Monday, February 7, 2011
Special Feature: Cafe Du Monde's Beignet Mix
Nearly a decade ago I visited New Orleans, which is a foodie trip if ever there was one. One of the city's best and most unique offerings is the beignet, a deep fried pastry/donut that, according to dictionary.com, comes from the French word for bump or lump. Beignets are usually squarish in shape, and lumpy, so this is appropriate. They are usually topped with a hefty sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Anyone who has been to New Orleans will probably agree that no one does beignets better than the famous Cafe Du Monde on Decatur St. They've been serving up beignets and chicory coffee since 1862.
In case you're finding it inconvenient to head on over to New Orleans for breakfast this week, Cafe Du Monde offers the next best thing - their own coffee and beignet mix available via internet and mail order. My great friend Heidi gave me some beignet mix, coffee from World Market and a French press as a wedding gift, and Kyle and I have been putting them to use. Yesterday we made beignets for the 3rd time and I think we have enough left over for one more serving each. Here's what we've determined about the mix:
#1 - It works. I was a little skeptical, especially since I don't have a lot of experience deep frying. It took a little time (maybe half an hour), but Kyle and I made beignets the first time out that looked exactly like those pictured on the box.
#2 - The instructions are fairly simple. Mix 2 cups of mix with 7 oz. of water. Roll out dough to 1/4" thickness on a floured surface and cut into squares. Fry in hot oil until appropriately browned and puffy. Top with powdered sugar and enjoy. And you will enjoy! This supposedly makes 2 dozen beignets. Maybe, if they are really small. I think it makes more like 20. However, if you don't need that many, you can easily cut the ingredients in half. This should be enough for 2 people.
# 3 - The mix is inexpensive. It cost less than $3 on any website I've seen, including the original Cafe Du Monde's.
Some tips on using the mix:
Before you roll out your dough, HEAVILY flour the surface. Otherwise, your dough will definitely stick to the surface and you'll have to start all over.
Also, err on the side of less water, more mix. If the dough is too liquidy, it will become glue-like and stick to your hands, the surface, etc. You'll end up wasting half of it. The best idea is to start with about half the water you think you'll end up using and add a little at a time.
Finally, I would roll the dough out to about 1/2" thick, no thinner. If your dough is too thin, your beignets won't puff up right. Nobody wants flat beignets, which is what I got when I rolled down to 1/4".
If you have a plain, square cookie cutter, you'll probably have the most success. However, Kyle wanted to get creative yesterday, so we used our star shaped cutters and the beignets were quite cute (see above).
Verdict: The best way to recreate a New Orleans breakfast at home, no matter where you live.