Monday, February 15, 2010

French Market Beignet Doughnuts

Beignets are slightly sweet fritters, deep fried and sprinkled with a generous dousing of powdered sugar. Best when served with a strong New Orleans chicory coffee.

Beignet Doughnuts

At this writing, it's Shrove Monday, or the Monday before Ash Wednesday, now mostly just referred to as Lundi Gras, meaning that Carnival season is winding down and the Lenten season is about to begin. It is the time that certain Christian denominations, in particular Catholic, Episcopal and Lutheran, begin to reflect, prepare for confession, and seek penance to obtain absolution for our sins. It is, in essence, the day before the final blowout - Fat Tuesday. No better appropriate time to bring you my final recipe to add to the Mardi Gras brunch and party foods list for New Orleans Style Café au Lait and French Market Beignets!

Oh my gosh, the memories associated with beignets for me are many and they are all associated with one place, the Café du Mondé coffee stand, in the Old Jackson Square area of the French Market in downtown New Orleans.

Café du Mondé, established in 1862, is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except for Christmas (and the occasional hurricane threat) and sells primarily two things - chicory coffee and beignets. Beignets are essentially deep fried, only slightly sweet fritters, that are sprinkled with a generous dousing of powdered sugar and served straight out of the fryer. At the coffee stand they come in orders of three, which is just the right amount.

Grabbing a plate of these hot beignets and a cup of café au lait after a long night out and about in town - and more specifically, the French Quarter - was just the ticket to wind down the night, and we did it often. Served primarily al fresco, though they do have a teeny, tiny indoor seating area, it didn't matter whether it was 40 degrees outside or 100, 5:00 o'clock at night, or 3:00 o'clock in the morning, I can never remember being there where this place was not busy. It was and remains a tradition when in New Orleans, along with the silly practice of blowing the powdered sugar off onto one another, a practice everyone hates, but which always seems to happen.

Beignets, like any doughnut, are best served hot and fresh out of the fryer and with a hot cup of café au lait. This batch makes about 30 to 40 squares, depending on how thick you roll them, perfect for a Mardi Gras brunch before the parades. Still looking for some Mardi Gras party food ideas? Click right here and grab some inspiration.

Just want a few beignets or in a hurry? Scroll down to the very bottom and check out my Cheater Beignets too!

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Recipe: French Market Beignet Doughnuts

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 15 min

Total time: 30 min
Yield: About 30 doughnuts

  • 1 envelope (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Powdered sugar, sifted

Dissolve the yeast and a pinch of the sugar in the warm water and set aside. Whisk the flour and set aside. Pour the boiling water over the shortening and stir until the shortening is melted.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of the sifted flour with the sugar and salt, melted shortening, milk, egg, and yeast mixture. Add enough additional flour to form a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll thin - somewhere between 1/4-inch and 1/8-inch thick. Using a pizza wheel, square off the dough, reserving all pieces; cut dough into 2-inch squares. Let dough rest while you preheat oil in a deep pot or deep fryer to 360 degrees F.

Drop into hot fryer and brown on one side until golden, flip and brown on the other side. Remove and drain on a rack over a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar and serve immediately with a piping hot cup of café au lait.

Cook's Notes: Makes between 30 and 40, depending on how thick you roll them. Sometimes you will need all of the flour, sometimes you'll need less - depends on the weather, rain, humidity, etc. in my opinion!

Sopapillas: Omit powdered sugar and dust these generously with a cinnamon sugar mix as soon as they exit the fryer and again as they cool slightly. Serve with honey.


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©Deep South Dish

Lagniappe: Easy Cheater Beignets
From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish

1 or 2 cans of regular (small) refrigerator biscuits
Powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat fryer to 360 degrees. Roll out the biscuits until they are thin. Cut in quarters or halves and drop in the hot oil, browning on one side until golden, flip and brown on the other side. Remove and drain on paper towels, sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar and serve immediately.
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Photo Credit Fuzzy at Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Posted by on February 15, 2010
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