Beignets for Fat Tuesday
People who know me know this: I have very few secrets. Maybe I read too much Dr. Seuss as a kid, or maybe I was interested in psychology too early, but I offer up information about myself like a flower does pollen. So when I recently let it slip that I have an obsession with donuts, I think my fiancé Neal was a little surprised.
I wasn’t allowed to eat many sweets growing up, and there were rarely any in our house. My mom occasionally bought coffee cake or, my favorite, boxes of Entenmann’s Donuts. I loved the mildly spicy powdered cinnamon ones best. They were cakey and just a little sweet, and they would almost dissolve into a glass of milk. When the cinnamon ones were all gone, I would furtively sneak the plain cake ones, thinking no one would notice.
Somehow, most of my donut eating after that was done on the sly—the honey-dipped Dunkin’ Donuts a secret treat from my Aunt, the dozen donuts at Yum Yum when my friends and I snuck out at 2 a.m. in seventh grade, even the pre-shift sugar donut in grad school that kept me bounding around the restaurant like a five year old at a birthday party after both cake and ice cream. No one knew.
When I confessed my secret passion for donuts to Neal I discovered, to my delight, that Neal secretly harbored a love for donuts too!
Since tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, the culmination of Carnival celebrations, I thought I’d indulge my sweetheart and my sweet tooth and whip up a batch of one of my favorite kinds of donuts: beignets. Beignets are a traditional New Orleans treat—deep-fried yeast dough dusted with powdered sugar. The word beignet is French for “fritter,” a word that any donut-shop frequenter would recognize. I like mine rolled in cinnamon and sugar, though they’re also good with a little spiced chocolate.
To find a recipe I turned to my Anne, a friend and colleague who also happens to be a trained pastry chef. She pointed me in the direction of the Village Coffee Café blog, which had this simple (and might I add, fast) beignet recipe a la the famous Cajun chef, Justin Wilson. I cut mine into little bite-sized circles and served them three ways: dusted with powdered sugar, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, and dipped into oozy good dark chocolate. And I saved some dough to make them fresh for the perfect Fat Tuesday breakfast: Fresh beignets and café au lait.
Beignet Justin Wilson Style
courtesy of Village Coffee Café
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1 medium egg
3 tbsp sugar
1 cup milk
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 quart of oil for deep frying
Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pot with oil and heat to 375 degrees.
While the oil is heating, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon into a medium bowl.
In another bowl, beat the egg well. Then beat in the sugar, milk and vanilla.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just moistened. Turn the dough out on to a well-floured work surface (it will be sticky) and knead lightly. Cut into diamond shapes or cut out 1-inch circles for bite-sized beignets.
Fry in oil, turning once, until lightly browned. Drain on a paper towel. Dust with powdered sugar or roll in cinnamon and sugar and serve hot.
These can easily be adapted to savory recipes as well.