When SoFAB Institute Vice President Philip Dobard mentioned that his wife, Tracey Mitchell, was working on perfecting her recipe for beignets, I emailed her immediately and asked if I could watch her make a batch at her home.
There are few sweets more closely associated with New Orleans than beignets. Almost all tourists (and quite a few of the locals) stop in to the Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter for an order of beignets and a café au lait. After tasting Tracey’s beignets, I can say it is well worth trying your hand at making them at home. These were the best beignets I have ever had. Tracey loves doughs (a woman after my own heart), and enjoys tinkering with recipes until she’s completely satisfied with them.
Her recipe includes lemon zest and mace, which are hugely tasty and fragrant additions. She also uses cake flour, making for a lighter, more finely textured dough than those you’ll find at the Café du Monde. She also uses both yeast and baking powder as leavenings. In true New Orleans fashion, she uses evaporated milk in her dough which also makes for a slightly richer dough.
Tracey emphasized repeatedly that the dough must be handled gently, in order to prevent the gluten from developing, which would result in a tough finished product. By the way, you’ll notice the recipe uses both baking powder and yeast. She believes the baking soda gives the dough its first little bump when it’s rising. When a friend who studies the origin of words heard this, she commented that it’s appropriate that the dough should be lumpy and the soda should give it its first bump, as the origin of the word “beignet”: French, is from archaic buyne, meaning “hump, bump.”
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup solid shortening
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 eggs, well beaten
- 1 package yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 7 1/2 cups sifted flour (more to add by small amount to bring dough together)
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon mace
- Zest of one lemon
- Canola oil
- Powdered sugar
Pour the water over shortening, sugar and salt. Add the milk and vanilla, and let the mixture stand until warm.
Dissolve the yeast in warm water, let it stand for 5 minutes until it begins to froth. Add to the milk mixture.Then add the eggs.
Whisk the baking powder and mace into the flour, then add the lemon zest. Gently stir 4 cups flour. in to the wet mixture. Add the rest of the flour, in several small additions, until the dough comes together in a sticky soft ball. Do not over stir. It should be a lumpy, messy ball. Cover the bowl with a moistened towel and allow to rest for about 20-30 minutes.
Knead the dough gently about 4 to 5 turns to distribute ingredients. Roll dough to about 3/8 inch and pat it into a rectangle. Cut 2 inch diamond shapes by cutting diagonally across dough from one side and then the other making a grid of diamond shaped.
Fry individually or 3 at a time in hot oil, enough to allow the beignet to float just free of the bottom of pan. They will brown quickly. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and eat while warm.
Yield: About 5 dozen.