Beignets (New Orleans style donuts)

Mardi gras didn’t really happen this year, but this time of year reminds me of New Orleans.

I was talking to a friend last week about places we had really enjoyed visiting and the food that reminded us of them and it sparked a memory of New Orleans.

About a million years ago when I was a student I worked in a US Summer camp and went travelling afterwards. I ended up in New Orleans and everyone recommended I try a visit to Cafe du Mond in the French Quarter. Their signature dish is a little plate of 3 beignets (little oblong donuts, doused in icing sugar) and a cafe au lait. The place is an institution and recalling it had me craving them. I had my very own Marcel Proust moment eating these, it was amazing (Rememberance of Things Past, is quite a dull book but is famous for passage about how food triggers memories)

This is probably best made at the weekend due to the amount of time you need to prove the dough, but other than that the beignets are pretty simple to make.

I used evaporated milk because I think it makes a richer dough, but ordinary milk is fine if you don’t have it.

N.B. When deep frying, cook at a medium heat. They will brown very quickly because of the sugar in the dough, but the first few I made had raw dough in the middle which was disgusting. I cooked rest at a lower heat and they were fine.

Ingredients

430 Grams Flour, I used strong bread flour, but plain flour is fine

125 ml Evaporated milk (ordinary milk is also fine)

175 ml Warm water (about skin temperature, not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast)

1/2 Tsp Dried yeast

50 Grams Sugar

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 Egg (beaten)

30 Grams Butter (melted, and allowed to cool a little)

Icing sugar for dusting

Vegetable oil for frying

Method

  1. In a large bowl, add half the water, a teaspoon of sugar, and the yeast and stir, leave in a warm room (I use an airing cupboard because there are drafts) for 15 mins. The mix start to form a froth on top.
  2. Mix in the rest of the water, sugar, salt, milk and the egg and mix well
  3. Stir in half the flour, and then add the melted butter and remaining flour and mix well. The douch will be pretty sticky so transfer to a greased bowl and cover with cling film and keep in a fridge over night or at least 3 hours
  4. After dough has proved in the fridge its time to roll out. I’ve tried flouring the surface and rolling pin and found it stuck really badly. So the next batch I tried using a thin layer of oil on the surface and rolling and for me it worked better (I know some people prefer using a floured surface so work with what works for you
  5. Roll the dough in to an oblong and trim the edges. I use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 18 oblongs (you can use a knife, but I found this worked well
  6. Heat your oil, until its warm enough that a cube of bread will sizzle when you drop it in. Cook the beignets in small batches, turning after a minute or two. You really need to pay attention to these as the colour very quickly. As I said early don’t let your oil get too hot or you’ll end up with raw dough in the middle
  7. Drain the cooked beignets on kitchen paper as soon as you take them out of the oil and then sprinkle liberally with icing sugar for a proper taste of New Orelans

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