Today isn't just doughnut day. I promise. It's an old old old tradition that was started to help people use up their extra fat and sugar before Lent starts.
Throughout Louisiana and France and probably just about every high school French class, people are heating up the fryers to make some fresh and greasy beignets for Mardi Gras. Back home, all my Dutchy friends have long been set for Fastnacht Day. I can't deny my heritage...or some tasty doughnuts! But my waistline sure wishes I could deny it a few extra inches...
Imagine my excitement when I realized that you could actually bake doughnuts! So of course, you can bake beignets! Just take a look at these little guys...bite sized baked goodness sprinkled with powdered sugar. Mmm. Or you can drizzle them with Caramel Sauce or drown them in Chocolate Syrup...oh-my-goodness. Delicious.
Baked Beignets [click to print]
Makes about one dozen beignets
3 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 pkg. active dry yeast (OR 2-1/4 tsp.)
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T. butter, cold and cubed
3/4 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. warm water
1 egg, large
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, yeast, powder, soda and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry knife until mixture is crumbly and about the size of peas OR pour mixture in food processor and pulse until right texture is achieved then return to large mixing bowl.
Add buttermilk, water, egg and vanilla to flour mixture. Beat on low speed with dough hook or paddle attachment until just combined. Knead by hand or continue mixing on medium speed until dough pulls together and forms a smooth blob; this will take about 5 minutes by mixer.
Spray bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place dough in bowl. Cover with damp cloth and place in warm area to rise 15-20 minutes.
Remove dough from bowl and roll out about 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to slice dough into four rows and three columns. Place dough pieces on cookie sheets and cover with a piece of plastic wrap, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Bake 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Sift powdered sugar over warm beignets and devour. These would also be delicious with Chocolate Syrup or Praline Sauce!
Source: Recipe slightly adapted from 400 Calories or Less; Mardi Gras and Fastnacht info from BellaOnline and Wikipedia