The French-Creole colonists who came to inhabit the city in its earliest days originally introduced beignets to New Orleans in the 18th century. The concept of the dessert is simple – dough is fried then covered with mounds of powdered sugar – but the result is extraordinary. As a precursor to today's doughnuts, beignets are made from square-cut pieces of yeast dough and do not have a hole in them like most doughnuts. When served hot, they are absolute perfection, especially when accompanied with café au lait or chocolate milk.
The most famous place to get a plate of beignets is the iconic Café Du Monde, located on Jackson Square. Beignets come in orders of three on plates completely covered in powdered sugar. There are other places to get beignets around the city, and if you want to bring the treat home, you can purchase the mix from various vendors throughout the city.
Makes about 32 beignets
- 1 cup water
- 4 oz unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- vegetable shortening, for deep frying
- confectioner's sugar
In a small saucepan combine the water, butter, granulated sugar, and salt and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Remove the pan from heat and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook the paste over low heat, beatin briskly, until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the dough cleanly leaves the sides of the pain and forms a ball. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. By hand or with an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the paste until it is smooth and glossy. Stir in the vanilla.
In a deep fryer, heat 3 inches shortening 370 degrees F. drop the dough by teaspoonfuls into the shortening, and fry the beignets in bathes, turning them, until golden brown (about 3 minutes). With a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle the beignets with the confectioners' sugar and serve the hot.