The year was 2009 and I was sitting in a dark theatre waiting for The Princess and the Frog to begin. I had been horribly underwhelmed by most of the Disney movies released over the last few years, so I had high hopes for this one. From the previews, it looked gorgeous and I knew it was in good hands, but I didn’t want to be disappointed again. I wasn’t. When I walked out, I thought it was a good movie. After sitting on it for a few hours it turned into a great movie. By the following day, it was absolutely fantastic. (I could ignore the similarities to a certain 90’s Princess Movie I already adored.) The magic I’d been missing so much had returned and brought with it beautiful music and wonderful characters, like Tiana. She’s got attitude and drive and knows just what she wants. (Maybe not what she needs but she figures that out.) She’s hands down my sister’s favorite Disney Princess and would be mine too if it weren’t for the fact that Belle’s held that title almost my entire life. But I do wish to emulate Tiana. Too bad I’ve got a little too much Charlotte La Bouff in me.
I wouldn’t say I have a gift like Tiana, but when I put forth enough effort, it shows in my food. She’s got a leg up on me just by living in a food paradise like New Orleans. Regrettably, I haven’t made my way down there yet, but when I do, I’m going to stroll right into a café and eat a stack of beignets. I know the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but that applies to me too. I wish I could hire Tiana to fry me up about 500 of her man-catching beignets, but that’s not happening. The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work, so I guess it’s time to roll up my sleeves.
Recipe makes 3 dozen beignets.
¾ cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
¼ cup sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons yeast
1 egg, beaten
½ cup half-&-half
2 tablespoons shortening (I use butter-flavored)
3 ½ cups bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Cottonseed Oil or Vegetable Oil
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes, or until foamy. Whisk in the egg, half-&-half, vanilla extract, and salt. Add the shortening and flour and stir until incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball again and place in a large, clean bowl. Lightly coat dough with oil and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours or until it has doubled in size. If you want to make the dough ahead of time, you can cover and chill for 6-8 hours and allow it come to room temperature before frying.
Preheat oil in a large pot/deep skillet or in a deep fryer to 370 degrees F.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a ¼ inch thickness. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 2-2 ½ inch squares. Fry the beignets in small batches, flipping constantly or ladling oil over them, until golden on all sides, 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Dig in!
This plate of beignets is the best thing I never knew I needed. Okay, that’s a lie. They’re sweet, fluffy little pockets of fried dough. I did know I needed them. Hmm. Maybe I’ve got my wants and needs and haves mixed up again. Really, without these beignets, Tiana’s adventure, let alone her dreams would never get off the ground. If they can work that well for her, who knows what else they can do? Maybe we should stop wishing on stars and start wishing on beignets. Or maybe we should just eat them.
Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!