A New Orleans specialty, these light and airy deep-fried puff balls comprise one of America’s best variations on the doughnut.
One of the best doughnut variations in America is the extremely light and airy deep-fried puff ball served throughout New Orleans: the famous "beignet" (ben-YAY), a French word for a sweet or savory fritter. This one's sweet all the way, even dusted with confectioner's sugar, and served as a breakfast treat with a strong cup of chicory-enhanced coffee. The best-known beignet in Louisiana is served at Café du Monde in New Orleans—but you can get pretty well-known in your circle by serving the following recipe.
Makes 24-30 beignets
¾ cup milk
¼ cup shortening (like Crisco)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus an extra pinch
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (about 90 degrees)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ¼ to 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
vegetable oil for frying
1 cup confectioner's sugar for garnish
1. In a small saucepan, combine milk, shortening, granulated sugar and salt. Heat just until shortening melts and sugar and salt dissolve. Cool to room temperature.
2. In the bowl of a mixer, combine yeast, warm water and pinch of sugar. Set aside until yeast bubbles, about 5 minutes.
3. To mixer bowl, add cooled milk-shortening mixture, egg and vanilla. Using the paddle attachment on the mixer, mix on low speed to combine. Add 1 cup of flour and mix on low speed to combine. Add 2 ¼ cups flour, switch to the dough hook and mix to combine. Knead on medium speed 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Add additional flour, one tablespoon at a time, if needed, to make the dough clean the sides of the bowl.
4. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. Heat 2" of oil in a deep saucepan to 375 degrees. Punch dough down and divide into four pieces. On a floured surface, roll one piece out to a ¼" thickness. Cut dough into 2" squares. Repeat with remaining dough pieces. Fry squares in batches, until golden brown, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Dust immediately with confectioner's sugar.
Also see a recipe for blackeyed pea and pork gumbo from New Orleans chef Donald Link.