Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I think I had first heard of beignets when I lived in Chicago and tried them at this restaurant downtown that would make them to order for dessert. We didn't make it out for lunch often, but when we did there were plenty of great restaurants to choose from and I remember sharing a plate of fresh hot beignets with my colleagues. I wanted to try to make these myself, but did a little research first to see what the fuss was about. Beignet, pronounced "ban-yay," is the french word for "fried dough" It's basically a fancy doughnut, but without a hole in it (which is much easier to make too). However, while they have French orgins, they have gained popularity in the U.S. The famous Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans is known for them and they are actually the state doughnut of Louisiana.

I've come to realize on recent travels that doughnut desserts at high-end restaurants are quite popular now and people love them served hot....what comfort food! So, with the other packet of active dry yeast I had after making hot cross buns, I tackled this popular dessert this past weekend.

They are made with a yeast pastry, which was really only sweetened with a little sugar and some freshly ground nutmeg. With the use of yeast, this again requires patience and waiting. My before and after photos of the pastry don't look like a dramatic amount of rising happened, but it did rise a bit and was ready for kneading.

I kneaded the dough a little, rolled it out to the right thickness and cut out my rounds to place on a floured cookie sheet. I had to let it rise again and this time I could really tell they had risen and the rounds were touching each other. I think I'd use a larger cookie sheet next time as the dough was quite sticky and it wasn't so great that they were stuck together when I was ready to fry them. Now onto frying...

I'm not a huge fan for fried foods, but these are fried in Safflower oil and cooked quickly (just a minute or so per side) at a high temperature (approx. 350 degrees) so they cook but do not absorb a lot of oil. I used the candy thermometer and kept it in the pan the entire time so I could monitor the temperature of the oil. After frying, they went on a paper towel lined plate and were ready for the final touches.

I covered them in powdered sugar and created a huge mound of sugary beignets. I made sure to have family around to help clean up this tower of sugary doughnuts and they loved them. I think I could have even used a smaller round cookie cutter to make more smaller beignets, but we had no problem trying more than one. They are really good on their own or served with dipping sauces, like a chocolate sauce, raspberry or strawberry. We enjoyed them with some homemade triple chocolate ice cream that my brother made (yes, we're a family of cooks!).

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