Yea for beignets: Fried dough a favorite sweet treat

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Beignets are sugary and yeasty with an airy center. Photo: Nathaniel Y. Downes, Intern / ONLINE_YES

The first romantic thing that ever happened to me was when a boy surprised me with a dozen doughnuts in high school. Twenty years later, he and his dashing husband are successful dentists in Phoenix, and I still get weak in the knees when offered any form of deep-fried dough.

Churros from Mexico, bomboloni from Italy or puri from India – it seems every culture has some version of fried dough, and I’ve tried nearly all of them. But as an old-school baker who loves the classics, I’m still a sucker for a French beignet.

One of my favorites is at Devil’s Teeth Baking Co. in San Francisco. Every Sunday, this tiny neighborhood bakery fries up the most amazing made-to-order beignets.

Imperfect pillows are served in an unpretentious brown paper bag. Once you step away from the chaos of customers, you tear it open. The aroma of sugary, yeasty warmth lets you know you should have ordered more. Bite through to the airy center and it’s impossible not to let out a soft whimper of satisfaction. The beignets are messy, sweet, but only slightly greasy. They’re also only a dollar each, making them one of the cheapest pleasures in town.

If you can’t make a trip to Devil’s Teeth, you can still whip up a batch in the comforts of your own kitchen; these beignets are worth the effort. This make-ahead recipe is perfect for the upcoming holiday season, but I warn you: It makes a lot.


Beignets from Devil’s Teeth Baking Co.

Makes 4 dozen

1 cup room-temperature water

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

¹⁄3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

¾ cup whole milk

4½ cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons shortening or unsalted butter

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

About 6 cups vegetable oil for frying

3 cups powdered sugar

Instructions: Mix the water and yeast together in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook and let sit until bubbles appear on the surface, like a latte, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the granulated sugar, egg and milk in a separate bowl. When the yeast mixture is ready, add the egg mixture to it.

Add half of the flour and all of the shortening and salt and mix on low speed for a minute or until it looks like pancake batter. Add the rest of the flour and mix on medium-low speed until the dough looks smooth and wraps itself around the dough hook. Cover the bowl loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let rest in the refrigerator overnight, leaving lots of space above it as the mixture will quadruple in size overnight. The following day, fill a large, wide pot with enough frying oil to come at least 2 inches up the side of the pot. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil reads 375 degrees on a candy thermometer. While the oil heats, scoop the cold dough onto a well-floured work surface. Using more flour, press or roll the dough out so that it’s about ¾-inch thick. Using a large knife, cut into roughly 2-inch squares. Carefully drop 3 or 4 dough squares into the oil at a time. Cook, turning at least once, until golden brown and puffed, about 4 minutes per batch. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beignets to a strainer set over a bowl or onto a plate lined with folded paper towels to drain.

Put the still-warm beignets in a large bowl or paper bag and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Toss the beignets to coat evenly. Continue making beignets with the remaining dough.



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