While Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday originated in Europe, It’s been a huge part of Louisiana culture since the 17th century. But it’s not the historical aspect that drives the occasion; it’s the parades, the people and most importantly (in my opinion), the food.
The Princess and the Frog, a fairly recent Disney film, is set in New Orleans during what appears to be the early 20’s. Like most animations, this one is enjoyable. But what I really like about it is that the lead female character, Tiana, has a niche for cooking. On several occasions, Tiana brings out platters of freshly fried beignets. I could smell them through the screen- warm, pillowy doughnuts in square shapes, dusted with powdered sugar. Beignets capture the spirit of Fat Tuesday perfectly.
Café du Monde, one of the oldest coffee shops in New Orleans is known for their beignets. Eating a beignet at Café du Monde is on the bucket list of tourists who pour in to the city from all over.
So if you’re in the spirit for a New Orleans-style Mardi Gras, Here’s a recipe for beignets that’ll really kick off the festivities, I’ve been told they taste just like the ones from Café du Monde. These have a sizzling brown color and very fluffy texture. But here comes the twist: They are injected with Nutella, which is not only a surprise, it also adds a rich, chocolatey flavor.
The ingredients used to make these beignets are most likely available worldwide, so whether you’re in China or Australia, you can bring Mardi Gras to your doorstep.
I ate four of them as soon as they were made because they were good. Really good. Better than Tiana’s. No wonder it’s called “Fat Tuesday”.
Ingredients (Makes 40):
– 3/4 cup lukewarm water
– 1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
– 1/4 cup granulated sugar
– 1 egg
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup milk
– 2 tbsp butter, melted
– 3 1/2 cups bread flour
– oil for frying
– 1 cup Nutella (or jam- or any kind of filling you fancy)
– confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1. In a small bowl, combine the water and sugar. Add the yeast and let it sit until slightly frothy.
2. In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg. Trickle in the salt, milk and butter and continue whisking.
3. Next, dump in the flour- in two batches. I start out with a whisk and then switch to a spoon.
4. Once the dough becomes difficult to work with, place on a floured surface and knead until it forms a ball. Add more flour if necessary.
5. Oil a medium/ large bowl. Place the ball of dough in the bowl and brush the surface of the dough with oil. Cover with cling film and let alone for 2-3 hours or until it has doubled (or tripled) in size.
6. Heat around 2 cups of vegetable oil in a 9-inch skillet or pan.
7. Uncover the dough and place on a floured surface. Roll to 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1-2 inch squares. Another option is using a cookie cutter to make circle shapes.
8. The oil should be around 160 C or 350 F- you can test this by placing a small piece of dough. If it floats up and the oil begins to bubble, it’s hot enough.
9. Fry 4-5 squares at a time- around 1 minute on each side or until golden brown. Then flip and fry on the other side. Make sure the oil doesn’t get too hot.
10. Remove the beignets from the oil and place on a paper-towel.
11. To fill them, pour the Nutella in a piping bag with a 1/4 inch nozzle attached. Make a hole on one side of the beignet, insert the nozzle in the hole and press gently. Don’t over fill with Nutella. You can also slice the beignet in half and spread it instead of piping.
12. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately- while they are still warm.