Friday, February 20, 2015

Buttermilk Beignets


As I write this it's a snowy Fat Tuesday. Due to a lucky pick of a day off I'm home, inside and warm, listening to the sound of shovels against pavement.  February's Sourdough Surprise was, quite fittingly, Beignets. While I made mine this past Sunday, and ate all of them on Sunday, it's still fitting that I should be writing about them today. 

Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, or Fastnacht, is the day to use up all the fat and sugar in your house ahead of Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. It's a day to get out all your ya-yas as tomorrow begins 6 weeks of pious repentance.  Beignet use up fat and sugar in abundance.  Little fried pillows smothered in powered sugar. Yes, have lots of oil and sugar on hand.

I thought I was being smart and looked at a bunch of recipes trying to come up with my own spin on beignets.  Then I took a look at this recipe, suggested by the Surprises ladies, and wouldn't you know, it was almost the same.  With one difference, buttermilk instead of milk.

The result was a batch of light and chewy, sweet, tart and tangy clouds of goodness.  That is, of course, after I got the size of the dough and temperature of the oil correct.  Before that it was a couple of overly crispy, raw centered lumps of "seriously?"!  Thankfully I caught on quickly and had more than enough perfect specimens, of which I ate way too many. Ya-yas out, bring on the pious repentence.

buttermilk beignets (adapted from this recipe)

 1/2 warm cup water
1 teaspoon yeast
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 & 1/2 to 3 & 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour (plus some for rolling)
2 tablespoons soft butter (plus some for the bowl)
oil for frying
confectioners' sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine water, yeast and sugar.   Add starter, buttermilk and egg and mix on low.  Add flour, a cup at a time to form a soft dough. Beat on medium speeds until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Add soft butter a bit at a time until all is incorporated. Beat on medium a few minutes more.  Transfer dough to a buttered bowl, cover and let rise until double in bulk or refrigerate overnight (which is my preferred method).

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll, half of the dough at a time if it's more convenient, to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into 2 inch by 3 inch rectangles.  Cut a small slit in the center of each.

In a large, heavy bottomed pot heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees.  Fry two or three beignet at a time turning once or twice, until lightly golden and puffed.  Drain on wire rack for a minute then dredge in confectioners' sugar.  Makes about 36 beignet.