These French fritters are delicate and delectable!
Beignets are more fritter than doughnut and, in fact, beignet means fritter in French. In this recipe, thinly sliced apple rings are dipped in a beer batter and then fried to golden perfection. New Orleans-style beignets are dusted with a visible coating of confectioners sugar, but classic French beignets employ a lighter dusting that can be quickly caramelized under the broiler or with a torch for a glossy, lacquered sheen. Serve the beignets as-is, or with a fruit coulis (this recipe features a strawberry sauce).
Equipment: small saucepan with tight-fitting lid; blender or food processor; strainer; cutting board; vegetable peeler; apple corer; chef's knife; (2) rimmed sheet pans; (3) large mixing bowls; dry and wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; whisk; hand mixer or standing mixer; rubber spatula; wooden spoon or donut stick; deep fryer or Dutch oven and thermometer; tongs or slotted spoon/spider; torch (optional)
4 large fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
3 apples, such as Opal or Golden Delicious
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons Calvados (optional)
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup beer (such as lager or pilsner)
1 large egg, separated
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
vegetable or peanut oil for deep frying
"It's not necessary to serve the beignets with a fruit coulis, but if desired just be sure to prepare it before you prepare the beignets."
1. Place ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved in the water and no longer cloudy. Add the strawberries to the syrup, lower the heat to low, and cook gently for 8-10 minutes until tender and the syrup is stained red. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set aside.
2. Prepare the apples. First core the apples, then peel them before slicing them into thin slices, approximately shy of a ¼-inch, discarding the top and bottom slices. Place the apple slices on a rimmed sheet pan and sprinkle with the lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon (as well as the optional Calvados, if using). Set aside to marinate while the batter is prepared and rests, turning after 15 minutes to make sure the apples are fully seasoned.
ILOC tip: use the optional Calvados (apple brandy) to impart a sophisticated, grown-up depth of flavor to the beignets.
3. Now prepare the batter. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Set aside. In another mixing bowl, combine the egg yolk, beer, sugar, and salt using a whisk. Pour the mixture into the well of the flour and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place in the kitchen for 30 minutes.
ILOC tip: once you finish this part of the batter preparation, it's a good time to turn the apples.
4. While the batter rests, finish the strawberry coulis. Pour the contents of the saucepan in a blender or food processor and blend until thoroughly smooth. Strain, if necessary, and set aside.
5. After 30 minutes of the beer batter resting, place the egg white in a large mixing bowl and beat until soft peaks form using a hand or standing mixer. Gently fold the meringue into the beer batter using a spatula. Set aside.
6. Line a rimmed sheet pan with paper towels to drain the beignets. Heat the fat in a deep fryer per manufacturer's instructions or in a Dutch oven 3 inches deep to 350°F over medium-high heat.
ILOC tip: always use fresh fat to fry doughnuts. In other words, do not reuse fat from prior use.
7. Working in small batches (4-6 apple rings at a time), dip the apples into the batter and carefully lift them into the hot fat using either the end of a wooden spoon or donut stick. Cook the beignets for 2-3 minutes per side until richly golden brown. Lift the beignets to drain on the paper towel-lined rimmed sheet pan using either tongs or a slotted spoon.
"When added to the oil, the beignets first will fall to the bottom of the fryer or pan but then will rise to the surface at which point be on the look out for when they should be turned, when the underside is golden brown."
9. Sprinkle the beignets with confectioners sugar and place under the broiler to caramelize, or carefully melt and caramelize the sugar with a torch without at all browning it. Serve immediately with the coulis.
"Beignets, like French fries, must be eaten as soon as they are prepared. They cannot be held or stored for consumption at a later time."
Makes approximately 18 beignets.