Our first experience with these sweet, often square-shaped donuts was during our honeymoon in New Orleans. We spent many an evening sitting outside the Café Du Monde, people-watching while eating beignets and drinking café au lait. When we returned home we decided to make our own beignets for Hanukkah. After all, beignets are fried and Jews eat fried food on Hanukkah. It was a perfect match.
That was in our pre-toddler days and having a little one to share this tradition with makes it even more special. Our almost-2-year-old loves working with dough and especially covering finished beignets in confectioners sugar.
How Kids Can Help:
Though there are parts of this recipe that are adults-only, kids can definitely help. Here’s how:
–They can add ingredients to the mixing bowl (set everything out beforehand so you don’t have to search for ingredients).
–They can knead the dough. You’ll have to do most of the work but the pressing and folding motions of kneading are fascinating for toddlers.
–They can scoop nutella onto the cut squares of dough.
–Older children can fold the dough over the nutella, brush water along the edges with their fingers, and press the dough together with the tines of a fork.
–They can sprinkle confectioners sugar on the beignets after the grown-ups have finished frying them.
1 ¾ cups warm milk
1 tablespoon active-dry yeast
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup + 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups bread flour
2 ½ to 3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup Nutella
Vegetable oil for frying
Confectioners sugar for dusting
Makes about 18-20 beignets
Make the Dough
1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm (not hot) milk, yeast and sugar. Let this mixture stand for a couple minutes.
2. Add the vanilla extract, eggs, ¼ cup olive oil and salt and mix well. Add the bread flour and combine with a wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment of your mixer. Add the remaining all-purpose flour ½ cup at a time until the dough starts to form a ball and pulls away from the sides of your bowl.
3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface or switch to your dough hook. Knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, dusting with flour occasionally to prevent sticking, until you have a smooth, firm dough that bounces back when pressed with your thumb.
4. Grease a large bowl with the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Put your dough in the bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with saran wrap and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
5. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot, heat 5 inches of vegetable oil to 345 – 350 degrees F. (Use a candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot to judge the temperature. Dutch ovens are best since they regulate the temperature better than regular pots.) Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the heat of your stove accordingly. You don’t want to temperature to rise above 350F or the beignets will burn. Likewise, you don’t want the temperature to drop below 345F or the beignets will not cook through.
Form the Beignets
6. While the oil is heating roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 18 x 15 inches. With a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 3 x 5 inch rectangles.
7. Using a teaspoon measure, place a ball of nutella on one side of each rectangle. Center the nutella in the middle of that side. Wet your fingers with a small amount of water, and then run them along one side of the rectangle. Fold the dough over the nutella, pressing gently so that air doesn’t get trapped inside. Seal the dough by pressing the edges together with the tines of a fork.
Fry the Beignets
8. When the oil reaches 345 – 350 degrees F, fry the beignets, two or three at a time. Fry until the underside is a deep golden brown, about 1 minute. Turn the dough over and fry until that side is golden brown. Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the heat as you go.
9. When finished remove the beignets from the oil with a slotted spoon and allow them to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
10. Dust with a generous amount of confectioners sugar and serve immediately.