instant-read thermometer.

Lightly flour a smooth surface with 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour, and place the chilled dough onto the floured surface. Roll out the dough in a rectangular shape, until it is around a 1/2-inch thick.

Cut the dough using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife into 3-inch wide strips. Then, cut each strip every 3 inches, making 3-by-3-inch squares of dough. Let rest 10 minutes.

Carefully slide one piece of dough into the hot oil using metal tongs. The oil will immediately start bubbling. Add two to four more squares of dough, depending on the size of your pot.

Tip

  • Too many pieces of dough frying at once will lead to a lower cooking temperature, resulting in oily beignets that take longer to cook. Continue monitoring the temperature of the oil with the thermometer, and do not let it dip below 350 degrees F.

Warning

  • Be careful when adding the dough pieces to the hot oil, as splashing oil can burn your hands or can lead to an accidental kitchen fire.

Fry the beignets for 2 to 5 minutes. They will puff and become golden when they are ready. Ensure that both sides of the beignets are browned, turning them with the tongs if necessary.

Remove the beignets from the oil when done -- they will be floating at the surface -- and place them on a metal rack to drain.

Shake a generous amount of powdered sugar over the beignets before they cool. The heat helps the sugar adhere to the surface of the beignet. The beignets need to be entirely covered in powdered sugar, with almost no visible dough. Serve the beignets while still warm.

Variations

The standard beignet recipe does not have any variations other than shape and size (on occasion). Smaller beignets, dough cut to 1- or 2-inch squares, make for bite-sized treats. The dough can also be cut into different shapes, such as triangles or circles, but squares are traditional.

For a spiced beignet recipe, add dried, ground spices to the flour before adding it to the yeast mix. Possible additions include: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or clove.

For richer beignets, substitute the shortening for unsalted butter. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract or rose water to the butter and water when mixing the beignet dough.

Instead of dusting with powdered sugar, serve the beignets warm with a warm fruit jam, fruit preserves or honey.

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