Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Beignets...you gotta try these!


French Quarter Beignets - these puppies are incredible.  My first encounter with this wonderful food was in Texas at a place called Crescent City located in Houston.  I thought I had died and gone to food heaven.

Here is a little history about the beignet.  Beignets are the official doughnut of Louisanna (does California have an official doughnut???). 
Beignets are light, puffy pastries traditionally served in New Orleans. No visitor to the Crescent City can consider a trip complete without a stop at Café du Monde for beignets and café au lait. Like most Louisiana customs, beignets have an interesting history that began in France and traveled all the way to the mouth of the Mississippi.

Food historian Cathy Kaufman wrote that beignets might have come to France from Spain. For centuries, Spanish cooks have served deep-fried yeasted fritters known as "bunuelos." During Islamic rule in the Middle Ages, customs from the Andalusia region of Spain probably spread to Mediterranean France. At this time, deep-fried balls of airy choux paste, or "pets de nonne," were also called Spanish beignets.

Like most New Orleans traditions, beignets have been associated with Mardi Gras in France since the 16th century, and many recipes for beignets appear in French works around this time. Stradley writes that the Ursuline Nuns of France brought beignets to America when they settled in Louisiana in 1727. Café du Monde, however, attributes the Acadians, French settlers who were ousted from Canada by the British in 1755, with first bringing the pastry to Louisiana. According to the 1902 Picayune Creole Cook Book (published in New Orleans), French colonists brought the custom of serving sweet treats such as beignets from the old country to Louisiana.

Needless to say, these wonderful treats are worth the trouble of making.  Enjoy!


Recipe courtesy Paula Deen
Ingredients
•1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
•1/2 cup granulated sugar
•1 envelope active dry yeast
•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

Directions
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 to 350 degrees F.

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. Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden color. 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.

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