Beignets from scratch
Spending my last afternoon of vacation just sitting on my ass, I decided that I could be more productive with my ass-sitting by injecting my ass-sitting activities with some ass-growing assistance. In a fortuitous twist of fate, I heard it through the grapevine that June the 6th is National Doughnut Day. And so for the sake of ass-sitting/ass-growing multitasking (and perhaps fueled at a subconscious level by my hosting of two Canadians at my house the previous night), I decided to celebrate this great day by making donuts.
But which donuts to make? I've always loved how airy Krispy Kreme donuts are, and I knew that they make yeast-raised donuts, as opposed to the cake donuts common at Dunkin Donuts (which are painfully absent in California). But for today, I decided beignets were right. Donuts need not have holes after all.
My trusty Joy of Cooking by Rombauch and Becker, et al. had a recipe for beignets that called for butter and four eggs. Additionally, I found several recipes online, most notably this one at the New Orleans Cuisine Blog. These were two very different approaches to the beignet-- the Rombauchs' recipe would no doubt be cakier and denser. And the NOLA Cuisine Blog recipe would be fluffier. I chose the latter-- I like the fluff. My only change was an increase in the required sugar because I like my donut dough on the sweeter side.
And just in case those flopped, I also got a box of the famous New Orleans Cafe du Monde beignet mix as an emergency backup.
I invited Elsa and Sean over so that I could have companions in my celebration, and so that I could have people around to keep me from eating all the donuts myself and passing out in the kitchen, waking up in the morning on the floor with powdered sugar all over me.
1 packet active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 1/2 - 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 Cup Shortening
About 2 -3 inches of vegetable oil in a saucepan
Loads of powdered sugar
I won't reproduce the instructions anymore as they can be found in the blog post I refer to above. It seemed in the end that my donut dough didn't flop. And I found myself with a boxful of Cafe du Mond beignet mix unopened. I decided to make those anyway so that I could compare the homemade to the mix. The ones I made from scratch were definitely fluffier and plumper. But they also tasted yeasty. Maybe if I switched to a different yeast I could lose the sour undertones produced by the yeast, and I'll have to look into that in the future. The cakemix donuts were also tasty and did not have the yeasty flavor. They were also less sweet. I don't know which ones I prefer. My from-scratch beignets I feel more warmth towards because I pored over them, urging the yeast to bubble and froth, but the New Orleans French Market Cafe Du Monde beignets made me want to have crawdads and okra. So in the end, it's a toss-up.
All told, I think I ate about a dozen donuts in the past twelve hours. I have powdered sugar all over my clothes and all over my kitchen and I'm still sitting on my ass.