Saturday, March 5, 2011

Crown City Beignets

I'm surprised we even made it a week.

Home from New Orleans for exactly one week, before succumbing to homemade beignets. Thank you, Cafe Du Monde, you have ruined us! And, of course, we also brewed up some of your Coffee & Chicory Cafe Au Lait to go with our beignets, Crown City Beignets. However, we didn't stop with the liberal dusting of powdered sugar. John, my virile saucier, jazzed up our beignets with a few decadent dunking sauces.

Jim and Melinda followed the aroma wafting over the wall; Jim and Carmen pulled up curbside for a to-go plate on their way to visit Jim's mom; Pammy cut her Home Depot shopping short; and Mom was lured out of the house a little earlier than normal...

People tend to respond quickly when an offer of fresh, homemade beignets gets out on the street.

John's Dunking Sauces (from left to right)
Raspberry-Champagne Puree, Orange-Basil Crème Anglaise , Nutella Crème Anglaise 

Slightly adapted from John Besh
Makes approximately 30

"Like many delicious treats, this preparation takes a bit of time and planning. You can speed up the process of proofing the dough if you leave the dough covered at room temperature for an hour or so, instead of letting it rest in the refrigerator overnight."


1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110°F
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 package dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
4–6 cups peanut or canola oil (Cafe Du Monde uses cottonseed oil)
1 cup powdered sugar
Optional:  Raspberry Champagne Puree and Creme Anglaise Dunking Sauces (recipe below)


1. Pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Mix 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar, the yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour into the milk, mixing with a whisk, until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.

2. Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, about 10 minutes, whisk in the butter, salt, and vanilla. Add the remaining flour and sugar, folding them into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula. Knead the dough by hand in the bowl for about 5 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 6–8 hours.

3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into 2-inch squares, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow the beignets to rise for about an hour.

4. Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over high heat until it reaches 350°F. Use a candy thermometer to check temperature. Fry the beignets in small batches in the hot oil, turning them every 30 seconds or so with tongs, until golden brown all over. Use tongs to remove beignets from the oil and drain on paper towels. Put the powdered sugar into a fine-mesh strainer and dust the warm beignets generously with the sugar.

Newf Notes:

Although the expiration date on our yeast packages was far into the future, the first package of yeast did not bubble and foam, so I started over with another package before adding and wasting all the other ingredients. Make sure the yeast bubbles and foams!

We did put the dough in the refrigerator overnight, and then took it out and let it sit on the counter, covered, for a few hours before rolling. After rolling, we allowed it to sit another hour. I used a little square cookie cutter to cut the dough.

The dough did not really "rise" at all on the counter, but puffed up beautifully once put into the hot oil. We used peanut oil instead of canola oil.  I fried 4 beignets at a time and made sure to monitor the temperature of the oil with a candy thermometer. Our Presto Fry Daddy worked really well, but the oil temperature rapidly rose 375-380 F quickly, so I unplugged it periodically to keep it closer to 350 F.

I constantly turned the beignets as they cooked, pushing them back into the oil as they floated to the top, in order to achieve an even deep golden brown.

As soon as the beignets come out of the fryer, and have drained briefly on paper towels, dust them liberally with sifted powdered sugar.

Raspberry-Champagne Puree

6 ounces fresh raspberries, with a few reserved for garnish
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup Champagne

Combine raspberries, sugar, and Champagne in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until liquid is reduced and raspberries are broken down, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a chinois to eliminate seeds.

Vanilla Creme Anglaise
Enhanced with optional flavorings

2 cups 

1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Optional flavorings:  Nutella, Orange-Basil

In a medium saucepan, bring the half-and-half and vanilla to a simmer. While it is heating, combine the yolks and sugar in a medium mixing bowl and whisk until pale yellow in color.

Slowly begin adding the hot cream mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly until all the half and half mixture has been added. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly. Cook until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat a spoon.

Remove from the heat.  (If using additional flavorings, see below).

Allow to cool.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve. This sauce may be made 2-3 days in advance.  

Optional Flavorings:

Nutella: Whisk in about 1 tablespoon Nutella to 1 cup of the warm creme anglaise. Allow to cool and press through a fine mesh sieve.

Orange-Basil:  Add 8 torn basil leaves and the zest of 1/2 orange to the warm creme anglaise.  Allow to cool, and press through fine mesh sieve. The basil flavor will be extracted as you press the creme anglaise through the sieve.

Not a good idea to wear black when eating beignets and powdered sugar

Dooley, Coronado Crown City's King of Mardi Gras


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Peggy said...

This takes me back to New Orleans! Oh how I've missed that city! Definitely going to make these soon!