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Beignets: The Quest for Perfection

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Beignets: The Quest for Perfection

David A. | Feb 5, 2006 11:41 AM

For the last couple of months I have been conducting a concerted search for a Beignet recipe that exactly reproduces the great Beignets of Cafe Du Monde. I've come to a couple of conclusions:

1) Yeast recipes are off the mark. The way to go is yeast + baking powder (and possibly baking soda) or powder + soda.

2) All those recipes that begin "Making great Beignets is simple..." are full of it. Most of the recipes floating around the Internet are worthless.

3) Those who badmouth the Cafe Du Monde mix are full of it. The mix procudes a beignet remarkably similar to that served at the cafe. At this point I am persisting in my pursuit out of a crazed curiosity. For those who do not share my crazed curiosity, the mix is the obvious solution.

I've tried about ten recipes, inluding recipes from heavy hitters like Francois Payard and Commander's Palace. A few recipes are in the ballpark, but none compare to the real thing.

This recipe (from www.cheftalk.com) comes the closest, but it's still not right. It's produces a beignet that's a little dry, a little tough. I've been thinking of adding vegetable shortening.

How would you tinker with it?

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (310 ml)
1/4 cup all purpose flour, for kneading and rolling (60 ml)
1 tsp baking powder (5 ml)
1/4 tsp baking soda (1 ml)
1/2 tsp salt (2 ml)
1 tbsp sugar (15 ml)
1/2 tbsp instant rapid rise yeast (7 ml)
1 x egg
1/2 cup buttermilk (125 ml)
1/2 tsp vanilla (2 ml)
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying (250 ml)

In a medium bowl, combine the 1¼ cup all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and yeast.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and vanilla.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until the flour is incorporated. The dough will be sticky. Put the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead dough until smooth and slightly sticky the touch, adding more flour if necessary. Transfer the dough to a clean medium bowl dusted with a little flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Punch down dough and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Using your hands, pat down dough and form into an oval shape, about ¼-inch thick. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares.

Preheat oil for frying in heavy skillet ? oil should be 3/4-inch deep for frying.

When oil registers 365 degrees F, fry pieces of dough in batches (don?t overcrowd the pan) for 1 minute on each side or until evenly golden brown. Transfer beignets to a tray lined with paper towel to drain. Dust with cinnamon and/or icing sugar. Serve.

Yield: 6

David A.

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