The first time I heard of beignets was when visiting New Orleans a few years ago and being told I had to go to Café du Monde.
Light, airy parcels of dough covered in sugar were served alongside chicory coffee to help cut through the sweetness.
They were delicious, and the whole experience was magical especially as I saw icing sugar float around in the air and felt it crunch under your feet in the queue.
However, from doing some more research I’ve found that the New Orleans recipe (made from water, flour, sugar, shortening and sometimes evaporated milk) is different from the original French version.
The word beignet translates to “fritter” and is traditionally a deep fried choux pastry.
But finding a beignet recipe made this way was impossible and almost all were yeast-based batters that were used to coat fruit before deep-frying.
That’s the recipe I’ve used this time with yellow-fleshed nectarines and plums but you can use any berry or stone-fruit really – strawberries, cherries, large blackberries, apricots, etc.
If you prefer savoury, I’m sure this recipe could also be used to make onion rings, oyster beignets or deep fried mushrooms.
The thickness of the batter is the big test here, and you need to ensure it’s thick enough to coat the fruit but not too gluggy.
My first batch was too doughy, so I ended up adding a few tablespoons of extra milk. It’s very warm in my kitchen today so the yeast was probably very active whereas a cooler environment might mean that your batter is spot on.
A good test is to fry one piece of fruit then cut it open to check the ratio of fruit to batter. This means you can adjust your batter early on and not waste too much fruit.
7g packet dry yeast
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup beer
3 tbsps melted butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Selection of fruit – approx 500g
Canola oil for frying
Icing sugar for serving
Dissolve the yeast in room temperature milk.
Add the other wet ingredients, and combine.
In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients then slowly add the wet to the dry and whisk until you have a smooth batter.
Set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Pour canola oil into a large saucepan until it reaches around 2 inches high. Heat to 350F.
Check on your batter, and if it’s too thick pour in some extra milk – it should be like a thick pancake dough.
Prepare the fruit by cutting into bite size pieces – for example, the stone fruit should be cut into 8ths but the berries can be kept whole.
Dip the fruit into the batter, then into the oil. Fry for two minutes, then place on kitchen paper to drain.
Serve warm, sprinkled with icing sugar or with ice cream.