This morning, I got nostalgic for New Orleans. I used to spend a lot of time there, and now I don’t. Why am I so overrun with a need to return to Louisiana? It could be this:
But I think it could also be that I miss my friends and to go cups for my cocktails. I’m not going to rule out any of it. But, you know, you make do. I put on the Dixieland Songza station and made myself some New Orleanian snacks.
Step one is simple but crucial. You must get chicory coffee. You can get it at most fancy grocers, but can I offer you a hint? A 50% off hint? Go to your local Vietnamese market. According to a friend of mine, chicory coffee is popular among Vietnamese-Americans, so it’s always on the shelves at Vietnamese markets.
Okay, so you’re listening to Al Hirt and drinking your coffee. You know I’m not going to stop there, right? It wasn’t going to be that easy. The next step is the best step, but also involves you making something in boiling oil.
Those are the beignets (“bumps”) I took to friends today. They are the greatest. They are, in fact, so great, that my family nearly burned down our house about 15 years ago trying to recreate the magic of Cafe du Monde in the kitchen. That’s a true story, but one that I won’t bore you with here. The recipe is fairly straightforward, but I feel like I should warn you that boiling oil is serious business, so keep baking soda and a fitted lid on hand.
Okay! Alarmist warnings aside, this is the recipe I use at home. You can get the mix from the store if you get nervous about making doughs (some people are!), but these are better, I promise.
makes…a lot. Maybe 4 dozen? You should invite your friends over for brunch or take these into work or get realllllly hungry first.
4.5 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup 2% evaporated milk (don’t even consider subbing out regular milk. This isn’t a healthy recipe anyway, so just embrace it)
2 extra large egg, lightly beaten and at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
6 cups vegetable oil for frying (maybe more. You will be the judge of that, along with the depth of your pot)
Confectioners’ sugar. Tons. I don’t know how much. A lot.
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (again, you need one of these!), dissolve the yeast and two tablespoon of the sugar in the warm water until foamy, about 5 minutes. If that doesn’t foam, that’s a good indicator your yeast ain’t what it should be.
2. Add the milk, egg, vanilla, butter, remaining sugar, baking soda, salt, and flour. Beat on medium high speed for 1 minute until a sticky dough has formed. If you don’t have a mixer, you need to just go hard in the paint on that dough for a little bit. You’ll know what to do.
3. Transfer the dough to a well floured work surface, dust with more flour, and roll to an 1/8 inch thickness. Cut the dough into 2 inch squares with some irregular shapes around the edges. This is a good thing to do if you have one of those rolly pastry cutters, but I don’t, and a paring knife will get it done.
4. Preheat the oil to 370° F. I use a candy thermometer to measure that, and they’re cheap, so go get one. Gently drop the squares, a few at a time, into the hot oil. Once they have risen and puffed, flip and cook on the other side until golden brown. This happens pretty fast, so don’t get distracted. Now is a good time to maybe press “pause” on the Louis Armstrong. If I didn’t mention it before, keep your down draft on and the lid to your pot handy.
5. Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining dough. Generously dust with confectioners’ sugar while still hot.
6. Obvious step: consume immediately, and dip in chicory coffee.
Look for a post soon containing all the things I love about/from/near New Orleans, aka my spirit animal. Enjoy your fancy French doughnuts!