Even Morocco has a version of beignets, a French term adopted by many cultures to refer to sweet, yeast risen fried dough. As with most sweet doughs, you want the dough to be quite sticky so that the final product will be nice and light.
My kids like beignets flavored with vanilla, but I'm partial to using lemon zest. Try kneading the zest into half the dough and see which you prefer.
Allow 2 1/2 hours or more total rising time to the prep and cooking times below. Makes approximately 20 three-inch beignets.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
- 4 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon yeast
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm milk
- 1/4 cup butter, very soft
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (optional)
- vegetable oil, for frying
- granulated sugar or powdered sugar, for dusting the beignets
Make the Dough
Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top, and add the warm milk. Leave a minute or two for the yeast to soften, and then add the butter, egg, vanilla and lemon zest. Mix well to form a soft, sticky dough that is barely firm enough to knead. If necessary, work in a little more flour or milk to achieve this.
Knead the dough in a mixer with a dough hook, or by hand on a lightly floured surface, for five to 10 minutes or until the dough is very smooth. The dough should still be a bit sticky, but it will become easier to handle after it rises.
Allow the Dough to Rise Twice
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, turning once to coat the dough with oil. Cover with a towel, and leave to rise until doubled, an hour or longer.
Punch down the dough and turn it over. Cover, and leave to rise a second time. When the dough is almost doubled, about 45 minutes to an hour, it is ready to shape.
Cut Out Circles
Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut out rounds (a glass is fine to use), and transfer the rounds to a lightly floured towel. Cover, and let rise until puffy, 30 minutes or longer.
Fry the Beignets
Heat two or three inches of oil in a pot over medium heat to 360° to 370° F (183° to 187° C). If you don't have a thermometer, test a scrap of dough – if it rises to the top without coloring and the oil bubbles around it, the oil is ready.
Fry the beignets in batches for two to three minutes each, turning several times, until the dough is golden in color. Don't crowd the pot, and monitor the temperature of the oil carefully. If it is too hot, the beignets will brown too quickly and the insides will be undercooked. If the oil is too cold, the beignets will become heavy and greasy.
Allow the cooked beignets to drain on paper towels or in a strainer for several minutes before rolling in granulated sugar or dusting with powdered sugar.
Serving and Freezing
Serve beignets warm or room temperature. Apricot jam makes a nice accompaniment.
Beignets won't stay fresh for more than a day, but they freeze well and can be reheated directly from the freezer. To reheat, lay the frozen beignets on a baking sheet, and place in a preheated 350° F (175° C) oven for 10 minutes.