It has been a quest… a dream of sorts, really… to create my own beignets. It stretches back even further than our trip to San Francisco in March 2007 where we had a divine Sunday brunch at Boulette’s Larder at the Ferry Building featuring Garam Masala beignets. It stretches all the way back to a previous visit when they had Chinese Five Spice beignets. Crispy, hot, yeasty, without a drop of oil on the napkins lining the serving dish. In short – deep-fried perfection.
Let’s take a closer look at those:
They just look amazing, don’t they?
Ever since I tasted them, I decided that I wanted to try making beignets, too. Key acquisitions in order to do this: a stove with good heat control and an oil thermometer.
Every recipe I found for beignets online seemed to be a copy of the exact same recipe. Either everyone in the world makes beignets the exact same way or there’s some serious plagiarism going on. To top it off, all these recipes called for seven cups of flour. Seven cups!? I’m not feeding an army here. If two cups of flour will give me buttermilk biscuits for four, I certainly don’t need seven cups for my beignets.
Still, never having made beignets before I didn’t want to start experimenting yet. Caving in, I measured out my seven cups of flour.
It also contains yeast, water, shortening, sugar, eggs, salt, and evaporated milk. Theses were summarily mixed together.
Then placed in an oiled bowl and allowed to rise overnight in the refrigerator. Even at the cold temperatures, the yeast was prodigious and I was getting a little afraid that I would be woken up by the beeping alarm of my refrigerator door once it had been burst open by the overproductive dough.
With Stuart’s help taking pictures, I rolled out the dough. Here is a point where the recipes diverged ever so slightly. Some said “roll to 1/8 inch” while others said “roll to 1/4 inch”.
When it comes to dough, doubling the height is a big different. I started out with 1/8 on the first third of the dough and opted to cut out rounds rather than squares, just for the heck of it.
I then heated the oil to 180 C. Even with an induction stove it is really tricky to keep the oil at a steady temperature as once it heats up, it takes a while to cool down even if it is off the burner.
Finally, the temperature was right and I started adding beignets. The first few bobbed immediately to the surface, when it was my understanding they should stay submerged for at least a little while before coming up for air. We cooked several batches, testing as we went. The 1/8 inch beignets seemed to cook too quickly so we tried some at 1/4 inch. These were a little better.
After several tries, the cooking seemed to come out a little better. I think that the oil needed to actually be just a little cooler so they didn’t cook too fast. There were also some experiments with folding the dough several times to create layers but all that seemed to do was create tough beignets.
Here they are, served in the style of Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, a trio under a dusting of powdered sugar.
My conclusion is that the dough itself lacked flavor and complexity. I think if I had made a starter and let it ferment for a few hours, the beignets might have had more flavor. Also, a bit more salt would have helped.
Ultimately, though, I’m not sure I’m cut out for deep frying. Even with the air purifier running all night and the kitchen exhaust fans running the next day, the house has had the lingering odor of donuts. Maybe I can get an outdoor stove and cook on the balcony?
P.S. Just a note on the Xanga spell check: why are words like “thermometer”, “gay”, and “I’d” not in there?