Sometime between 5 am and 9 am it decided to snow, oh, about 13 inches. I got up early this morning to test some doughnut recipes and I had to spend quite a while pushing all that snow off the car.
I suppose it only made the doughnuts taste sweeter, as we sipped hot coffee and reveled in their pillowy softness while skiers clamored about outside in Vail village.
So why all this doughnut business? I wanted to do a test batch of some doughnut varieties I have planned for an upcoming wedding. The bride wants to serve small doughnuts at the end of the night to her guests, along with spiked coffee and milk shooters. They will also have some little bags for guests to grab a few on their way out. Isn’t that such a nice gesture?
Besides, there is nothing quite like a freshly fried, warm doughnut. I first tasted these beignets when I was in pastry school, and it was slightly nostalgic frying up a batch this morning- these guys are pretty memorable. A truly honest doughnut with no mixes or preservatives, they’re plump, addictive, and kissed in cinnamon sugar (although I also enjoy them rolled in powdered sugar, too).
One of my chef mentors from pastry school, Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, published The Art of French Pastry this past December. It’s a beautiful book. When I was glancing through it the other day, I remembered these beignets, and I knew they would have a perfect place on my client’s doughnut table.
You’ll want to start these the day before you plan to eat them, but they’re well worth the extra planning. Chef Jacquy recommends filling them with raspberry jam or pastry cream, which tastes divine, but these are also excellent simply rolled in sugar.
Oh yes- and a complimentary moose family photo.
How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:
Adapted from The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer
- ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon cool water
- 1½ teaspoons dry yeast
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ⅓ + 1 teaspoon cool water
- 2 tablespoons minus 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 3 egg yolks
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1¾ oz unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1-2 quarts canola or grapeseed oil for frying
- DAY 1:
- Make a poolish by placing the water in the bowl of your stand mixer and adding the yeast. Stir together.
- Sprinkle the flour over the top and let it sit, undisturbed, for 10-15 minutes, or until cracks form. The cracks signify that the yeast is fermenting.
- Once the yeast has been activated you can mix and knead the dough. Before beginning the process place an extra cup of water next to your mixer, just in case your dough is too dry.
- Add the water, sugar, flour, egg yolks, and salt to the poolish.
- Using the dough hook attachment, mix on medium speed for 30 seconds to observe the dough. If it looks very dry and lumpy, add a very small amount of extra water to it. The dough should come together after a full minute of mixing on medium speed.
- Mix the dough for 5 minutes on medium-low speed and stop to scrape the dough that is stuck on the bottom and to the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle with a tiny amount of all-purpose flour. Mix again and repeat this 2 more times.
- After about 15 minutes of mixing the dough, you should hear a slapping sound and the dough should be very elastic and completely wrapped around the dough hook.
- Add the room temperature butter to the dough and mix at low speed to incorporate it, about 2 minutes. Stop the machine and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix again for 2 minutes. Eventually all the butter will be absorbed and the dough will be elastic and shiny.
- Place the dough in a medium bowl, dust the surface with a small amount of flour, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until it doubles in volume, about 1 to 1½ hours depending on the temperature of the room. Too warm of a room and the butter will melt out (above 80 F).
- Once the dough has doubled in volume, press out the first gases and place the dough, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
- Press out any gases, again, and cover and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.
- DAY 2:
- Line a sheet pan with a towel and dust the surface lightly with flour.
- Scrape out the dough from its bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface.
- Using a bench scraper or a knife, cut 35 g pieces of dough (the size of a golf ball). Cup the dough and roll each piece into a ball. You should have about 15.
- Press the dough balls flat so they have a flying saucer shape, and place them 1" apart on the prepared sheet pan.
- Dust them with a small amount of flour and cover with a second towel. Let the beignets rise about 1 hour, until they have doubled in volume.
- Pour 1-2 quarts of the oil into a large but not too deep pot. The sides should be at least 3" tall.
- When the beignets are risen, poke them with your finger- your fingerprint will leave a mark and they will bounce back slowly- this means they are ready. If they bounce back quickly, let them rise a little longer.
- Place the pot over medium heat and warm the oil to 340 F. Keep a thermometer in the oil the entire time so you can monitor and regulate the temperature by turning the heat up or down.
- Fry the beignets, 2-2½ minutes on each side until a nice golden brown. Let them sit for 3 minutes, then roll them in cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar. Rolling them while still hot ensures the sugar will stick.
- It's never a bad idea to do a test batch using one beignet, to see how long it will take to cook.
- Putting too many beignets in the oil at once drops the temperature and they may get greasy.
- Store the beignets at room temperature and and try to enjoy them the day you make them.
- Makes about 15 beignets.
Note: This recipe was adjusted for high altitude baking. To make at sea level, increase the yeast to 1 3/4 teaspoons. Take note that baking and rising times may also vary slightly.