Russell, my brother-in-law, just got back from New Orleans and brought a box of Beignet mix. So at 6:30 this morning, finding out there wasn’t enough oil for the deep fat frying machine, he made them in a pot.
Beignet is a “fritter” like doughnut, which is the French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux paste. Beignets are commonly known in the U.S. as a dessert served with powdered sugar on top. Café du Monde (probably the most “touristy” spot in all of New Orleans) is a popular destination specializing in beignets with powdered sugar (served in threes), coffee with chicory, and café au lait. Beignet were declared the official state doughnut of Louisiana in 1986.
Cooking it in a deep fat fryer is not necessary, just make sure you use a candy thermometer. The oil must be 370 degrees F.
Buying the mix is a lot easier, but if you want to do it from scratch….
1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110°F
½ cup granulated sugar
1 package dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup melted butter
½ tsp salt
½ vanilla extract
4–6 cups canola oil
1 cup powdered sugar
Pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Mix 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar, the yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour into the milk, mixing with a whisk, until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.
Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, whisk in the butter, salt, and vanilla. Add the remaining flour and sugar, folding them into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula. Knead the dough by hand in the bowl for about 5 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 6–8 hours.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into 2-inch squares, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow the beignets to rise for about an hour.
Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over high heat until it reaches 370°F. Use a candy thermometer to check temperature. Fry the beignets in small batches in the hot oil, turning them every 30 seconds or so with tongs, until golden brown all over. Use tongs to remove beignets from the oil and drain on paper towels. Put the powdered sugar into a fine-mesh strainer and dust the warm beignets generously with the sugar.