Introduction: Fluffy Beignets With Blackberry Sauce

Beignet (ben-yey) is the French word for a (traditionally square) doughnut. Beignets taste a bit like funnel cakes but have a much lighter texture than the carnival fare. The beignet itself is not very sweet, which is why it can handle the liberal dousing of powdered sugar. They’re great with café au lait or hot chocolate (or chocolate milk in the warmer months).

Beignets are a staple in New Orleans, my childhood stomping ground. I live on the East Coast now but get a taste for these delicious pastries when I’m feeling nostalgic, so I decided to make my own. I made my beignets from scratch and included a blackberry dipping sauce on the side. One of my favorite childhood memories is of picking blackberries and drinking honeysuckle nectar in my backyard with my cousins, so the blackberry sauce is a nod to that. Nothing beats the authentic beignets from Café Du Monde in New Orleans, though; you can even buy their beignet mix online.

Beignets are not meant to be eaten while driving or talking or walking. This pastry deserves your full attention. And you’d better be sure to place a napkin in your lap and do a crumb check in the mirror before any person-to-person contact; with each bite, the sweet powdered sugar falls onto whatever surface is nearby—including your face!

CAUTION: This recipe requires working with a stove, hot cooking oil, hot liquids, and sharp objects. Please use discretion when working with these items around children, and follow the safety guidelines for your cooking instruments. Wash your hands often.

Step 1: Gather Ingredients and Materials

Step 2: Prepare the Yeast Mixture.

Tip: To avoid lumps in the yeast mixture, sift the dry ingredients (yeast, sugar) into the bowl. If you don’t sift the dry ingredients, use your spatula to push any lumps onto the wall of the mixing bowl to break them up.

  • Add the following to a large bowl:

a. ¾ cups lukewarm water

b. 1 envelope active dry yeast (¼ ounce)

c. ¼ cup granulated sugar

  • With a bendable spatula, stir mixture until there are no lumps.
  • Allow mixture to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Step 3: Add More Ingredients to the Yeast Mixture.

  • Add the following to the large bowl with yeast mixture from step 2:

a. 4 ounces of evaporated milk

b. 1 egg (slightly beaten)

c. ½ teaspoonful of salt

d. 1 cup of lukewarm water (not pictured)

e. 3 cups of flour (gradually, while stirring)

f. ¼ cup of cooking oil

  • Mix with spatula until ingredients combine to form a sticky dough.

Step 4: Let the Dough Rise.

  • Coat another large bowl with a thin layer of cooking oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Put the sticky dough in the oiled bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap.
  • Let the covered dough rise at room temperature for at least 2 hours.

Step 5: Crush the Blackberries.

Note: Because the dough needs to rise for at least 2 hours, this is a good time to make the blackberry sauce; therefore, steps 5-10 provide instructions for the blackberry sauce. The beignet recipe resumes at step 11.

In a medium-sized saucepan, crush 6 ounces of blackberries. You can crush them with a potato smasher (pictured) or with the bottom of a cup.

Step 6: Cook the Blackberry Sauce

Cook the blackberries on medium-high heat while adding the following to the saucepan:

a. 1 cup of water (any temperature)

b. 2/3 cup of sugar

c. Optional: 1 tablespoonful of blackberry Jell-O

Stir until the sugar (and Jello-O, if you added it) dissolves.

Cook for another 5 minutes on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.

Step 7: Strain the Blackberry Sauce.

Put another saucepan on the stove, then set to medium-high heat.

Put a strainer on top of the saucepan.

Carefully pour the hot blackberry sauce into the strainer, then press the sauce with a flexible spatula to squeeze all the juice from the strainer and into the saucepan.

Discard the solid blackberry bits after they've cooled to room temperature (or save them for a different recipe, like blackberry cobbler!).

Step 8: Thicken the Blackberry Sauce.

a. Add cornstarch.

In a cup or small bowl, combine 3 tablespoonsful of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of warm water, then stir. (The warm water helps to dissolve the cornstarch and prevents lumps in the sauce.)

Add the cornstarch mixture to the saucepan and stir.

b. Stir the sauce.

Cook the blackberry sauce over medium-high heat, stirring continuously until it thickens enough to coat the spatula.

