Beignets

I finally did it! Every year I tell myself I’m going to make something festive for Mardi Gras, and every year it sneaks up on me, I run out of time and it never happens. I should really thank Amanda, who posted her King Cake Cupcakes last week, and put Mardi Gras on my radar with plenty of time to spare. We’ve been housebound all weekend after Winter Storm/Blizzard Nemo dropped over 2 feet of snow on us, and since we were somehow fortunate enough not to lose power, it gave me the perfect opportunity to bake.

Though I’m generally the most indecisive person ever, I wasted no time in choosing beignets as the Mardi Gras treat I wanted to make. Square pieces of pillowy dough fried until golden brown and crisp then generously coated in powdered sugar? Yes, please! :) I’ve never been to New Orleans, but it’s on my short list of long weekend getaway destinations. And when we eventually get there, I’m heading straight for Cafe du Monde, which I hear is the place for beignets.

Beignets

Until then, I am happy to make this easy homemade version and though I obviously have no basis for comparison to the real thing, I’m willing to bet these are pretty darn close! They’re airy and crisp, so much lighter than you’d expect from something that just came from a fryer. The beignets aren’t super sweet so you can (and should!) really load them up with powdered sugar before you start devouring them. And you will devour them, they’re completely irresistible! The dough is made with yeast, but don’t let that scare you away. This is one of the easiest yeast recipes I’ve ever made; there’s no kneading involved and the dough comes together in less than 10 minutes.

After a very long day of shoveling, these beignets were the perfect indulgent treat. And I figured with all the calories we’d burned dealing with the snow, we’d definitely earned the right to help ourselves to seconds :)

Beignets

Beignets
barely adapted from Cook’s Country, February/March 2013

1 cup warm water (about 110 F)
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus extra for frying
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

In a large bowl, combine the water and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and set aside for 5 minutes – the mixture should become foamy. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, the remaining 2 tablespoon of sugar, and the salt together in a medium bowl. Add the eggs and 2 tablespoons of canola oil to the foamy yeast mixture and whisk until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and use a rubber spatula to stir until a rough dough comes together (you don’t have to knead it or make it smooth as you might with other yeast doughs). Place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl and allow to rise in the refrigerator for about 1 hour, or until just about doubled in size. (Don’t let the dough rise at room temperature – it’s wet and sticky, and chilling in the fridge makes it easier to work with.)

Grab two rimmed baking sheets – line one with parchment paper and generously dust the parchment with flour. Set a wire rack inside of the second baking sheet. Set both aside.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface. Divide in half. Working with one half of the dough, pat it into a rectangle – if it’s sticking to the work surface or your hands, coat it with more flour. Roll the dough to a 1/4-inch thick rectangle about 12×9-inches in size. Cut the dough into 12 equal squares, each about 3×3-inches. Gently transfer the squares to the flour-dusted baking sheet. Repeat the same process with the second half of the dough to make 12 more squares.

Add enough canola oil to a pot to measure about 1 1/2 inches deep – you can do this in a large Dutch oven which will enable you to fry about 6 beignets at a time, but if you’d rather use less oil, it will work just fine in a smaller pot (I used a 3-qt pan). If you go with the smaller pan, I wouldn’t fry more than 2 at a time. Set the pot over medium to medium-high heat and heat the oil until it measures 350 F on a candy thermometer. Add the beignets (how many depends on how big a pot you used) and cook for about 3 minutes, flipping them over after 1 1/2 minutes so both sides brown evenly. Try to maintain the oil temperature between 325 and 350 F – adjust the heat under the pot as necessary. Use a spider strainer to transfer the beignets to the wire rack you prepared earlier to allow any excess oil to drain. Return the oil to 350 F before frying the next batch of beignets. Continue until they’ve all been cooked. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

{Note: these really are best very shortly after frying. I tried to rescue leftovers the next day, but couldn’t figure out a way to recreate that original fried goodness. In other words, serve immediately :) )

Makes about 2 dozen beignets