NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA — Beignets. That’s “ben-yays.” It’s French for “donut,” but that doesn’t do it justice. During a five-day stay in New Orleans, we ate beignets every. Single. Morning. That’s how good they are.
The French Quarter institution Cafe du Monde serves a plate of three beignets for just $2. A chicory-based cafe au lait costs $2. That means for $4, you can have a fabulous breakfast — or afternoon snack or late-night splurge — in the heart of New Orleans. While licking powdered sugar from your fingers, you’ll watch the carriages pass by along Decatur Street, you’ll hear jazz musicians play, and you’ll get a great glimpse of St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square just across the street.
The lines are long at Cafe du Monde (go late at night to avoid the wait) but the 24-hour cafe is an act in Darwinism. When a table opens, you take it. Sometimes a civil line forms, but you can decide whether or not wait in it. No waitress is going to seat you. They’re too busy dropping powdered sugar bombs into the sea of two-top tables. Once you sit, a waitress will eventually swing by to take your order, which will be a cafe au lait and a plate of beignets — don’t stray from tradition. This is what people have been ordering since 1862!
One order of beignets can be shared between two people, but if you’d like to play a trick on your company order your own plate. Lift it right up to your mouth and blow. Powdered sugar blizzard. It’s best not to wear a black shirt here. One more tip: the bathrooms at Cafe du Monde are scary gross. Head up Decatur Street toward the French Market where you’ll find some public restrooms (accessible from the outside) in the middle of a strip of boutiques.
You can buy Cafe du Monde chicory coffee and beignet mix online, but my family recently took a stab at recreating this recipe at home. You’ll need:
1 cup luke warm water
3 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup evaporated milk
4 cups floor
Mix yeast and water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Mix butter, sugar salt, milk, and eggs in a separate bowl then add to yeast mixture. Stir in flour then remove from bowl and knead until smooth. Return dough to bowl and let sit for at least 2 hours. (We found day-after dough that had sat in the fridge overnight produced much fluffier beignets.) After dough has set, roll out on lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into squares — the size is up to you. Deep fry quickly at 350 degrees (be sure each side is fried). Drain beignets on paper towel, then place them in a large zip-top back filled with powdered sugar. Shake, remove, and serve immediately.