When the sauce coats the spatula, it’s ready. Remove from heat immediately or the sauce will continue to thicken.

Tip: If the sauce has not reached your desired thickness after 10 minutes of stirring on medium-high heat, add a little more cornstarch dissolved in a bit of warm water. Add cornstarch in increments of 1 teaspoon at a time to keep the sauce from becoming too thick. If the sauce does become too thick, just add a little water to it and stir, then remove from heat immediately.)

Step 9: Pour the Blackberry Sauce Into a Serving Bowl.

Let blackberry sauce cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a heat-safe serving bowl.

Refrigerate until the beignets are ready to eat.

Hooray!You’ve finished making the blackberry sauce!

Keep uneaten sauce refrigerated. Discard after 3 days.

Step 10: Clean Your Kitchen. :)

It is a good time to clean your kitchen while the beignet dough is rising.

After you’ve cleaned your kitchen, prep a space to roll and cut the beignet dough; fill your deep fryer with cooking oil, and set aside a plate with a layer of paper towels on it. Prepping is described in more detail next.

Wash your hands thoroughly to remove any household cleansers/chemicals before going to the next step.

Step 11: Mise En Place (Putting in Place): Organize Your Kitchen for the Final Steps.

a. Cover a flat surface (table or countertop) with a parchment or wax paper. The wax paper should be large enough so that an extra-large pizza could fit on it with a few inches to spare around it. You will roll and cut the beignet dough on this paper.

Next to the parchment paper, set aside a tall cup with non-textured
sides or a rolling pin, if you have one, and a knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into rectangles. Please keep sharp objects out of reach of children.

Optional: Tape the perimeter of the parchment or wax paper with painter’s tape (preferred) or clear office tape to keep it from moving when you roll and cut the dough. Do not use duct tape or electrical tape or any other industrial-grade tape. Exercise caution to not damage your surface.

b. Sprinkle a thin layer of flour on the wax or parchment paper.

c. Fill a large freezer bag with 2 cups of powdered sugar.

d. Fill the deep fryer with the amount of oil needed to reach the max
fill line on the inside wall of the fryer. Heat oil to 350 degrees F. Please keep hot oil out of reach of children.

Step 12: Prepare the Dough for Frying.

Make sure your hands are clean!

a. After the dough has sat at room temperature for at least 2 hours (it should have about doubled in size), gently dump it on the prepped wax or parchment paper. It should slide out of the oiled bowl easily. If it doesn't gently scoop it out with a flexible spatula. It will be sticky.

b. Coat the palm of your hands and your rolling pin or cup with flour.

c. Coat the ball of dough with a thin layer of flour.

d. Using your rolling pin or cup, roll (flatten) the ball of dough until it is ¼ to ½-inch thick. Work from the middle of the dough outward to form a square. Here's a free, printable ruler in case you need to visualize the thickness needed. I’ve found that if the dough is thinner than ¼ inch, it won’t puff well when fried. Dough that is thicker than ½ an inch becomes a safety risk when fried: It becomes dangerously big and could explode.

e. Cut into 2 by 3.5-inch rectangles (size of a standard business card).

Note: The traditional beignet is square. I chose the dimensions of a standard business card (2 by 3.5 inches) as a point of reference because everyone has one of lying around.

Step 13: Fry the Beignets.

Almost there! Cook the beignets in batches of two or three at a time. Leave enough room in the fryer for the beignets to cook without touching one another.

a. Slowly and carefully lower the beignets into the hot oil. Be careful that your finger do not touch the hot oil.

b. Deep fry for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

c. With a heat-resistant spoon or spatula, carefully remove the beignets from the hot oil.

d. Put cooked beignets on clean plate layered with paper towels to soak up any excess oil. While the beignets are still warm, proceed to the next step.

Step 14: Powder the Beignets.

Drop the beignets in the bag of powdered sugar and shake until they are well coated.

Repeat until all the beignets are powdered. Is your mouth watering yet?

Step 15: Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! (Let the Good Times Roll!)

Alas, you're done! It’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor! Dip the beignets in the blackberry sauce (reheat blackberry sauce for about 30 seconds if preferred warm) and eat up! Enjoy with a cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or chocolate milk!

(Discard any uneaten beignets or blackberry sauce after 3 days.)