The Crescent City is known for many “sweet” things, such as, King Cakes, a brioche-type pastry, which is a huge part of Mardi-Gras traditions, Sfinci, creamy ricotta-filled puffs of pastry, that celebrates the Feast of San Giuseppe, Bread Pudding and the Praline, a candy confection, dating back to the 17th century. But, perhaps the most popular and my personal favorite, is the quintessential French-style, square doughnut known as a beignet.
The French Market is an historically charming open-air market (similar to European markets I have experienced) with a series of commercial buildings spanning six blocks in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. Founded as a Native American trading post predating European colonization, the market is the oldest of its kind in the United States. It began where Café du Monde (maker of beignets since 1862) currently stands and has been rebuilt and renovated a number of times.
The Bourbon Orleans, my favorite hotel in the French Quarter, is located directly behind the Cafe Du Monde, for quick access for my morning, afternoon and late-night beignets. I simply cannot get enough of these sugar-dusted, light, puffy pillows of fried dough. They are traditionally served with cafe au lait (equal portions of hot milk and chicory-coffee, poured simultaneously, into cups).
My mother and my maternal grandparents, each 100% Sicilian, were born and raised in New Orleans. I have fond memories of visiting relatives that included many trips to the 24-hour Cafe du Monde (Photo of Mae below). Anytime is the right time to enjoy beignets and an absolute must for your next Mardi Gras party!
- 1 (1/4-oz) envelope active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (105*)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 7 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup shortening, softened
- oil, for deep frying
- Confectioners sugar, for generous dusting
- Using a heavy-duty stand mixer (I use my Kitchen-Aid), sprinkle yeast over the warm water, stir to dissolve and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Add sugar, salt, beaten eggs and evaporated milk. Using the beater attachment, blend thoroughly.
- Add 4 cups of the flour, beat until smooth.
- Add the shortening and gradually blend in the remaining flour. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4-24 hours.
- On a floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2 x 3-inch squares.
- Deep fry at 360* 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle generously with the powdered sugar.
- Traditionally served in orders of 3 with cafe au lait. Eat with your hands with wild child-like abandon! You will (and should) have powdered sugar scattered about.
Our waitress, Mae, who was just as ‘sweet” as the beignets!