I’ve never been to New Orleans, but I hear they serve up a pretty fab doughnut.
Aside: I love mornings – even the regular weekday kind, when everyone is rushing about (or not) getting ready for work and school. Most mornings I wind up running out to the car in the snow in my PJs looking for someone’s backpack or mitts, and I always run into neighbours – walking dogs, heading to work – and a multitude of fashionably dressed media types walking or biking to the hip magazine offices at the end of our block. I joked that one morning I’d come out on the steps with a pan of warm cinnamon buns for everyone on their way to work. Only I wasn’t really joking.
Because how cool would that be to be walking down the street and pass someone making fresh beignets on the sidewalk for you to have with your to-go coffee on a regular Wednesday morning?
And so when this rolling kitchen cart arrived by courier last week, my first thought was: extra storage! My second thought was: with a solid mini kitchen counter on wheels, I could do some fun things.
It’s got drawers and shelves and a solid wood top, and the wheels lift it high enough that it doesn’t hurt my back to work at. Hello summer porta-pie-station. (Want one? They’re available here.)
And so this morning I got up early and made a batch of smooth yeast dough and let it rise. Then we wheeled the cart down the front steps, I pulled some napkins and paper popcorn boxes from the basement, and we made beignets on the front steps, dousing them in icing sugar as cyclists, dog walkers and commuters paused to wonder what was going on, then stop for a laugh and a few warm doughnuts. It was a Wednesday morning neighbourhood beignet pop-up. Next time I’ll add coffee.
Beignets, in case you’re unfamiliar, are doughnuts without holes, typically cut square and loaded with powdered sugar. They’re also typically plain; you could doll these up with cinnamon sugar or a sticky glaze, or fill them with jelly or Nutella. But the best way to eat a beignet – especially when making a batch this big (it takes the same amount of time to make a big batch of dough as to make a small one) – is to share them with as many people as you can find.
They’re perfect for a party – and if you don’t have a party, warm doughnuts will create one for you.
Cafe du Monde-style Sugared Beignets
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. (1 pkg.) active dry yeast
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. salt
canola oil, for frying
plenty of icing sugar
In a large bowl, stir together the water, a spoonful of the sugar and the yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes. If it’s not foamy, toss it and buy new yeast.
In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla. Add to the yeast mixture along with 3 cups of the flour, the remaining sugar, the butter and salt and stir to combine. Gradually add another 4 cups of flour, stirring (or letting your dough hook do the work) until you have a sticky dough. If it’s not too sticky to knead, knead it on a floured surface or with the dough hook; if it’s still pretty sticky, add another 1/2 cup flour. Knead until it’s smooth and elastic, yet still tacky.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise for 1 1/2-2 hours.
When you’re ready to cook, heat a couple inches of oil in a deep-fryer or heavy saucepan until hot, but not smoking (about 350F).
Roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch thick and cut into 1-2 inch squares with a knife. Carefully drop a few at a time into the hot oil, without crowding it (cooking too many at a time will bring the temperature of the oil down) and cook until golden on both sides, carefully flipping with tongs as necessary. Transfer to paper towels to drain and cool, then douse in powdered sugar.
Makes about 4 dozen beignets.
This post was generously sponsored by Canadian Tire, but the opinions and images are my own. For more information, visit the Canadian Tire Destination Home Guide.