New Orleans's Café du Monde is famous throughout the world for its beignets, a French pastry made from fried bread. The official state doughnut of Louisiana, beignets can be made with a variety of fillings, from the sweet to the savory. We've been using the bread bible recipe based on Café du Monde's to make breakfast beignets with tremendous success.
We make our beignets out of challah bread dough, an egg- and butter-enriched bread whose production we will examine in a future blog entry. You can theoretically make them out of almost any sort of airy dough, but we find that the challah offers a certain decadent richness perfect for a great breakfast. For our fillings we decided to experiment with peanut butter, blackberry preserves, chocolate, and goat cheese. Our four beignets were made with various combinations of these ingredients — two cheese, peanut butter, and chocolate pastries, and two blackberry and cheese beignets.
We prepped the pastries by laying out the dough with the chosen fillings atop them while we put the vegetable oil on the stove to heat up. The oil needs to reach a temperature of 360 to 370 degrees, which we measure with a candy thermometer, so we have plenty of time to get ourselves ready. While the recipe calls for two to be fried at once, we found that with how much each beignet puffs up while being cooked it was easier to just cook them individually, and it didn't take too much longer. Once the fillings were laid out on the dough, we folded the dough over and sealed the edges — wet the edges with a little water to get a good seal, if necessary.
The dough fries up pretty quickly when dropped into the oil, even accounting for the need to flip the pastry over to make sure each side cooks evenly. The recipe as written calls for two minutes per side, but we used significantly less oil and so they heated up much more quickly — we found that if we left them to fry for more than half-a-minute per side, they would start to burn. After each beignet was cooked we set it aside on a paper towel-covered plate to await its kin.
After all four were cooked (a process that took less than ten minutes including the time to let the oil reheat to 360 following each beignet) we sprinkled them with powdered sugar and gave them a short break to cool. As you can see they came out both larger and darker than we had expected, but this wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
The beignets came through the frying process crisp on the outside and airy on the inside. The fried bread was rich and chewy, the fillings were warm but not too hot to eat, and the individual flavors were preserved. In my estimation the blackberry preserves and goat cheese ones were slightly more successful; the chocolate and peanut butter cheese beignets were missing a certain necessary 'something' to make them perfect. All in all a successful culinary experiment that has become a regular part of our breakfast repertoire.