Beignets

When you think of the city of New Orleans, what comes first to mind? The wild good times of Mardi Gras? The music spilling out onto the streets from venues all over town? The Saints NFL team, now sans Drew Brees as QB? Or do you think first of the food? If ever a city was known for its cuisine, it's The Big Easy. From muffuletta sandwiches to shrimp gumbo to jambalaya to po boys to, of course, one of the finest pastries found anywhere on the planet, the beignet.

In French, beignet essentially means "fritter," but these finest of treats are served in the form of a plump rectangle, not a ring. And while a delight to any who eat them, the beignet deters many a chef who perceives this New Orleans staple as a hard food to pull off. Don't be intimidated, says chef and recipe developer Stephanie Rapone of Pantry to Plate. "They are way easy," she explains, adding: "Honestly I think they are as easy as making cookies, and easier than fried churros or donuts."

So what's the secret as to why these easy treats are some of the best baked goods you'll ever eat? It's the fact that they're not baked at all, they're fried. And that's deep fried in lots of oil, to be precise.

Gather your beignet ingredients

For a great version of this classic sweet treat, you'll need 1 and a 1/4 teaspoons of instant yeast, ¾ of a cup of warm water (it should be at 110º degrees Fahrenheit, and not hotter than 120º or it may kill the yeast), ¼ of a cup of white sugar, ½ a teaspoon of salt, 1 egg, 1/2 a cup of evaporated milk, 3 and a 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour; divided, 2 tablespoons of shortening, non-stick spray, 1 quart of vegetable oil for frying (there's the "secret" for you!) and ¼ of a cup of confectioners' sugar.

It's also a good idea to have an oil-safe thermometer handy, by the way.

Start the yeast then mix in the other beignet ingredients

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let it sit for five minutes to begin activation. Then add in the sugar, salt, egg, evaporated milk, and mix until all of these ingredients are well combined.

Keep the speed of the mixer on the slower and steadier side here. Using water that's too hot or too cold is a common mistake when using yeast, so check that the water temperature is just right to ensure your beignet dough rises properly. "Make sure that the water is the right temperature and that you see some bubbles from the yeast to know it's still alive and doing its job," says Rapone. 

Form the beignet dough

Add 2 cups of the flour and mix until the dough is smooth. Add the shortening, and mix for a little while again (you may still have small shortening bits, that's okay). Now add the remaining 1 and a 1/2 cups of flour. Beat until everything is fully combined, then allow the mixer to knead the dough for 1 to 2 minutes, until the everything is evenly mixed.

Next, spray a large bowl with nonstick spray and put the dough in the bowl. Now cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or a lightly damp towel) and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, which will take 1 to 1 and a 1/2 hours. "Don't be afraid to let the dough rise an extra 15 to 30 minutes," says Rapone, "if you don't think it's doubled in size. Cooler temps can definitely slow that process down."

Cut out individual beignets and heat the oil

Using parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, roll out the dough into a sheet that's 1/4 of an inch thick. Then use a pizza cutter (or a knife if need be) to cut the dough into 2" by 3" rectangles.

Next, pour the oil into a large Dutch oven or high-sided skillet (height is critical, because hot oil pops and fizzles) and heat oil to 350º degrees Fahrenheit, using that candy/frying thermometer or probe thermometer we talked about earlier to check the temperature. While the oil is heating, line a cookie sheet with a couple layers of paper towels.

Fry the beignets then dust them with sugar and enjoy

Gently drop batches of the dough into the oil, frying no more than 4 to 5 beignets at a time, and fry each batch for 1 to 2 min on the first side (until it turns golden), then gently turn each over and fry them for another minute or so until they're golden on the second side. Place each finished pastry on the paper towel-lined cookie sheet to drain, flipping each once after a couple of minutes.

Finally, use a sugar sifter or small mesh sieve to sprinkle the beignets with confectioners' sugar. Now enjoy! Ideally, you'll want to enjoy the beignets when they are good and fresh. "They lose their crispness within a day, but stay fluffy on the inside for a few days," says Rapone. "If you don't sprinkle all of them with powdered sugar right away, you can store [extras] in an air-tight bag for up to three days, and then re-crisp for a few minutes on 350º in an air fryer before enjoying."

Beignets
5 from 24 ratings
No need to head to the Big Easy for a fresh bag of beignets. You can make this trademark New Orleans treat right at home with this simple beignet recipe.
Prep Time
1.25
hours
Cook Time
15
minutes
Servings
22
servings
Beignets
Total time: 1.5 hours
Ingredients
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
  • ¾ cups warm water (110 degrees Fº)
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • non-stick spray
  • 1-quart vegetable oil for frying
  • ¼ cup confectioners' sugar
Directions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let sit 5 min. Add sugar, salt, eggs, evaporated milk, and mix until well combined.
  2. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix until smooth. Add the shortening, mix again, then add the remaining 1 and a ½ cups of flour. Beat until fully combined, then allow to knead in the mixer for 1-2 minutes, until smooth.
  3. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 ½ hours.
  4. Using parchment paper or silicone baking mat, roll out dough ¼ inch thick then cut into 2" x 3" rectangles.
  5. Pour oil into a large Dutch oven or high-sided skillet and heat oil to 350º, using a candy/frying thermometer or probe thermometer to check the temperature. While the oil is heating, line a cookie sheet with a few layers of paper towels.
  6. Gently drop the dough in the oil, no more than 4 to 5 at a time, and fry for 1 to 2 min on the first side (until golden), then gently turn over and fry for another minute or so until golden on the second side. Place on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet to drain.
  7. Use a sugar sifter or small mesh sieve to sprinkle the beignets with confectioners' sugar and enjoy!
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