Le Boulangerie (9) – Beignets

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):

Ingredients:

  • 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

Method:

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!

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Le Boulangerie (3) Pierogi

To accompany my novel in progress: Breaking Bread, welcome to Le Boulangerie!

Week three and I’m already sort of going off script. Pierogi are not baked but they are made of dough so…. And I have a good reason for featuring them this week: Pittsburgh. (And don’t be confused, I am from Philadelphia, not Pittsburgh.) For those of you outside the United States and those who pay zero attention to sports, here’s the connection: I am a Pittsburgh Steelers football fan. (Steelers fan in Eagles territory…) The Steelers are in the playoffs. This Sunday they played and won their game against the Kansas City Chiefs in what can only be described as an ugly win. Nevertheless, the playoffs demand a party and a party demands food and drink.

Any city like Pittsburgh with a vibrant Polish and Eastern European community, will certainly be known for the foods of that ethnic origin–pierogi, for example. Pierogi are pockets of dough filled with a variety of ingredients. A traditional pierogi is most often filled with a combination of potatoes and cheese, potatoes and onions or cabbage. In honor of the Steelers, my friend Alexandra, armed with her Ukrainian grandma’s recipe, agreed to show us how to make pierogi from scratch on Sunday afternoon. I feel an annual tradition starting…

Now, right at the beginning I have to warn you, this was neither quick nor easy but it was so totally worth it. The key to this entire process as you might imagine is the dough:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of whole milk, scalded
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 6 – 7 cups of flour

Method:

Scald milk in saucepan. Put butter in hot milk to melt. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Mix water and yeast in a separate bowl. Let rest 5 minutes. Add salt and egg to milk mixture. Combine thoroughly. Gradually add flour in with mixer. As dough thickens, knead by hand instead (or switch to dough hook if using a stand mixer). Cover bowl with cloth and allow dough to rise about an hour.

Then the dough gets rolled out to about an eighth inch thickness and cut into rounds:

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When the rounds are ready, it’s time to fill them. Ours were stuffed with mashed Yukon gold potatoes, cheddar cheese, green onion and bacon. Fold the round over the stuffing mixture, seal with egg wash and use the tines of a fork to crimp the edges.

The filled pierogi go into a pot of boiling, salted water for a few minutes and then into a pan for frying in butter to a light golden brown.

And no Ukrainian or Polish meal would be complete without kielbasa, img_5004purchased at a butcher shop in northeastern Pennsylvania (coal mining country) another area with a large Eastern European community. We’re calling Pierogi fest 2017 a huge success!

And did I mention the Steelers won? Yeah, that too!

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