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Friday, February 20, 2015

Beignets

Who doesn't love a doughnut? Almost every culture that fries food has an equivalent, scraps of sweetened pastry thrown into boiling oil, fished out when golden brown, and served with something sweet on the side... sugar, honey, walnuts, lemon curd, jellies, custards... the list goes on and on.

Beignets are French. They're typically made with something that resembles choux pastry, and depending on your source, the differences are minimal. They're absolutely coated in powdered sugar, and down in the French Quarter in New Orleans, they come in a paper bag with chickory coffee in a paper to-go cup.

At Roadside, we served them with lemon curd and chocolate ganache.


The beignet paste recipe is very basic, and is essentially pâte á choux:

3.5 oz (99g) butter
16 fl oz (473ml) water
2 pinches sugar
1 pinch salt
2/3 lb (302g, or about 10 2/3 oz) all-purpose flour
7 eggs

1.) Place butter, water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan (at least 2 quarts) and bring to a boil. Add flour and stir well with a spatula or wooden spoon, cooking over medium-high heat as you stir, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan cleanly.

2.) Off the heat, mix in the eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next.

3.) Fry in 350-375°F (175-200°C) oil until golden brown. Place on brown paper to wick off oil. Liberally coat with powdered sugar.

This yields roughly a quart of batter; I typically use a #40 portion scoop (about 1 3/4 oz/50ml) to make my beignets; they come out about the size of a golf ball, maybe a bit bigger, and fry up relatively well in 8-10 minutes, which works in the restaurant environment. A bigger fryer does them faster than my countertop one that I brought in to run the special with, though. 

My coworker Al made the lemon curd for me. It was delicious, with a perfect consistency, and a great, rich lemon flavor.

Making lemon curd from scratch isn't the simplest process, but it's not supremely hard either. Patience and diligence are important.

6 eggs + 2 yolks
1 oz (28g) lemon zest
3/4 c (150g) granulated sugar
1/2 c (119ml) lemon juice
6 oz (170g) butter, in small pieces

1.) Combine eggs, zest, sugar, and juice in a bowl, and whisk together. Place over a double-boiler and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and light yellow in color. It will nicely coat the back of a spoon.

2.) Remove from the heat, and whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time, making sure they're fully incorporated and melted before adding more.

3.) Chill, covered tightly with saran wrap on the surface to prevent a skin forming.

Chocolate ganache is simply chocolate, usually dark or semisweet, mixed with an amount of cream to thin it out. If you add enough cream (or milk, even) you end up with a chocolate syrup texture, albeit a somewhat lighter color.

8 oz (227g) chocolate chips
16 fl oz (473ml) heavy cream

1.) Place the chocolate chips in a bowl. Heat the cream gently over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Do not curdle the cream 

2.) When the cream is simmering, pour it over the chocolate chips, and wait a few moments. Then begin stirring with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl. What starts as a soupy mess that looks like melted ice cream soon becomes a smooth, rich, shiny chocolate sauce.

Throw that whole mess on a plate and make it look nice, then sell it out. That's what I did!

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