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Recipe
Beignets
1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110 degrees
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 package dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 to 6 cups canola oil
1 cup powdered sugar
Pour the lukewarm milk into a large bowl. Mix 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar, the yeast and a heaping tablespoon of the flour into the milk, mixing with a whisk, until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.
Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, whisk in the butter, salt and vanilla. Add the remaining flour and sugar, folding them into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula. Knead the dough by hand in the bowl for about 5 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 6 to 8 hours.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into 2-inch squares, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow the beignets to rise for about an hour.
Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over high heat until it reaches 350 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to check temperature. Fry the beignets in small batches in the hot oil, turning them every 30 seconds or so with tongs, until golden brown all over. Use tongs to remove beignets from the oil and drain on paper towels. Put the powdered sugar into a fine-mesh strainer and dust the warm beignets generously with the sugar.
– John Besh, “My New Orleans”
Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Beignets, a French pastry that is deep fried and covered with powdered sugar, are a Saturday staple at Zinnia’s Bakehouse.

Sweet taste of New Orleans

Beignets feature airy pastry dough, powdered sugar

Krystal Vega, co-owner of Zinnia’s, sprinkles powdered sugar on a fresh batch of beignets.

Around the time of Mardi Gras, the streets in New Orleans are packed shoulder to shoulder with tourists and locals.

People line the railings of balconies hanging over Bourbon Street hollering down at the mass of partyers moving in unison through the lines of bars and restaurants. Sazeracs and Hurricanes spill over glass rims while Zydeco music blasts from open air bars. French-Creole-Cajun dishes are being turned out by the hundreds all over town and permeate the air with cayenne, andouille, crawfish and, of course, beignets.

When prepared correctly, a beignet is a light and airy doughnut-like pastry that has been deep fried and topped with powdered sugar.

John Maxwell, owner of the local Ragin’ Cajun food truck, recalls with much enthusiasm enjoying beignets where he used to live in New Orleans.

“Beignets came over from France and have been in the French Market part of New Orleans ever since,” Maxwell says. “They (beignets) were quick to make and inexpensive. Beignets were the perfect food for the dock workers in the morning or the people who were out late at night.”

Maxwell says he occasionally puts beignets on the menu for his food truck and Fort Wayne is beginning to trust him and his New Orleans, Creole-inspired cuisine. When asked about the best beignet he ever had, Maxwell says without any hesitation, “Café Du Monde.”

Café Du Monde is one of the oldest and original restaurants to serve beignets in the French Market of New Orleans. “The powdered sugar coats your lips, and they are puffy and airy on the inside,” Maxwell says.

Maxwell says that to make a good beignet at home, the frying oil needs to be the correct temperature and it is best to cook in an iron pot or skillet because of the distribution of heat.

Today, beignets can be found in bakeries all over the country, including at Zinnia’s Bakehouse at 1320 E. State Blvd. Krystal Vega, co-owner of Zinnia’s, says they have fresh beignets available at the shop every Saturday.

“Make sure to punch out air bubbles before frying,” Vega says when giving tips for making beignets at home. She says the dough should be light and airy, but too many air bubbles can be a problem.

In addition, beignet dough should never be frozen, Vega says.

Fortunately for home bakers, all the ingredients for a beignet can be found at most grocery stores or local markets. Unfortunately, Vega chuckled when asked for her recipe, “I can’t go that far,” she says.

Vega would not disclose all of her secrets, but did say she adds honey to the beignets at Zinnia’s.

Café Du Monde offers beignet mix online; it is delicious according to Maxwell.

Or, you could brave the culinary war ground that is your kitchen and start from scratch.

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