Beignet is best pronounced in lame man’s English as “BEN -YAY”. They are a French term for a pastry made from deep-fried choux pastry but may also be made from other types of dough, including yeast dough.
It is dubbed or acknowledged as the best doughnuts in the state of Louisiana. These pastry treats are very popular during the celebrations on the Tuesday before “Ash Wednesday in New Orleans, also best known as “Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. They can be in any shape but popularly cut in squares especially at cafe du monde and cafe au lait, deep fried and are very fluffy or pillow-y on the inside then sprinkled with powdered sugar before serving.
Mardi Gras – best pronounced as “MA-DI- GRA” or Fat Tuesday refers to events of the Carnival celebration, beginning on or after the Christian feasts of the Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. For 2019 it was celebrated on March 5th.
Most of us as Kenyans and East Africans plainly may refer to these pastries as “Mandazi” but most parts of the world they are best knows as doughnuts, beignets or fritters. The preparation of the dough for beignet is everything, the addition of shortening ie: butter or margarine is key, the consistency of the dough kneading is something to watch for too and without the touch of powdered sugar at the end, you can’t possibly tell the people of New Orleans that -that is a beignet. The only possible difference between the beignets and Mandazi’s for us is more on the texture of whether they are more or less fluffy. Am I making sense to you?
Here is how I made my version, however, I felt they didn’t come out the way I had hoped they would. Reasons being, I highly suspect that the active dry yeast I used here, may have expired. It didn’t bubble to its expectation, hence the dough didn’t fully rise properly as it should.
Just something to note:
- Make sure the water or the liquid you’ll be using to activate the yeast is warm enough.
- Incorporate shortening such as either butter/margarine.
- The active dry yeast should not have expired. The dough will not fully rise as supposed to.
- The resting time / OR/ I prefer calling it the “proofing time”, while others call it “prove time etc should be done at least twice. The first is just after the dough is kneaded which normally takes 1 hour, while the second proofing should be right after cutting them out = 30 mins.
- You can make the dough a head of time, then place them in the fridge until you need to fry or bake them.
- Flavorless oils are preferred for the deep frying part.
- You can substitute the whole milk with any other preferred milk – especially the nut based ones.
Prep time: 15 mins 1st proof time: 1 hour Roll out + cut time: 5 mins
Cook time: 20 mins Total time: 1 hour 40 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 pax
- 4 -1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup plain thick yogurt
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 Tablespoons of margarine – at room temp
- 2 -1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast
- 1 cup of warm water
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 2 Cups + 1 Tablespoon of veggie cooking oil – deep frying
- Extra all-purpose flour
Important tools used:
- Stand up mixer + attached with a dough hook
- Mixing bowls
- Measuring cups/spoons
- heat proof spatula
- Saucepan – deep frying
- Clear cling film
- Wire rack
- Parchment paper
- Baking pans
- Rolling pin
Step 1: Activating the yeast mix – by adding sugar + yeast + warm water into a jug and mixing everything together -setting it aside in a warm area to activate. This should take 5 to 10 mins. The mixture should be bubble at the top, and smells fermented or boozy.
Step 2: Adding the rest of the wet ingredients – Add in plain thick yogurt + milk + an egg + salt + margarine and whisk everything together until well combined.
Step 3: Making the dough – First by attaching the dough hook to the stand mixer. In a separate bowl, first mix half of the dough with the rest of all the other dry ingredients together. Add that mixture into the bowl with the wet ingredients. On the lowest speed of your stand mixer, turn it on and mix everything together until the dough starts coming together. The consistency of the dough will be very sticky. Gradually add the remaining flour in as it continues mixing, just until the dough is smooth and isn’t sticking to the sides of the bowl.
Step 4: 1st proofing = 1 hour – Take a large bowl, add some veggie oil and brush it to the sides too. Lightly knead the dough while its’ still in the mixer’s bowl. Remove it from there and place it in the greased bowl. Cover it with clear cling film and set your timer for 1 hour.
Step 5: Roll and cut it out – first, lightly dust your work area with flour, place your dough and since the dough by this time is very -very soft, you might not necessarily need the rolling pin as much. With the help of your palm and fingers, press and push the soft dough outwards, but don’t roll it or press it out too thin, about 1/2 inch thick. With the help of the rolling pin, just streamline it into a square like form. Using a knife or a square cookie cutter, just cut the dough out.
Step 6: 2nd proofing = 30 mins – Place the cut out dough on aligned baking trays with parchment paper with space in between to spread out. The cut out pieces, should have room to double in size.
Step 7: Deep frying them – Place some cooking oil to a sauce pan and heat it over medium heat around 350 F. Or just cut a small piece of dough and place it in the oil to test the temp. If the piece starts to bubble right away, then the oil is ready. Start placing the cut out dough pieces into the oil, but don’t over crowd the pan. Cook until each side is turned golden brown, this will take 2 to 3 mins.
Step 8: Cooling – once they cook, place them on a wire rack with a baking tray beneath or with paper towels to absorb all the excess oils, while it cools.
Step 9: Serve – plate them and sprinkle powdered sugar at the top and enjoy with a hot beverage.
Do you believe there is a major difference between the New Orleans’ Beignets and the East African Mandazi’s?