A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if I had a recipe for beignets. I didn’t. Truth is, I’ve only had beignets once that I remember. My mom (or aunt, I’m honestly not sure) had a beignet mix. We made them. They were not good. Seriously, we threw fried dough in the trash because no one would eat it. So, I spent the last few weeks doing some research online and talking with friends who live in beignet country. I had a pretty good idea of what a good result would look like and I decided to try it. This is not a completely original recipe. I simply used the traditional recipe I found at least a dozen different places and swapped out melted butter for the shortening – because butter is always better.
I took the finished product to my Sunday School class (also known as my baking guinea pigs – and they’re ok with that). I took a butter batch and a shortening batch and the preferences were split right down the middle. I will say that I preferred the butter fresh out of the oil (hence why I’m sharing that one), but the longer they sat, the tougher they got. The texture using shortening is definitely better if you plan on making these ahead (but really, why wouldn’t you eat a doughnut fresh out of the fryer?).
Start by mixing the water, sugar and yeast and letting it proof for 5-10 minutes. Then add eggs, salt, evaporated milk and part of the flour. Everything I read was insistent that a well hydrated dough was key to great beignets, so I let this sponge rest for 30 minutes before I did anything else. Then, I switched from my paddle attachment to my dough hook and added my melted butter and enough flour to get a dough that felt sticky but didn’t actually stick to my fingers (a lot like the dough for my cinnamon rolls). DO NOT knead this dough. You’re not looking to create a lot of gluten strings (and therefore chew) with this dough.
Cover this and let it set in the fridge overnight. Yup, overnight. Nope, you can’t shortcut it. Seriously, to get a well hydrated dough, it needs to sit that long and rise slowly. In the morning, start your oil over medium low heat. Use a thermometer. If the oil temperature isn’t right, you’re going to end up with black outsides and raw insides or really greasy cooked dough.
While your oil is heating up, roll your beignet dough into a rectangle that is 1/4″ thick. Then, use a sharp knife to cut it into 2″ squares. They don’t have to be perfect, just similar.
Carefully drop dough squares into the hot oil 3-4 at a time. They’ll sink at first and then float to the top on their own. That’s ok. When you can tell one side is starting to brown, use two wooden sticks to help you flip them. You’re going to flip them a couple of times. If you let them get too brown on one side, they may not stay flipped. Please forgive this picture. My husband took it and the boys were kinda out of control when he did.
Remove finished beignets from the oil and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy (as soon as you can pick them up without burning your fingers).
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup evaporated milk
6-7 cups flour
1/4 cup melted butter
oil for frying
Mix together water, sugar and yeast. Allow to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
Use the paddle attachment on your mixer to stir in eggs, salt and evaporated milk. Then stir in 3 cups flour just until mixed. Remove paddle attachment from mixer and allow sponge to sit for 30 minutes.
Use dough hook attachment to stir in melted butter. Add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When you are ready to fry beignets, heat 2″ of oil in a heavy saucepan to 375*.
While oil is heating, roll beignet dough to 1/4″ thick. Use a sharp knife to cut dough into approximately 2″ squares.
Carefully drop 3-4 squares into hot oil. Flip beignets several times during cooking. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown on the outside and cooked through in the middle.
Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar while still warm.