Beignets de Carnaval

February 23, 2009
by Jack McNulty

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It’s Fastnacht time in Switzerland…which, like in many countries, is a license to indulge – and what better way to indulge than eating your own freshly-made Beignets de Carnaval!

We came across the idea to make this version of beignets while flipping through our favorite 1940’s Zürich cookbook. We were actually searching for some kind of alternative to the popular Fastnachtschüechli (fun for foreigners to pronounce). The recipe we landed on was involved and included instructions on stretching the dough over your knee.

Hmm…there must be an easier way!

Fortunately, the Zürcher liked everything …well, easier and another condensed recipe followed. This version, however, involved an entirely different twist.

It seems they enjoyed putting the freshly fried dough into a clay container to keep them soft. The next day, they would season the beignets with salt and cumin, then roll them up like a…hmm…swiss roll.

Interesting, but not at all what we were looking for. We wanted something crisp and sweet – not soft, spiced and rolled up.

After some deliberation (ok…not really a lot), we decided to pursue the second method…sort of. We went ahead with the recipe and fried the dough, then simply dusted them with sugar. Abbreviated – but very good. No…they were really, really good! Very similar, in fact, to the famous New Orleans beignets – which brings us to Mardi Gras…and this recipe.   

Here’s how to make our Beignets de Carnaval

First, this is a dough that takes about five minutes to make. It is not a dough you can make in advance and pull it out when you are ready to fry them up. It’s actually much more impulsive – just make it…roll it…cut it…fry it…and enjoy! The amounts used in this recipe are enough for two people to really pig out…

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The first step is to go ahead and begin to heat your oil. We like using peanut oil, but other oils will also work – just try to use a neutral-flavored oil. Heat the oil in a deep pan over moderate heat. The oil should be about 4-cm deep, and only come about half-way up the pot.

Begin to make the dough by sifting together 140 gr. flour with a pinch of salt. We like to use all-purpose flour when making this recipe, but any finely milled flour (like a pastry flour) will also work just fine. Bread flours tend to make the beignets a bit too dense, so we avoid these types of high-gluten flour.

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Next, mix together 1 dl. of slightly warmed milk with 30 grams of melted butter. Go ahead and mix the milk and butter mixture into the flour and work the dough until it is a shaggy mess. If the dough seems a bit moist, then work in another spoon or two of flour.

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Knead the dough on a floured surface, adding some flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. The finished dough should be fatty, but not terribly sticky.

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Cut off a piece of the dough, then stretch and flatten it with your hands into a rectangle shape (make sure the surface is slightly floured just to prevent the dough from sticking). Now…grab a rolling pin and roll out a long rectangle about 2-3 mm thick (the old cookbook wrote…until it is twice the thickness of the back of your knife – very precise).

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Portion the rolled-out dough in the geometric shape of your choice. We like triangles, but for no apparent reason.

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When the oil reaches the correct temperature of 190-200 degrees C (simply very hot, but not yet smoking), then drop a couple of beignets carefully into the oil. They should immediately float and blister, while expanding like a pillow. Turn them once in the oil after about one minute. Cook them another minute or so, then remove them to a paper towel to drain.

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Be sure to let them dry for 2-3 minutes before giving them a nice powdered sugar bath.

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Enjoy them fresh and warm!



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