Today I found out the difference between doughnuts and beignets.. For the longest time, I thought beignets different and more exotic than doughnuts.. but after looking them up on the internet, I realised that they are essentially the same, except that beignets are squarish and without the hole in the centre.
The first lesson today.. How to pronounce beignets? This is one those items on a food menu that I will go out at all costs and avoid ordering.. It's like going to an Italian restaurant and pointing out what you want on the menu to the waiter/waitress, instead of ordering it aloud.
The word beignet is pronounced
bey-YAY beyn-yay... Did that come as a shock to you?! Yeps! It's not bey-ney, or bey-net but beyn-YAY!
Here's a little bit of history on the bey-yay which I 'pilfered' from whatscookingamerica.net.
Beignet comes from the early Celtic word bigne meaning "to raise." It is also French for "fritter." Beignets, a New Orleans specialty, are fried, raised pieces of yeast dough, usually about 2 inches in diameter or 2 inches square. After being fried, they are sprinkled with sugar or coated with various icings.
Beignets are like a sweet doughnut, but the beignet is square shaped and without a hole. Beignets are considered the forerunners of the raised doughnut. For many years, beignets were shaped into balls or squares and covered with mocha frosting. Later the beignet was cut in the shape of a doughnut, and the raised doughnut was born.
Ok, so you've read that beignet are supposed to be square-shaped.. and from the William-Sonoma recipe, they were supposed to be diamond in shape.. But I couldn't for the life of me cut the dough up nicely and cleanly! Maybe my knife wasn't sharp enough, whatever it is, I couldn't do it. And I didn't have a circular cookie cutter.. So I ended up using the cover of my Masterfoods cayenne pepper bottle, and it worked out really well. I was worried that the fritters would end up really small, but they poofed up during frying.
Unlike doughnuts which you fry one side and flip to the other side to continue frying, the beignets are round, light and small, it was difficult to get them to flip and brown evenly. And my first few fritters was burnt! Then I found that the best way to keep them from being burnt is to keep nudging, moving and spinning them around in the oil (sort of like pushing ping pong balls in water) so that they are fried on all sides.. I know it doesn't sound very professional, but it worked for me!
New Orleans-Style Beignets
makes about 40 beignets (I made half the recipe and had around 40 little balls)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg, beaten
1 package (2-1/4 tsp) quick-rise yeast
3/4 cup cold water
3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
Canola oil for deep frying
Confectioners' sugar for serving
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 3/4 cup cold water, the cream, sugar, butter, egg, and yeast. (I had problems with this part, the moment I mixed room temperature butter with cold water, the butter became cold and couldn't be mixed in properly. There were bits and pieces of butter floating around in the batter. So, I suggest mixing the butter and cream thoroughly first before adding the cold water.)
- Add 3 cups of flour and salt. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add enough dough 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 to 2 hrs.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Roll out into a large rectangle about 1/4inch (6mm) thick. Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knie, diagonally cut the dough into 2-inch (5cm) strips. Cut in the other direction, also in diagonal 2-inch (5cm) strips to create diamond shapes. Transfer to the baking sheets and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm spot until the beignets rise slightly, about 15 minutes.
- Pour the oil to a dept of at least 3 inches (7.5cm) into a deep, heavy saucepan and heat to 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, around 3 minutes. Using a wire skimmer, transfer to a rack to drain. Generously dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve at once.