Everyone loves a good donut. Beignets are the elite donut. With origins in France, they are a big part of New Orleans. A staple in the Mari Gras diet.
Beignet, the French word for fritter comes from the Celtic word bigne meaning "to raise." This tasty treat dates back to at least the 16th century in France. They stemed from other forms of fried dough, but became a staple in the French culture. At first, deep frying was typically done for the elite as it was considered an expensive technique. Then as time past, it trickled down and became widely served.
Later, they were brought to America:
"French settlers brought beignets with them as they migrated to the eastern coast of Canada, a region calledAcadia, in the 17th century. Thousands of Acadians endured a forced migration as the British took control of the region a hundred years later. Many Acadians settled in Louisiana, where their descendants became known as Cajuns. Acadians brought their cuisine, as well as their language, with them as they migrated south. Today, beignets are most associated with the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana." National Geographic
They started out in a cafe in New Orleans that operated 24/7. With coffee and donuts available that often, it became a popular destination. Other cafes and bakeries followed in the trend. In 1986, beignets became the state doughnut of Lousiana.
TIPS & TRICKS
Cutting- There is a tool called: Pastry Cutter/Dough Divider. It has 5 wheels for easy scoring and cutting dough. Featured on the top left of the above picture. Adjustable from 3/4" to 4-3/8". If you do not have this tool, a single pizza cutter will do. You do not want to shape by hand as you want the sharp sides instead of smoothed ones. This helps bring in the hot oil in the fryer to puff up the inside of the dough. If the dough has smooth sides, then the oil just goes around the outside of the dough. It does not cook the inside as well and may create uneven pockets of puff in the beignet, instead of one big puffy beignet.
Square or Rhombus?- Traditionally beignets are square. Sometimes you will see them rhombus shaped, like I did in the picture above. You can even use cookie cutters to create different shapes if you prefer.
Let the dough rest- Allow time for the dough to rest. This helps the yeast to keep growing and gives you a nice fluffy beignet. You can even make these in advance and place them in your refrigerator after you have shaped them. The yeast will slowly grow in the cold. Just let them come to room temperature before frying. This will get the yeast to wake up and become fluffy when fried.
Frying: While I do not indicate a certain temperature or time, it will vary depending on your fryer. Fryer size and type of oil will affect how products come out. So do a test one. Typically start at 325F and fry until brown. If you find this is happening quick, then turn down the temperature and vice versa. They should fry on each side for about 2-3minutes.
No Evaporated Milk? No problem! Just use regular milk. You will get a slightly different texture. It actually makes it fluffier, more like a regular donut.
No Bread Flour? No problem either! Just use regular all purpose flour. Again, it will just make the texture slightly different.
Water temperature?: While not everyone has a thermometer in their kitchen, 110F is about lukewarm. You do not want the water to boil. It should just be warm to the touch.
Yield: 3 dozen
Water 1 1/2 cups (12 oz)
Sugar 1/2 cup + 1 TBSP (4 oz)
Active dry yeast 2 1/4 tsp (0.25 oz or 1 pkg)
Eggs 2 ea
Salt 1 1/4 tsp
Evaporated milk 1 cup (8 oz)
Bread flour 7 cups (30 oz)
Shortening 1/4 cup (1.8 oz)
Warm water to about 110F. (Do not exceed 120F)
Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
Beat eggs, salt, and milk. Mix into yeast mix.
In a separate bowl, combine 3 cups flour with yeast mix. Add the shortening, then mix in the remaining flour.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
Cover and let rest 2 hours.
Roll out dough into 1/4 inch thick. Cut into one inch squares. *See note
Drop squares into heated fryer and cook until golden brown. *See note
Dust beignets heavily with powdered sugar and serve.
Best served fresh, but can be stored in an airtight container and eaten the next day.
*See TIPS & TRICKS above for more detail.