I have never fancied myself to be much of a deep-fryer. A big pot of scalding oil waiting to splatter me with hot fireworks of canola droplets never seemed to have a place in my kitchen. That is until recently.
For Christmas Eve dinner we have started doing themes instead of traditional meals. This year was a New Orleans theme, and one of the dishes I was in charge of was beignets. “No problem,” I thought, my confidence rising. “Beignets are going to rue the day they met me!” I consulted my trusty cookbooks and reliable internet sources, and settled on a recipe by everyone’s favorite butter-lover, Paula Deen. I looked back on my life and tried to remember a time I had cooked any other recipe by the lovely Ms. Deen, and realized there were none, but thought if anyone had a deep spiritual connection with deep-frying it was her. With the Power of Paula on my side, I cranked the heat under my deep pot o’ golden oil and got to work.
Once the oil had cooled and the clouds of powdered sugar had settled, I was left with a crisp golden pile of puffy goodness. They looked like little fried gifts with a light layer of sweet snow. A Christmas Miracle, really! And they were easy! I have worked with many a dough in my day, and let me tell you, this beignet dough was a delight to work with. Pliable yet shapely, soft but not droopy; Dream Dough. I’m not sure what the theme will be next year, but if anything needs to be deep-fried (preferably of the doughy sort) count me in.
French Quarter Beignets
Adapted from Paula Deen
I ended up cutting the below recipe in half for a party of 10 people, and still had a few beignets leftover. They cook up very quickly, and store well in a plastic container for a couple of days. Reheat on a sheet tray with a rack in a 350 degree F oven for 5-10 minutes and enjoy them all over again.
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 envelope active dry yeast (2-1/4 tsp.)
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 7 cups bread flour
- 1/4 cup shortening
- Nonstick spray
- Oil, for deep-frying
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.
In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt and evaporated milk together. Mix egg mixture to the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, measure out the bread flour. Add 3 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the shortening and continue to stir while adding the remaining flour. Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oil in a deep-fryer or heavy-bottomed pot to 350 degrees F. If using a pot, aim for about 3 inches of oil.
Add the confectioners’ sugar to a paper or plastic bag and set aside.
Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch squares. (I used a pizza cutter to cut my dough.) Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden color, about 2 minutes total. After beignets are fried, drain them for a few seconds on paper towels, and then toss them into the bag of confectioners’ sugar. Hold bag closed and shake to coat evenly.
Serve with chocolate sauce, jam, or just pop them in plain!