Welcome 2011, full of promise and hope of better tidings. Yes we’re now a year older, but hopefully also another year wiser, another year less rash, another year past our ugly teenage angst and awkwardness, another year to start again. Some people make resolutions for self-betterment/improvement, which by now may already have been broken. Others use this time to tidy up their lives in preparation for a better year ahead. For me, the new year is a time to reflect on the past – the mistakes, the achievements, the friendships, the acquaintances, the adversaries, the adversities, the triumphs. I was in Berkeley last week and had the chance to wander around campus, and even walked by my old college apartment building. Not much has changed… but somehow I feel I’ve changed.
Back in college, I had a good friend and roommate who introduced me to the world of food blogging, beginning with entries from (now renowned) Smitten Kitchen, Orangette, and Cafe Fernando. We drooled over the pictures, and giggled at the stories, while she fed herself spoonfuls of peanut butter (her favorite food). We tried to recreate the recipes, often times ending in disaster. When studying for exams, our study breaks comprised of escapades in the kitchen, where we baked countless cookies and cakes while mentally synthesizing nucleophilic aromatic substitution reactions or memorizing endless diagrams of echinoderm anatomy. I can still vividly remember the Saturday mornings where we’d wake up after a rough all-night study session to a glorious California sunshine spilling into the kitchen, alighting every nook and cranny, making the room glow with warmth. The naturally filtered sunlight was the perfect backdrop for our kitchen creations, and really eased the pains of studying. Somewhere down the road though, what I thought was a sweet friendship grew into a cold, unhappy relationship, and we eventually broke off all communication. Though definitely my fault, I still regret that it ended like it did – if you happen to be reading this, I’m sorry. Looking back, I could have done so much more to salvage and nourish that relationship, because in hindsight, you were a great friend, and despite being 3,000+ miles away, I still think about our kitchen adventures and the times (both good and bad) we shared.
Recently, I pulled out my deep fryer, a Christmas gift from this same friend, and it really caused a cataclysm of memories. And to honor those memories, I really put the deep fryer to good use – delicious homemade NOLA beignets. Enjoy. I know she would have really enjoyed making and eating them too.
My parents are originally from New Orleans, LA, so my family is no stranger to Cafe Du Monde or cajun style crawfish, and certainly not Beignets. These airy pockets of fried dough are soft and melt right in your mouth. And if there isn’t a dusting of powdered sugar on your face and clothes when you’re done, then you know you haven’t eaten enough. Beignets are perfect for dipping in a strong cup of chicory coffee a la Cafe Du Monde style. Also, if you haven’t watched Princess and the Frog, you should 🙂 It will make you have pregnant-woman-cravings for beignets.
1 c lukewarm water
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 beaten egg, room temp
2 tbs butter, softened
1/2 c evaporated milk
3-4 c all purpose flour
1 packet dry active yeast
Vegetable oil, enough for frying
Powdered sugar for dusting
In a bowl of a stand mixer, place water, sugar, salt, egg, evaporated milk, and yeast in bowl, and beat to incorporate. Slowly add flour until a silky dough starts to form. Alternatively, you could first proof the yeast in warm water and milk before adding to the other ingredients. This first step is further simplified if you use your bread machine.
Remove the dough and turn onto a lightly oiled surface. Knead a few times and shape into an oval. Place in lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (at least 3hours or even overnight).
Preheat deep fryer to 360*F. Place 2-3 cups of powdered sugar in a large tupperware container or brown paper bag.
Remove dough from bowl and place on lightly floured surface. Roll out to 1/4-1/2″ thickness, and use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut 2-inch squares.
Once the deep fryer has reached 360*F, fry the beignets (2-3 at a time) until they rise to the oil’s surface, and are puffed and golden brown on both sides. The trick is to keep the beignets constantly flipping in the oil, because if one side is more browned than the other, it will resist being flipped. So, you must keep flipping while the beignets cook. Remove from oil and quickly drain on paper towels. Immediately place hot beignets in brown paper bag or tupperware container with powdered sugar and toss to evenly coat the beignets. Serve immediately.
This was the perfect recipe to break in my deep fryer. Only wish you were here to enjoy it with me.
From NOLA with love,