Don’t they look stunning? Chocolate sauce and vanilla bean beignets. I will tell you, having them served hot fresh and with a strong cup of brew down at Cafe Du Monde (Cafe Du Monde · 1039 Decatur Street New Orleans, LA 70116) for the first time in my early twenties kept me coming back to NOLA for years. The French District is something you can’t describe in words, it is a lifestyle and feeling. It wasn’t Mardi Gras, the paranormal, or the history that made me make that drive. It was and still is those hot little fried dough squares with a hot cup of rich darkness. I have walked down to DuMonde all hours of the night and day. I love the late night people watching. Seeing who is crawling the streets in the humid night air. It’s like sharing a secret out on the porch swing with your best friend. Not knowing if someone can really hear you but laughing while you try to control the level of your voice.
If you can’t get down south, try these at home and sit on your back patio (after dark) and imagine the jazz creeping over from Bourbon Street. Toss a few beads too, that always gets the neighbors wondering.
- 3/4 cups warm water
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus a pinch
- Pinch salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- seeds from one vanilla bean
- 3 1/2 -4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour, plus more as needed (I used bread flour)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- Vegetable oil, for deep frying
- powdered sugar for dusting
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment add the warm water, yeast and pinch of sugar. Stir and set aside until the yeast has dissolved, about 10 minutes.
To the bowl add the 1/4 cup of sugar, salt, egg, vanilla, vanilla bean seeds scraped from one vanilla bean, and the condensed milk. With the mixer on low, add half the flour and mix until just combined. Add the shortening, continue to add remaining flour until the dough forms into a mass. I used about 3 1/2 cups. Transfer dough to floured surface and knead until smooth. Add the dough to a large buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest 3 to 4 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.
Once rested, gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little more flour on top so you can work with the dough. Gently shape the dough into a 1-inch thick rectangle so it can be cut into squares. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter cut into squares, (you should yield 12 large squares, depending on how thick you rolled the dough).
Heat about 3 inches of oil in a large, heavy-based pot over medium heat, (you want to make sure there is plenty of room as the beignets will puff up when cooked) to 350 degrees. Fry the beignets in batches, about 3 minutes per batch. Turn them in the oil while they fry to brown evenly on both sides. Drain on paper towels to remove excess oil. Transfer beignets to a serving platter and dust generously with powdered sugar.
Chocolate Fudge Sauce
- 1 1/4 cups sweetened condensed milk (left over from beignets)
- 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- pinch of salt
Add condensed milk, chocolate, butter, and heavy cream to a sauce pan. Heat over low heat stirring occasionally until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and add vanilla and a pinch of salt. Serve warm on the side with beignets. This sauce is so good, it’s hard not to eat all of it after its done!