Make Homemade Beignets for a Taste of New Orleans

Every week, we spotlight a different food blogger who’s shaking up the blogosphere with tempting recipes and knockout photography. Below, Beth Kirby of Local Milk gets sentimental about beignets, which remind her of a youthful fling with the city of New Orleans.

I remember New Orleans as if from a fever dream. I ran away from home at 17, all the way to Bourbon Street. I blamed it on an existential crisis. I still do. Well that and an unholy fear of a preordained life.

I’d never set foot in Louisiana before that night, middle of the week, in my pale yellow shift dress — my school uniform. My high school textbooks were in the trunk. I smoked cigarettes and drove, untethered, unhinged, and free.

I wandered the streets in fake leather pants, ate my first oyster on the half shell, and naively accepted all sorts of charity. It was one of the happiest times of my life. I went home a few weeks later because I didn’t want my mother to be sad. The day I left I ate an entire plate of beignets at Café Du Monde by myself.

Makes 12 two-by-three-inch beignets, plus about 14 one-by-two-inch scraps

175 milliliter (¾ cup) warm (110°F) water
1 packet (about 2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
50 grams (¼ cup) sugar
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
1 large egg
120 milliliter (½ cup) buttermilk
430 gram all-purpose flour, divided into 180 grams, 220 grams, and 30 grams (3 ½ cups divided into 1 ½ cup, 1 ¾ cup, and ¼ cup)
2 ounce butter, softened and in ½-inch pieces
Canola oil for frying, enough to come about 1 ½ to 2 inches up the sides of a frying pan
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar for dusting
Chicory crème pâtissière for filling (recipe here)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes until foamy. You want to make sure the water is at around 110°F, so that it’s warm enough for the yeast to activate but not so hot it kills it.

Add in the salt, nutmeg, egg, and buttermilk, and mix on medium to combine.
Add in the first addition of flour, 180 grams (1 ½ cups), and mix on medium to combine.

Add in the butter, and mix on medium until incorporated. Add in the 220 grams (1 ¾ cups) flour, and mix until dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Dough will be very sticky and annoying, but you haven’t messed up. Knead in the remaining ¼ cup of flour by hand until dough is smooth, a couple of minutes.

Form dough into a ball and put in a clean, lightly oiled bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap or a (non-terry cloth) dish towel. Let stand in a warm area until doubled in size, about two hours. (Note: I have let it sit as long as slightly more than 3 hours due to distraction. It’s still perfectly good, perhaps a bit yeastier tasting, but I like that.)

Remove dough from bowl onto a well-floured work surface and lightly dust top with flour. At this point, I am gentle with the dough: I like to leave some of the bubbles in. This makes the beignets extra airy.

Heat 1 ½ to 2 inches of canola oil in a cast iron pan to 350°F. Meanwhile, roll out dough to a ½-inch thickness. Trim the edges and cut with a floured knife or bench scraper into approximately 2-by-3-inch rectangles. Set up a cooling rack over paper towels.

Using a slotted metal spatula, gently transfer the beignets to the hot oil and fry 3 to 4 at a time, rolling them around frequently, until golden brown on all sides. This takes about 3 to 4 minutes. As they finish, transfer them to the cooling rack over paper towels.

To fill: Let beignets cool until you can handle them. Then, using the end of a wooden spoon, poke a hole in each beignet, going nearly all the way through without breaking through to the other side. Then pipe the chicory cream inside. Dust liberally with powdered sugar and serve warm.

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