I've been privileged to visit NOLA a few times. The most recent adventure included a Beignet Pilgrimage. We visited five of the best reviewed spots in and around town. From my previous exposure to these Deep South deep-fried delights, I didn't believe there was any possibility of beating the taste and ambiance of Cafe Du Monde. I was happily proven wrong.
Our universal favorite was not some out-of-the-way bakery, but another of the big players among the purveyors of powdered pastries - Cafe Beignet. Flavor, texture, powdered sugar to pastry ratio - ten out of ten for every one.
Regardless of your own personal favorite from the French Quarter and beyond, here is The AP Bakery's take on this delightful bite made for a recent family brunch. Much like the Boston Cream Donut recipe, this one took several experiments - each successful in their own way - to come to the version we're happy to serve to a grateful brunching crowd.
[I somehow lost the picture with the full presentation. It was a great shot of a full plate with bright golden curd in the middle for dipping. I'll settle for deep frying action I guess.]
Let's get started.
Total Time: 8 hours
1 - Skip this step if you KNOW you have good yeast. If you aren't sure of the age of your yeast, warm your milk in the microwave a bit (not hot, just body temp) and scatter the yeast over the top. In five minutes it should start bubbling up. If not, stir in a teaspoon of the sugar and give it five more. Still nothing? Head to the store. Sorry. [Sourdough Bakers - Visit the Tips & Tricks Blog from the homepage for Starter changes to this or any recipe]
2- Put ALL INGREDIENTS into the bowl of your mixer. Mix slowly for about a minute or until all the wet and dry ingredients have met. Increase the speed to medium, and mix for four minutes. You should have a smooth, glossy ball of dough.
3- Cover and rest the dough at room temp for one hour. At the end of the rest the dough will have increased in size, but probably not doubled. That's right where you want to be.
4 - Prep a bowl at least 3x the size of the dough with cooking spray. Transfer the dough to the prepped bowl. Cover well. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. (Up to 2 days would be fine.)
5 - Prep your deep fryer of choice with a couple inches of vegetable or peanut oil and set it over medium heat until it reaches 360F or 182C.
6 - Roll out the risen dough (should have at least doubled while in the fridge) into a large rectangle 25cm by 36cm (10x14 inches). Cut the dough into 5cm (2 inch) squares.
7 - Fry a few at a time (don't crowd the deep fryer) one minute on each side. Remove to a draining rig. About the time you've finished your third batch, the first will be ready for the powdered sugar treatment. (I like total coverage, but know your limits. Whatever. You do you.)
8- EAT! Pro tip - Lemon Curd makes a fantastic dipping sauce.