I went to New Orleans on a work trip and had Beignets on the brain when asked to cater a baby shower. These lovely little delights are the perfect party station for their wide appeal and simple production. Another plus is Beignets are economical, which is great when your on a budget (when are you not on a budget?)
BEIGNETS Louisiana style
A perk of entertaining is the opportunity for a few indulgences. One very notable item is a simple but delicious French doughnut called a beignet. Popular in New Orleans, these classic Cajun treats are a fried square of dough, dusted with a liberal amount of confectioner's sugar. Beignets are delicious in the morning, and great as a dessert station.
Makes 60 pieces
1½ cup water
¼ ounce yeast (1 package)
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup evaporated milk
7 cups flour
¼ cup shortening
oil (for frying)
Put warm water into a large bowl, then sprinkle in dry yeast and stir until dissolved. Add sugar, salt, eggs and evaporated milk.
Gradually stir in 4 cups of the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and thoroughly blended. Alternate stirring in the shortening and the remaining flour, about ⅓ cup at a time, mixing by hand with a spoon. When dough becomes too stiff to stir, work in the rest with clean hands. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
Roll the dough out on a floured board to a thickness of ⅛ inch, then cut it into rectangles 2½ inches by 3½ inches with a sharp knife or cutter. Re-roll scraps until dough is finished.
Preheat 1 inch oil in 2½ deep by 12 inch skillet to 360°F. Fry 3 to 4 beignets at a time, until they are puffed out and golden brown on both sides (about 2 to 3 minutes per batch). Turn them over in the oil once or twice to get them evenly brown. Remove as soon as they begin to puff out.
Drain on mesh cooling rack, lined with paper towels. Serve sprinkled heavily with powder sugar (as soon as possible). Keep warm under a heat lamp for guest self service.
For safety, it’s best to avoid deep oil frying at a cooking station. Instead keep pans small and oil shallow (about ⅛ inch), adding additional oil as needed. Make sure you never leave hot oil unattended. Putting wet or frozen items in hot oil can cause splatter and burns, so use caution when adding foods to hot fry oil.
After step 3 when the dough is made, you may store the dough for 8 hours before service. On a baking sheet lay out parchment paper and spray with food release. Put the dough pieces on the sprayed parchment and lay over another parchment sheet sprayed with food release over the dough. Wrap the whole baking sheet with plastic wrap for transport.
EQUIPMENT FOR SETTING UP AS A DESSERT STATION
Table top stove (if station is not near cooking area).
12 inch pan for cooking.
Squeeze bottle for cooking oil.
Tray of ready to cook beignets covered with a damp towel.
Platter or tray with draining rack if needed.
Metal oil discard pan, when oil needs changing.
Heat lamp (if working ahead).
Powdered sugar in a shaker.