To accompany my novel in progress: Breaking Bread, welcome to Le Boulangerie.
It is Fat Tuesday today, Mardi Gras or if you are Pennsylvania Dutch (German) — Fasnacht Day (Fast Night Day), the last day before the start of Lent, which if you are observant is not supposed to be a whole lot of fun. Thus Fat Tuesday, is the last day to party hard and indulge in sweets and other goodies before the restrictions apply.
Beignets are pastries made from deep frying choux pastry dough (light, moist dough that will puff up when fried). When a heavier yeast pastry is used, they are referred to as boules de Berlin or Berliner doughnuts. (Fun fact: Remember when President Kennedy said ‘Ich bin ein Berliners’ [we are all Berliners]? – he was telling everyone they were doughnuts. Speechwriter, you had one job…)
In New Orleans, the Cafe du Monde is famous for its beignets. And what other city in the USA is more famous for its Mardi Gras celebration than New Orleans? So in Le Boulangerie this week, we ‘laissez le bon temps roulez’ and made beignets. I trashed my kitchen and developed diabetes in one fell swoop…
Beignets (makes about 2 dozen):
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten and at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- vegetable oil for frying
In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and one tablespoon of the sugar in the warm water for about 5 minutes. It’ll get foamy. Add the milk, egg, vanilla, butter, the rest of the sugar, baking soda, salt, and flour. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until a sticky dough forms. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, dust with more flour, and either flatten by hand or roll to an 1/8 inch thickness. Using a knife (or I used a pizza cutter) cut the dough into 2 inch squares. They don’t have to be perfect. Mine were all different shapes and sizes.
Preheat the oil such that a drop of water will sizzle when you test it. I realize that’s not very precise… do your best. Err on the side of too cool rather than too hot. Gently drop the squares, a few at a time, into the hot oil. Once they have risen and puffed, flip and cook on the other side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining dough. Generously dust with confectioners’ sugar. Eat until they’re gone or you’re in a sugar coma, whichever comes first!