These New Orleans style yeasted beignets are delicious pillows of fried sweet dough. Serve them with chocolate dipping sauce and a café au (vegan) lait for a special treat!
Now, just to clear the air, these beignets are not the authentic French inspired pastries which are made of choux pastry. These are the small square doughnuts which are more commonly found in America and are especially popular around Mardis Gras.
I used to sell these from my table at the farmer’s market and they always sold out within minutes. There’s just something so enticing about a paper tray of little doughnuts covered in powdered sugar. They have a slightly crisp but delicate exterior, and a tender interior. Shaped like little pillows once they puff up in the hot oil, they really are the cutest doughnuts!
In my trials to get this recipe just the way I wanted it, I realized 2 things were very important:
- cold fermentation. This means that the dough does a really slow rise in the fridge. This is most conveniently done overnight so when you wake up in the morning, you can look forward to fresh beignets. I like doing a short warm ferment (about 1.5 hours) before placing the dough in the fridge to get things started. If you’re familiar with the merits of cold fermentation, it essentially makes your dough taste extra delicious and it puffs better when fried. This method is nice, too, because the bulk of the work is done the night before.
- using barley malt syrup. When I used it in place of sugar in the beignets, the flavor became a bit more complex while still subtle. It’s lovely! The color of the beignets will also be a touch darker than what you may be used to when frying doughnuts made with sugar. This is because barley malt syrup is dark in color. Plus it’s an unrefined sugar so now we can pretend these beignets are health foods, right? 😉
Tips for Perfect Vegan Beignets:
- get your milk and syrup temperature right – any hotter than 110°F and you risk killing your yeast and any cooler doesn’t give the yeast a jump start.
- weigh your flour. I wrestle with what units of measure are most useful to you. I know that weight is more precise and will yield more predictable outcomes, but I also understand that a lot of people don’t have a kitchen scale. With yeasted dough, I think there’s a lot of value in weighing your flour in particular as I’ve had upwards of a 25% difference in weight between 2 different cups of flour. That’s huge! In this recipe I used 512 grams of flour, and this worked out to be about 3 1/4 cups of flour which had been scooped (not sifted.) This might be closer to 4 cups of sifted flour. If you don’t have a scale, start with 3 1/4 cups unsifted flour, and see how your dough feels. It should be very soft and a bit sticky. If you add too much flour so that it feels like regular bread dough, you run the risk of having rubbery, flat beignets. So go slow, and be conservative with your flour. We’re aiming for a well hydrated dough.
- use oil to manage the stickiness. Pour or spray a tiny bit of oil on your work surface, the rolling pin and your hands to work with the dough. Using flour can reduce the hydration of the dough. I also find it’s much easier to clean up afterwards.
- as mentioned, barley malt syrup is a real game changer. In my research for the perfect beignet, I noted that many of the most popular beignet makers in New Orleans use some barley their beignets. I didn’t have any barley flour, so this is the next best thing and gives the beignets such a nice subtle malt undertone.
- try not to go over 1.5 hours of warm fermentation. Any longer and you risk the dough over fermenting, becoming bitter and sour. This is especially important where we’re still doing a cold ferment afterwards.
- keep things under wraps! If the dough sits exposed, it will dry and develop an unpleasant crust.
- keep an eye on your oil temperature. Aim for 360°F to 370°F. If the temperature is too low, the beignets will be very greasy once cooked. I recommend investing in a deep-frying or candy making thermometer to save yourself the frustration of having oil that is too cold or too hot. Too hot of an oil can yield an overcooked exterior and a raw interior.
- don’t overcrowd the fryer. This brings your oil temperature down, prevents even cooking, and can result in the beignets sticking to each other.
- these treats are best served immediately. Serve doused in powdered sugar, and then dip in chocolate sauce!
- 1 cup plant-based milk
- ⅓ cup barley malt syrup
- 1 tbsp dry active yeast
- ⅓ cup neutral oil (e.g. avocado, canola etc)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 3 ¼ – 4 cups all-purpose flour (512 grams)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-3 cups confectioner’s sugar, for dusting or rolling
- oil, for deep frying
- Combine the plant-based milk and barley malt syrup, and heat in the microwave or on the stove to bring the temperature to 110°F. Any hotter than this and the yeast may die. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand-mixer, or if doing by hand, into a large bowl. Add in the yeast and let proof for 10 minutes.
- Add in 2 cups of the flour, mixing well. Add in the oil and salt, and then the remaining 1 1/4 cups flour, adding more only as necessary. The dough should be very soft and a bit sticky. Resist the urge to add more flour at this point, less is more. Knead for 2 minutes, using a bit of oil on your hands and work surface if things are sticking, not flour.
- Spray the bowl with oil, add the dough and then spray the top of the dough so it doesn’t dry out. Cover with a light towel. Let rise for 1.5 hours. Punch down and then return the dough to the bowl, cover the bowl with cling wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
- In the morning, remove the dough from the fridge. Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 360°F.
- Punch the dough down and knead into a smooth ball. Roll it out to 1/4″ thickness on a very lightly greased work surface. If the dough is resisting, let it rest for 10 minutes (keep it covered under cling wrap). With a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 2″x 2″ squares.
- Deep-fry, flipping every few seconds until the beignets become a golden color, about 2 minutes. Do not overcrowd the fryer. Keep the dough covered so it doesn’t dry out while you fry in batches.
- After the beignets are fried, drain them for a few seconds on paper towels. You can then move them to a wire rack to prevent sweating until cool, or to a serving plate and dust them with confectioner’s sugar. If you’d like them completely coated, toss them in a bag with confectioner’s sugar. Pinch the bag closed and shake to evenly coat the beignets. Serve immediately.