It’s Mardi Gras and I’m dreaming of the wonderful, sweet scent of beignets! But why travel to New Orleans and Cafe du Monde to grab these sugary delights when you can recreate the magic in your home kitchen? Make your best cafe au lait and get ready to be covered with powdered sugar. Don’t worry, it’s totally worth it!
How do you make easy beignets?
Beignets, the French word for fritter, was brought to Louisiana from the French colonists and is now one of the most sought after sweet confections when traveling to the NOLA area, especially during Mardi Gras.
The easiest way would be to purchase a box of Cafe du Monde Beignet mix and follow the directions on the box – but that’s cheating! We want authenticity. The recipe here is a simplified version of the beignets made at this famous spot.
What you need to get started with homemade Beignets:
First things first. Baking endeavors always go smoothly with a little advance preparation and the right equipment.
- Something for frying: If you are hosting weekly fish fries anyway, go ahead and get a deep fryer. For everyone else (me included), just use a heavy-bottom pot and a thermometer. I use this Dutch oven for deep-frying and the ChefAlarm thermometer by Thermoworks.
- Active Dry Yeast: Fleischmann’s, Red Star, Bob’s Red Mill, or Saf are all good brands. Just make sure the yeast is fresh and hasn’t expired.
- Good cinnamon: I bake with ground Vietnamese cinnamon. It’s sweeter, more aromatic, and more potent than the Indonesian (regular) cinnamon that is found in grocery stores.
- Bench scraper: My bench scraper (also known as a dough cutter) is perfect for working with dough, but it’s just as handy to use it to quickly clear flour or food scraps off a work surface.
- Stand Mixer: I love my KitchenAid, mixer, couldn’t live without it!
- Work Surface: Not mandatory, but I love this silicone pastry mat for rolling out dough, and generally makes life easier. I store it rolled around my rolling pan and wrapped in a kitchen towel when not in use.
- Rolling Pin: I bought my rolling pin at E. Dehillerin in Paris in 2008. You can get one that looks just like it on Amazon.
How do you make beignets from scratch?
(The full recipe is listed below! This is just an overview for visual learners).
- To make the dough, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, butter, vanilla, and egg in a standing mixer fitted with the dough attachment.
- With the motor running, carefully drizzle in the buttermilk.
- Continue mixing until the dough is shiny and smooth, about 10 minutes.
- Proof in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.Yeast dough requires a warm place to let the yeast do its stuff (and out of direct sunlight). If your kitchen is chilly, you may need to let the dough rise longer. Or make a warm place! One of the best places to let dough rise is inside an oven. To create a warm environment ideal for rising, preheat your oven to its minimum temperature (200 degrees), but shut it off once the temperature reaches about 110 degrees. Place your dough (in a greased bowl, covered with plastic wrap), on a baking sheet and in the oven.
- Roll out dough into a 12-inch by 12-inch square. Cut the dough into 36 squares, 2 inches each.
- Proof a a second time until doubled, about 30 minutes.
- Fry the proofed dough squares in oil (375 degrees) until deep golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side.
- Drain on a wire rack or paper towels.
- Cool, then dust generously with powdered sugar.
Can you make beignets ahead of time?
Yes and no. The yeast dough can be made ahead of time, but they are best fried right before serving.
If you do choose to make the dough early, place the dough in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours after you form it into a ball in Step 3. The cold temperature will halt the yeast fermentation. When ready to serve, remove from the fridge and continue on where you left off.
What are beignets supposed to taste like?
Beignets are a donut, so they taste like a donut! But with a bit more yeast risen texture. The flavor on the inside is not as sweet as a traditional donut and they have larger holes in the center since they puff up more. But the mountain of powdered sugar that gets sprinkled on top makes them as sweet as can be!
Can you make beignets without yeast?
Yes, but does that really make it a beignet? The magic of a beignet is all about the yeast. I have found a few recipes that use a choux pastry dough and rely on steam for the rise rather than the yeast, but then you miss out on the added yeast flavor. I say clear out your afternoon and stick with the original.
What oil is used for beignets?
Cafe du Monde uses cottonseed oil to fry their beignets. Since most grocery stores don’t carry cottonseed oil, any neutral flavored oil will work, such as vegetable or canola oil.
It's Mardi Gras and I'm dreaming of the wonderful, sweet scent of beignets! But why travel to New Orleans and Cafe du Monde to grab these sugary delights when you can recreate the magic in your home kitchen? Make your best cafe au lait and get ready to be covered with powdered sugar. Don’t worry, it’s totally worth it!
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast Or 2 packets
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk 60 degrees
- 2 quarts vegetable oil or canola oil, for deep frying
- powdered sugar for dusting
In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, butter, vanilla extract, and egg. With the motor running on low, slowly drizzle in the buttermilk.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and appears shiny and smooth, about 10 minutes.
Turn out the dough onto a dry surface and shape into a ball (At this point, you can place in a bowl, covered, in the fridge for up to 24 hours, if making the dough ahead of time).
Place into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (80 to 85 degrees, see notes) until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Lightly oil a piece of parchment paper and set on a baking sheet. Punch down the dough and fold it up tightly.
On a lightly oiled surface, roll out the dough to 12 x 12 inch square (⅓ inch thickness). Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut the dough into 2 inch squares, making a total of 36 pieces. Place the squares on the same piece of parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until puffed, about 30 minutes.
While the beignets are rising, heat the oil to 375 degrees in a large dutch oven or sauce pot. Carefully drop the pieces of dough, a few at a time (no more than 4), in the hot oil. Deep fry until deep golden brown on both sides, 1-2 minutes per side, flipping over with chopsticks or tongs halfway through. Be sure to keep the temperature of the oil as constant as possible.
Remove with a fine mesh strainer and place on a cooling rack set over paper towels to drain. Once slightly cooled, dust liberally with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
To create a warm environment ideal for yeast-rising, preheat your oven to its minimum temperature (170 degrees, 200 degrees), but shut it off once the temperature reaches 110 degrees. Place your dough (in a greased bowl, covered with plastic wrap), on a baking sheet and in the oven. The oven temperature will drop when you open the oven door, but enough residual heat will remain that your dough should steadily rise.