My coworker (and food truck buddy, onoz!) recently left our office to pursue a job elsewhere. I’m pretty bummed he had to leave, but would never begrudge him such a thing. And besides, what’s the best way to soothe sadness?
That’s right. Beignets.
I actually made beignets for the first time a couple weeks prior to this; a friend had a cajun family-style meal and I offered to bring dessert. Beignets seemed to fit the theme, so with his help I made a fairly decent (if slightly over-cooked) batch. Don’t fry things while drinking wine, kids. Not only is it unsafe, it also yields burned beignets.
But I digress.
I wanted to make something nice for his last day at work and as usual wanted to do something new and creative (I should keep a tally of how many times I make chocolate cupcakes @.@). I decided on the beignets because I’d only made them once before, and now that I’d given them the old college try a second attempt would likely yield better and less over-done delectables.
One thing I really like about beignets is how deceivingly simple they are. They’re something that look like they should be difficult to make, what with their fried and poofy nature, but in reality are all about keeping the dough well-floured and not letting them sit in the oil for too long. I bet making great beignets takes a little more pizzaz, but making good ones are pretty straight forward.
The toughest part for me was keeping the oil at the right temperature. At first the temperature was perfect – my beignets were turning out golden brown. But because I didn’t immediately turn the heat slightly back down, the oil continued getting hotter and started burning some of them; it took me a little tinkering to get the temperature back down to a good place. Luckily I didn’t truly burn any of them, only made them a little darker than I would’ve liked.
The second toughest thing for me was being okay with using a lot of flour. A lot. Being of a cautious nature when it comes to making breads, I’m always hesitant about making the dough too dry; I think that’s why I hate making pie crusts: “Shouldn’t this have less flour in it??” I always ask myself angrily. When it comes to beignets, though, keeping everything well floured is essential. The dough is delicate; letting it get stuck to anything basically means you’re going to end up pulling your dough into weird shapes and have non-round beignets (as you can see a bit in the above pictures). Which really has no effect on the taste, they just look oblong and funny. So flour ‘em up!
In the end, regardless of their pseudo-burned nature, they were all good. I would’ve thought they were only tasty fresh out of the oil (and to be fair, that’s when they’re the best) but after sitting in a bowl for a day they were still delicious! if you’ve never tried making beignets before you should definitely give this recipe a whirl. It’s low-key, and if you want to get some of the work done ahead of time you can absolutely do everything but the frying the day before, slap them into the refrigerator, and fry them when you get up the next morning. Good show!
Adapted from Southern Living.com.
Makes ~20 beignets.
1. Combine yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and 1/2 tsp sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes.
2. Beat in evaporated milk, egg, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 cup sugar.
3. Microwave 1/4 cup of water until hot and melt the shortening into it. Let cool until warm and add it to the yeast mixture.
4. Gradually add 4 cups and beat until the dough is sticky. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 4-24 hours.
5. Liberally flour your surface & rolling pin and roll the dough until it’s ~1/4″ thick. Cut the dough however you like; I prefer using a small glass as opposed to cutting into squares (but only because I suck at rolling dough into an recognizable shape).
6. Heat oil to ~360F (I tend to eyeball this to “when it seems hot enough”). Fry the dough in batches, only ~1 minute per side; they should be golden brown.
7. Drain on a wire rack or on paper towels, cover with powdered sugar. You can either roll the beignets in a bowl of powdered sugar, or liberally dust them over the top. I prefer the second method, mostly because it’s less messy and looks pretty.
I was recently invited to a housewarming party for some acquaintances of mine, and as usual pounced on the opportunity to not only see their new abode, but also to bless them with freshly made baked goodies.
I went to a mutual friend to get opinions on what I should make; I wasn’t sure if either of them had allergies or aversions to any particular flavors (nothing says “congratulations on your new house!” like making someone throw up or break out in hives).
After some quick discussion, it was decided that basically anything with alcohol in it would be acceptable, so I set out to try something new – rum balls! Why rum and not bourbon? Because I already had rum in my freezer. Boom. Decision made.
As usual, I found a great recipe from Joy of Baking, and these quickly became another favorite of mine; add them to my ever-growing list of “pretty and easy to make” recipes. The ingredients are simple, though I suppose a bit pricey if alcohol and pecans aren’t things you have laying around. I always seem to have rum hanging out in my freezer, mostly because I don’t drink it much (I haven’t had a party in awhile ;_;) and when I do it’s usually in small portions. The pecans I still had leftover from last Thanksgiving, which is good, because they still seem to cost an arm and a leg!
Even if you don’t have pecans, though, it’s perfectly acceptable to use other less expensive nuts. I don’t think the end product tasted particularly pecan-y to me; the nuts themselves aren’t really the dominant flavor, if you know what I mean. They add more to the texture than anything else.
The only thing I might have done differently with these is to increase the amount of vanilla wafers I used; even after sitting in the fridge overnight the balls were still a bit fragile. They wouldn’t fall apart if you touched them, but when you picked one up you could feel that it was still a bit soft. It was less of a big deal with the chocolate-covered versions, but the powdered sugar ones in particular felt a bit delicate. I had eyeballed the amount of cookies to put in (there I got cutting corners again!), so next time I’ll make sure I add in a few extra cookies to make them a bit more robust.
Even with their slightly fragile structure, these rum balls were good! The flavors were a pretty even mixture of rum and chocolate, and I found neither overwhelming (though the longer they sit, the more rum-y they taste). Great for any party and like I said earlier, easy to make. Plus you can have fun with making them decorative. ^_^
From Joy of Baking.