Beignets are a distinctive part of the New Orleans breakfast, although they’re enjoyed even more as a late-night snack. Our beignet is a square of straightforward dough, fried until it puffs up and becomes golden brown. It’s covered with confectioners’ sugar, placed on a plate with two more of its kind, and sent to the table or counter, where the person who ordered it is already sipping café au lait.
The best beignets have two qualities that rarely come together: They’re doughy enough that there’s more than just air inside but they’re not so heavy that they sink to the bottom of the fryer. The beignets in the French Market are made with a yeast dough, which is fine for a large operation but too involved for home use. I prefer something similar to a biscuit dough.
Yield: Makes 12 to 15 beignets
2 cups self-rising flour
3 Tbsp. Crisco
1 Tbsp. sugar
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1. Combine the flour and Crisco in a bowl with a wire whisk until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, with perhaps a few lumps here and there.
2. Warm ¾ cup of water in the microwave oven until barely warm to the touch. Pour the water into a large bowl, add the sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add the flour mixture and blend it with kitchen fork. Work the dough as little as possible.
3. Turn the dough out on a clean counter and dust with a little flour. Roll it out to a uniform thickness of about ¼ inch. Cut into rectangles about 2 x 4 inches. Let sit for a couple of minutes while you heat the oil.
4. Pour oil to a depth of 1 inch in a large, deep skillet and heat to about 325 degrees. When the beignet dough squares have softened and puffed up a little, drop 4-6 at a time into the hot oil and fry until light brown. Turn once and fry the other side. Drain on paper towels. It’s all right to fry the misshapen dough pieces from the edge of the dough sheet.