On Sunday, I woke up at 3:30 in the morning and thought, “Perfect! I can make beignets.” The Old N’Awlins powdered-sugar doughnut squares (or triangles) are a family brunch favorite. Gotta eat ‘em hot, too, right from the pan.
Breads require advance notice in order to rise twice, thus do bakers rise early. I had to shop. The recipe for beignets calls for:
Milk, 1 cup, heated but not hot
Oil, one quarter cup
Sugar, one quarter cup
Yeast, 2 T.
Cream of Tartar, 1 T.
Nutmeg, 1 t.
FOR PUFFIER BEIGNETS, the usual recipe includes baking soda and/or powder; I can’t eat them on a dialysis diet, so I leave them out. Use a tablespoon of soda and/or a teaspoon of powder if you like. I recently used up the last of my fresh nutmegs, which have to be ground or grated. Grate till it smells right; grated fresh nutmeg is much stronger than packaged powder, so you’ll need less than a teaspoon. It really adds a zing and is absolutely worth the trouble.
I knew we were out of eggs, for one; that the boys needed milk, for two; and that we appeared to have a backup bag of flour. So out I dashed for two stops at all-night merchants: Dunkin’ Donuts (for a fresh cinnamon doughnut) and Shop n Shop (hey, their orthography). I bought, besides some extra groceries, the needed milk and eggs, returned home, and started to put together the beignet dough…
And discovered at the very last that the backup bag of flour was whole wheat. If there had been no white flour at all, I would have had to go out again right away. An all-whole wheat dough would have been impossibly dense, downright unpalatable without jacking up the yeast, the soda, and the baking powder, which I could not do. In the mixer, all-wheat dough would just stick and stick and stick and stick. Fried in hot oil, the beignets would have burned before they cooked through.
As it was, I used all the available white (about two thirds of a cup) and just enough wheat to make the batter pull away from the mixer bowl.
THAT BEIGNET RECIPE FOLLOWS the standard ratio for dry vs. wet ingredients (i.e., flour vs. milk plus egg plus oil) in yeasted baked goods. “Regular” bread would be 2.8 to 1; the beignets, a bread but slightly wetter for frying, come in at 5 to 3. In a continuum, the ratios run from a low 1 to 1 for pancakes and waffles, to 2 to 1 for muffins and batter breads, up to 3 to 1 for Italian or French baguettes.
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