I have quite a few food heroes and heroines in this world. Countless men and women who have impacted my cooking life in ways they simply couldn’t imagine because, well, they don’t know who I am. I don’t lament this fact. It’s the magic of shared information and art across the great Internet highway. The idea that I can benefit from the experience and expression of a complete stranger is kind of beautiful. And the fact that these strangers unknowingly coached me towards these Roasted Sugar Beignets is nothing short of extraordinary. So, please! Grab a beignet, sit back and let me tell you about the extraordinary women who make these clouds of bliss possible.
The first is Stella Parks or Brave Tart as she is known around the Internets. She is the authority on all things sweet and she frequently writes about them on Serious Eats, which has pretty much become my online cooking bible. Oh, and she won a James Beard Award this year for her awesome book. Good-night!
But what I find most remarkable about Parks is her ability to make the nerdy world of food science accessible. And, on a personal note, she makes me feel better for overthinking every-damn-thing. She’s great at teasing out the details that make a particular dessert successful. From the chocolate film that gathers on your fingers when you eat a legit ice cream sandwich, to the proper viscosity of blueberry pie filling. She uses nostalgia as the driving force for her science, which makes the romantic nerd in me a little too excited.
But at this point, you might be wondering, “What does your damn girl crush have to do with these dang donuts?” Well, quite a bit actually. A little while back I was perusing Serious Eats when I came across an article written by Ms. Parks. This article encouraged the use of granulated sugar in the place of pie weights when blind baking pie crusts.
Now, I’ve owned many a pie weight and while they’ve all worked they’ve never worked as well as they should, so I gave this whole granulated sugar thing a whirl. Oh my god! It is the best thing in the world. My pie crusts have never been so flush. Plus, after you’ve baked a bunch of pies using the same batch of sugar, you have this wicked new ingredient at the end of it.
Now, don’t worry. I’m not going to insist that you bake a bunch of pies before making these Roasted Sugar Beignets because the last thing anyone needs is a bunch of pies and a batch of beignets. But if you’re not looking to make these babies for a long while, it’s not a bad way to go about it. Your sugar will need about 4-5 rounds of pie baking before it’s roasted enough for these donuts. But if you’re not into pie-making or you want these beignets, like, now, you can roast a small batch of sugar for this purpose alone. It’s all in the recipe below.
But before you set about scrolling, I have to tell you about the second food heroine that made these Roasted Sugar Beignets possible. Now, if you’re deep enough into the food blogging world to read this no-nothing blog, I’m sure you already know about Joy the Baker. This is the woman that taught me how to bake for myself during my first (rocky) year in Toronto. I positively fell in love with her recipes and found her writing endlessly comforting, especially when I literally had no friends. Even now that I have friends (I swear!) I still find her style of blogging to be the perfect mix of personable, informative, and hilarious. She’s not an oversharer, but she still makes you feel like you know her. It’s a tough balance to strike. Trust me, I fumble for it every day.
So, how does this relate to these Roasted Sugar Beignets? Well, if there was ever an authority on beignets it’s Joy the Baker. Her love for these babies resulted in her moving to New Orleans in 2014. That’s complete love and dedication if you ask me. Of course, she’s got a ballin’ beignet recipe. So, of course, I was going to reference it for these Roasted Sugar Beignets. Of course! Where else would I go?
And that’s how these Roasted Sugar Beignets came into being, through the awesome power of food nerds on the Internet. It’s a blogosphere miracle. Well, not really. In fact, it may be blasphemy. I’m not sure if I’ve committed some sort of mortal sin by forgoing the beignet’s signature coating: powdered sugar. The entire state of Louisiana may very well be mad at me. Nah, the entire state of Louisianna doesn’t know who I am. See? There are benefits to being blog-nonymous.
So, that’s the scoop on these Roasted Sugar Beignets. They’re dangerously simple to make and the roasted sugar really imparts this light caramelized flavor. You’ve never had a sugar donut quite like this. Give ’em a go!
Roasted Sugar Beignets
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 2 1/4 1 packet teaspoons dry active yeast
- 1 cup whole milk warm
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 3-4 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 cups canola oil for frying
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Pour the sugar into a large oven-safe skillet. Spread the sugar to form an even layer and place it in the oven. Roast the sugar for 30 minutes, giving the pan a shake every 10 minutes, until the sugar is pale golden in color. Take the skil.let out of the oven and set aside to cool for at least 1 hour.
- While the sugar is cooling, grab another skillet and melt the butter over low heat. Continue to cook the butter until it turns the color of toffee, swirling the pan occasionally. Take the skillet off the heat and, using a fine mesh strainer, strain the butter into a bowl. Set aside to cool slightly.
- While the butter is cooling, pour the warm water into a large standmixer fitted with a dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and add a pinch of the cooled roasted sugar. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or until foamy.
- Add the browned butter, the milk, a 1/4 cup of the roasted sugar and the egg to the yeast mixture. Give the mixture a quick stir. Next, add 2 cups of the flour, the salt and baking powder and set the mixer to a medium-low speed. Mix until the dough is uniform. Start adding the remaining flour in 1/4 cup increments. You might not need the full 2 cups. The dough is ready when it cleans the sides of the bowl and climbs the dough hook.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a well-floured surface. Knead the dough briefly and form into a ball. Place the dough in a bowl greased with a little canola oil and cover with plastic wrap. Place the dough in a warm place and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in volume.
- Punch the dough down and place it on a well floured surface. Roll the dough out to a 16-inch by 12-inch rectangle. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 2-inch squares. Cover the dough with plastic wrap until ready to fry.
- Place the roasted sugar on a large plate and spread it out to form an even layer. Set aside. Pour the canola oil into a large dutch oven and place over high heat. Using an instant read thermometer, monitor the temperature of the oil. When it reaches 375°F you're ready to fry. Place 3-4 beignets into the oil and fry until golden, about 2-3 minutes, turning once. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beignets from the oil and place them on the plate with the sugar. Toss the beignets in the sugar until coated, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Serve immediately with a cup of coffee.