Updated: Jan 12, 2020
If you've been to New Orleans, someone probably told you to go to Cafe Du Monde to try their world-famous beignets. To be honest, it's a place everyone has to go to at least once. It might take you a while to figure out how to navigate through the crowds to find a seat, but once you do you will not be disappointed. However, no one wants to go through all that every time they have a craving for beignets. And if you live away from NOLA, as I do right now, you've got to find a way to get your fix.
I decided to use the same sweet levain build that I did for the Sourdough King Cake recipe. I like to minimize the different types of levains I make so that when I build them, I can make multiple things with them. Since these are sweet and enriched, just like the King Cake, it made sense to use the same build in case one day I want to make both of these New Orleans classics! Check out my post, 5 Reasons Why I Build Extra Levain, for more of my tips on why I build more than a single recipe might call for.
Levain Build (makes more than you need - ready in 3-5 hours)
100 grams mature sourdough starter
200 grams King Arthur Bread Flour
150 grams warm water
25 grams sugar
Final Dough Mix
300 grams King Arthur All-Purpose Flour (Or similar 11.7% protein flour)
200 grams King Arthur Bread Flour (Or similar 12.7% protein flour)
200 grams whole milk
100 grams water
70 grams sugar
50 grams melted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
100 grams levain from above build
Vegetable or Canola Oil for frying
LOTS of powdered sugar
Here's What You Need To Do
You can opt to use a stand mixer to make a good, strong dough as I did. Alternatively, you can hand mix and still get fantastic results. I will add to each step what you need to do if hand mixing.
The levain build will be ready to mix into the final dough in 3-5 hours, depending on your ambient temperature. You're looking for a bubbly surface and a weblike structure when it's pulled apart.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine your milk, water, and levain. Dissolve the levain.
Use your whisk attachment (or a whisk by hand if hand mixing) to incorporate the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla to your levain mixture.
Switch to your dough hook attachment and put the mixer on low/medium speed. Begin to add the flour slowly to the mixture (100 grams at a time) and let it incorporate into the mixture. You should mix at this low speed for about 5 minutes. If hand mixing, simply add 100 grams of flour at a time while you use your hands to incorporate the ingredients. You should hand mix/stretch the dough for 5-8 minutes.
After the flour is incorporated, add in the melted butter and put the mixer on your second highest speed. Let it mix for about 8 minutes.
If you are hand mixing, you'll need to use a slap and fold technique if the dough is too wet for you to knead. If you are comfortable kneading this dough with the palm of your hand, you can do so. What you're looking for is a smooth surface and a strong dough that passes the windowpane test.
Once your dough is done mixing or kneading, allow it to bulk ferment for about 6 hours in an environment about 72-75f.
After the bulk fermentation is complete, put into the fridge overnight (8-10 hours). What you're looking for is a smooth, bubbly surface, some size increase in the dough, and a web-like structure beginning to develop. I like to put it in the fridge to slow down fermentation and develop more flavor. My fridge temperature usually ranges from 37f - 43f.
Flour your work surface and dump out your dough. Pat down into a rectangle that is about 5 millimeters thick. This is just a rough estimate. You will stretch it comfortably into a rectangle without overworking or breaking the dough.
Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into 16 squares. I start by dividing it first in 8, and then each piece in half.
Now you will want to prepare your frying oil in a cast-iron pot. I used 1.5L of vegetable oil
Heat your oil to a temperature between 350 -375f (175-190c).
If your squares get a little too slack, pop them in the fridge to help them firm up before frying.
Once your oil is at temperature, you can add 5 at a time in the oil. Your dough should not sink! You want to see them float in the oil as soon as they are dropped.
You'll want to fry them about 3 minutes per side, but take note that some of them will start flipping by themselves as they expand in the oil. This is a good thing because it means your dough is very active and it is becoming light and airy on the inside.
As your beignets are frying, prepare a large bowl full of powdered sugar. Once your beignets are done frying, throw them in this bowl and cover them liberally with powdered sugar. You can also use a brown bag full of powdered sugar and shake it up once you put them in the bag.
These bad boys are best eaten immediately after you put sugar on them! So don't wait!
You can drop your next batch and start eating the first. Don't forget to make yourself a nice cafe au lait!