With Mardi Gras around the corner, what better time to make a batch of sweet, crisp, fluffy beignets? Beignet means “fried dough” in French, and these doughnuts are one of the great contributions of Louisiana Creole cuisine to Southern culinary tradition. Our recipe makes a bunch, but no one can eat just one of these bite-sized treats. Our suggestion: invite some friends over, and dig in!
New Orleans-Style Beignets
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) heavy cream
1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g.) granulated sugar
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, beaten
1 package (2 1/4 tsp.) quick-rise yeast
3 3/4 cups (19 oz./590 g.) all-purpose flour, or as needed
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
Canola oil for deep-frying
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml.) cold water, the cream, sugar, butter, egg and yeast. Add 3 cups (15 oz./470 g.) of the flour and the salt. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that does not stick to the bowl. Remove the paddle attachment and fit the stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Knead the dough on medium-low speed, adding more flour if needed, until the dough is smooth but still soft, 6-7 minutes. Shape into a ball.
Lightly butter a large bowl. Add the dough and turn to coat with the butter. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm spot until it doubles in bulk, 1 1/2-2 hours. Or, refrigerate overnight until doubled in size, 8-12 hours; remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before proceeding.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Roll out into a large rectangle about 1/4 inch (6 mm.) thick. Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, diagonally cut the dough into 2-inch (5-cm.) strips. Cut in the other direction, also in diagonal 2-inch (5-cm.) strips, to create diamond shapes. Transfer to the baking sheets and loosely cover with the plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm spot until the beignets rise slightly, about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°F (95°C). Place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the oil to a depth of at least 3 inches (7.5 cm.) into a deep, heavy saucepan and heat to 350°F (180°C) on a deep-frying thermometer.
Using a metal spatula, carefully lower a few of the beignets into the hot oil, being sure not to crowd the pan. Deep-fry the beignets, turning often, until puffed and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a wire skimmer, transfer to the rack to drain. Keep warm in the oven. Repeat until all of the beignets have been fried. Arrange the beignets on a serving plate, generously dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve at once. Makes about 40 beignets.
Find more great recipes for sunrise specialties in our book Williams-Sonoma Breakfast Comforts, by Rick Rodgers.