Joy the Baker

Buttermilk Beignets

February 24, 2013

Buttermilk Beignets

Apparently one is not allowed to have a pity party upon returning from vacation.  Such pathetic events are extravagant, really… and one should just buck up and answer her dang emails and do her dang laundry.  Just because one is several hundred miles away from the sweet doughy pastries of Cafe du Monde does not a pity party justify.

It turns out that vacation can feel closer to home when you decide to, you know… throw powdered sugar and fried dough around the house.   It’s pretty much that easy.  Who knew?

This is what it looks like to throw powdered sugar around Cafe Du Monde.  If you ever find yourself in New Orleans (and I pray that you do), please spend at least one very late night and one early morning enjoying beignets and coffee.  Dreams come true!

Buttermilk Beignets

Invite some friends over.  Gather around a hot pot of oil, take out an extra pair of frying tongs.  Measure out as much powdered sugar as you think you’ll need for a fresh batch of beignets, then double it…. then pour some powdered sugar over your head (just for good measure).  We’re all the way in.  Let’s do this!

Buttermilk Beignets

Making beignets at home is entirely different from enjoying them at Cafe du Monde.

They’re a lot more work at home.  Let’s just be real.

This version of beignets is much different from those I enjoyed in New Orleans.  I made Buttermilk Beignets which are much more light and fluffy than those I’ve eaten out in the world.  They’re little powdered sugar clouds… an incredible thing to coax our of your kitchens.  To be sure.

Buttermilk Beignets

They’re called Buttermilk Beignets, but there are actually two types of milk in this dough.  Whole milk pairs with buttermilk to create a super lush dough.  We’re also using bread flour instead of the all-purpose flour we usually throw around our kitchen.  The bread flour is important for the structure of the dough.  It’s not to be skipped.

Buttermilk Beignets

I’ll be honest, there’s something a little nerve-bending about this beignet dough… it’s a REALLY wet dough.  So wet that the dough needs to come together in a stand mixer with a dough hook.  There’s really no way to bring this dough together by hand without being up to your elbows is dough glue.

Buttermilk Beignets

If your nerves don’t bend when you mix together this very wet dough, you’re a better baker than me.  That’s entirely possible, by the way… you’re a rad baker.

This dough will stick to the bottom of the bowl as it is kneaded with the dough hook.  It will stick to the spatula.  It will stick to your fingers if you reach in for a feel.  This dough will make you feel like you’re doing everything wrong.  You are, in fact, doing most things right.  The wet dough will eventually lead to super light beignets.

Trust the process.

Buttermilk Beignets

With the 4 teaspoons of yeast in this dough, it will rise a substantial amount.  It’s bubbly and fluffed.

Buttermilk Beignets

Turn the dough out onto a well-(bread)-floured work surface.  It takes some coaxing to get the dough out of the bowl.  Don’t make me tell you again how wet and sticky this dough is.

Buttermilk Beignets

Generously top the dough with bread flour and softly knead and tuck the dough into a ball.  This isn’t a deep knead.  That would be all sorts of sticky.  It’s more of a light knead.  Be cool.

Buttermilk Beignets

Roll the dough to about a 1/2-inch thickness.  I happen to have a giant beast of a rolling pin.  It’s a make-it-work situation.

Buttermilk Beignets

Because the dough is so moist and almost delicate feeling, it’s hard to bully it around like you might a pizza dough.

Buttermilk Beignets

Once sliced, the pretty little dough pieces are separated.  They can’t be trusted to play nice too closely together.  They’ll stick together and no one likes that.

Buttermilk Beignets

Deep frying may feel like a daunting task but once you have a candy thermometer you’ll want to fry everything in sight.

Buttermilk Beignets

Beignets are literally drenched in powdered sugar promptly after frying.  Ideally they’re consumed as quickly as they’re drenched.

Buttermilk Beignets

Call some friends.  Really, you’ll need people to gather ’round for this achievement in baking.  These beignets are more tender than yeast doughnuts, and perhaps the sweetest treats in the world.   Pulling these out of your kitchen will make any day feel like a special occasion… a really sticky, oh-my-god-there’s-sugar-EVERYWHERE, special occasion.

Buttermilk Beignets

makes 2 dozen large or 4 dozen small beignets

recipe adapted from Dam Good Sweets

3/4 cup whole milk

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

4 teaspoons active dry yeast

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour, plus about 1 cup extra for flouring the work surface

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Canola oil for frying

Powdered sugar for serving, a lot… about 2 to 3 cups

To start, allow the whole milk and buttermilk to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before bringing this recipe together.

Pour whole milk into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Heat until milk is steaming and small bubbles form on the surface.  The milk will be very warm to the touch.  Remove from the heat and pour warm milk into the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  Add buttermilk to the warm milk.  Stir in granulated sugar.  Sprinkle yeast over the milk and sugar mixture.  Stir gently.  Allow milk and yeast mixture to sit for 5 minutes to activate the yeast.  When yeast is active, the tops of the mixture will be slightly foamy and bubbling.

Add flour, baking soda, and salt to the wet ingredients.  Use a dough hook and beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes.  This is a very wet dough so the dough will stick to the bottom of the bowl as it is beaten with the dough hook.  Try not to be tempted to add more flour, but is you must, add up to 1/2 cup more flour (the mixture will still be wet).   Stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrape the dough from the bottom of the bowl, ensuring that all of the wet and dry ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Remember:  the dough will be sticky.  AKA:  don’t freak out.  Leave dough in the mixing bowl to rise.  Cover with plastic wrap and a clean dish towel.  Allow to rest in a warm place for 1 hour.

Generously flour a work surface with bread flour.  Use a spatula to remove the risen dough from the bowl.  Once dough is on the floured work surface, generously flour the top of the dough.  Gently flatten the dough, fold it in half, then tuck the ends under to create a dough round.  The dough will still be very moist, but as long as your work surface is well-floured, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a 1/2 to 1/3-inch thick rectangle.  Cover the dough with a clean dish towel and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Using a bench knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1 1/2 inch squares.  Stop to flour the knife or pizza cutter as you slice.  Try to separate the slices as you cut them so the dough does not stick together after it is sliced.

Place enough oil in a saucepan to fill it to a depth of about 3-inches.  I used 32 ounces of oil in a 3qt saucepan.  Place a candy thermometer in the oil and heat over medium-high head to 375 degrees F.  Place several layers of paper towel on a clean work surface.  Place a cooling rack (if you have one) atop the paper towels.  This will be our cooling and powder sugar station.  Place powdered sugar is a fine mesh sifter to dust the beignets as they come out of the oil.

Gently add beignets to the hot oil.  Try not to overcrowd the pan, I could fit three beignets at a time in my pan.  Fry until golden brown on both sides, flipping them once or twice during frying, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from oil and place on cooling rack.  Immediately dust with a generous amount of powdered sugar.

Before frying more batches of beignets make sure the oil is at 375 degrees F.  Fry until all dough is cooked through and dusted with sugar.  Serve immediately.  These beignets are best (as most things are) straight from the fryer.  These beignets are best the day they’re made, very soon after frying.

To Make the beignets ahead:

The beignet dough can be made up to 8 hours in advance of frying. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. After cutting the dough, place the beignets on the paper and place another greased sheet of parchment paper, sprayed-side down, on top. Wrap the entire baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The beignets can be fried straight from the refrigerator.


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