Beignets are beyond delicious served warm with a heavy dusting of powdered sugar. So pour yourself a cafe au lait and get ready to be transported to NOLA on the first bite.
Is it too early to think about spring break? And before you point out that I’m a little long in the tooth to be pining for bikinis, fruity shots and dancing on bars, I’m talking family spring break. Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?) my road-tripping days are behind me. But oh, what a ride…
The days of zero planning, makeshift packing and stuffing a handful of five dollar bills in my pocket to get me through a week were indeed fun, but not necessarily something I’d want to do again. Now my dream vacation has me considering thread counts and perfect pillow density. I want the room on the high floor, far away from the action. And we don’t even need to hang the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door because we’re up and out before they come a knockin’ in the morning.
But that’s not to say I’m no longer up for a good time. We log a few kid-free weekends throughout the year and I’d like to think I’d make my twenty-one year old self proud. Or at least not embarrassed. But now my dream get-away includes top-notch meals, some tasty cocktails and good music for the win. Nice weather is a bonus, but most important is a fun vibe. Now, I enjoy a pretty resort and sand in between my toes as much as the next girl, but I don’t need every vacation to be beachy. Actually, I may prefer city-centric getaways to resorts, gun to head.
Of course, when you factor in traveling with kids, everything changes. My boys are eighteen months apart, so travel was dicey in those early years. I still break out in hives when I think of a particular flight to California when my oldest was just shy of three. It wasn’t that their behavior was bad (other than being toddlers), it was the anticipation of bad behavior that had us so tightly wound we could snap. I think a case of post-flight PTSD made us stick close to home for a couple years following that trip.
But, oh time (and the iPad) has been kind. Our boys are now seasoned travelers, can lug their own backpacks and dare I say it, are kind of enjoyable. We’re no fools, we realize that we’re in the sweet spot of kid-dom right now. They are no longer super needy, but not yet surly teens. And they actually enjoy hanging out with their parents (until we start dancing and become terribly embarrassing).
So, yeah, while they still like us, we’re planning a fun spring break. We spent weeks racking our brains for just the right spot…and drum roll please…settled on New Orleans. And yes, we’re bringing the kids.
Now you might think that New Orleans is not ideal for a family vacation (and trust me the last few times we were there were not exactly G-rated), but I beg to differ. Like us, our kids appreciate food-centric trips with a little sight-seeing thrown in. Where else can we get a swamp tour, wander through cemeteries, follow a brass band down the street and happen upon a jazz funeral that celebrates life in seemingly the darkest hour?
Oh, and do all that while eating The. Best. Food. Ever. Gumbo, etouffée, muffuletta sandwiches, pecan pralines, and of course beignets. I mean is there any food more synonymous with NOLA than a beignet? A warm, airy, square of puffed dough doused in powdered sugar and served alongside a steaming cup of chicory cafe au lait. Ahhhhhh….bliss.
To get my boys excited about the trip, we told them about the area and of course about the food. And to properly convey what they can expect, I whipped up a batch of beignets. This dough is very easy to make and I like to chill it overnight in the frig for easy handling. It can go straight from refrigerator to counter to be rolled and cut into squares, no second rise required. Just hot oil and a bag of powdered sugar and you’re minutes away from fried dough heaven. These are best eaten fresh and warm, but we were still eating them the next day for breakfast and I didn’t hear any complaints.
Needless to say, a couple beignets in and they were sold. We’re coming for you NOLA and I’m packing forks.
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg beaten
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter softened
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1 - 2 cups confectioners sugar
- *brown paper bag
Heat the milk over low heat to 105 - 110 degrees.
Whisk in the yeast and let stand for a couple mins until it begins to activate and froth.
Combine the flour, sugar, egg, salt and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until combined.
Pour in the milk/yeast mixture and vanilla and beat until just combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead the mixture for 3-4 mins. Mixture will be smooth, but still tacky.
Rub a little vegetable oil in a large bowl and turn the dough into the bowl, turning once to coat.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
Fill a heavy bottomed pot with about 2 inches of vegetable oil. Fit the pot with a deep fry cooking thermometer and heat oil to 375 degrees.
While the oil heats, remove the dough from the refrigerator and turn it onto a well-floured surface.
Roll the dough into a rectangle, 1/4 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut into 15 - 2 inch squares.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels and pour 1 cup confectioners sugar into the brown bag. Set aside.
Once the oil is up to temperature, carefully slide three squares of dough into the oil. Fry until golden brown on one side and using a spider strainer or a slotted spoon, turn the beignets to the other side to brown. Beignets will be done in about 3 mins.
Remove and drain on the lined baking sheet and then shake in the confectioners sugar in the paper bag. Repeat with remaining dough.
Serve warm, with additional confectioners sugar if desired.