Sugar beets are a communal crop. It’s rare for one farmer to have both the specialized harvesting equipment and the manpower required to harvest all of his sugar beets by himself. It’s also a busy crop: as the beets are pulled from the ground by the mechanical harvester they are dumped into a truck driven alongside it in the field, and they need to be driven to the sugar plant ASAP. As a result, several farmers work together in the fall to get everyone’s sugar beet crop in on time.
Every fall, Grandma made doughnuts for the guys working sugar beets. I helped her more than once, probably getting in the way more than I actually helped. She made cake doughnuts in traditional ring shapes. Then she set an iron rod across the kitchen sink and strung the doughnuts on there like Christmas lights. She must have glazed them like that, because I remember the doughnuts hanging on the rod, dripping fresh glaze into the sink.
Making sweets for menfolk is so quaint. So old-fashoined. So not me.
Last spring I made these yeast-raised beignets for men who were working on the house’s foundation. I enjoyed baking for them.
But I wondered if I should feel oppressed.
I was having too much fun to feel oppressed, though. I wondered if I should stop having fun.
That was impossible once I began dropping simple rectangles of simple dough into hot oil. The dough bubbled up with bellies puffed full of air.
A few weeks ago was Linda’s birthday. She helped me make the beignets last spring. She hasn’t forgotten them. She mentions them from time to time.
They were yummy.
As a surprise, I made beignets for her birthday.
People said I should fill them. I disagree. But I suppose you could.
Make them for your favorite doughnut lover. Extra points if that doughnut lover is you.
Check out Yeastspotting for more yeasty goodies.
I include a light glaze for these beignets, but you may dust them with powdered sugar instead. I like the sweet glaze. The recipe includes instructions for using a mixer with a dough hook or a bread machine. I like using my mixer, but then again, I haven’t tried it with the bread machine. The bread machine method is probably even easier! Adapted with permission from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking.
¾ cup (6 ounces) water
2 cups (8 ounces) whole wheat flour
½ cup (4 ounces) half-and-half
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter, melted
¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups (8½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
5 to 6 cups (about 2 pounds) vegetable oil for frying
2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup (2 ounces) water, coffee or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (I do this, boring huh?) or other extract of your choice
To make the dough:
Pour the water into a mixing bowl or the bucket of your bread machine. Add the whole wheat flour and let the mixture soak for 30 minutes, to soften the bran in the flour.
Beat the half-and-half, egg, butter, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Stir this into the flour mixture. Add the yeast and all-purpose flour, program your bread machine for the dough cycle, and press Start. Whether you’re mixing by hand or machine, once a soft dough forms, knead for 6 to 8 minutes. Cover the dough with greased plastic wrap, and let rise until it has doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.
After the dough has risen, deflate it and turn it out onto a floured work surface. Knead out any stray bubbles and let rest for about 5 minutes to relax the gluten. While you roll out and shape the beignets, start heating the oil to 365°F. You should have at least 2 inches of oil in the pan.
To cut the beignets:
Roll the dough out to a rectangle roughly 12 x 20 inches and ¼-inch thick. Use a flour-sprinkled bench knife or bowl scraper to keep the dough from sticking. Note: this is a very wet dough!You may need to throw a bit of flour underneath from time to time to keep the dough from sticking. With a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 4 long strips, 3 inches wide. Cut each of the strips into 8 pieces. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let them relax while the oil heats.
Once the oil is hot, slip in 4 or 5 beignets at a time and cook for about 1 minute before you flip them over. Let them cook another 1½ to 2 minutes, flipping them back and forth so they brown evenly. Every once in a while you’ll have one that doesn’t want to turn over because its “tummy” is so fat. Use your spoon to turn it and gently hold it in place until the underside is brown enough. When the beignets are done, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Continue with the remaining dough.
After the beignets have cooled, toss them in a paper or plastic bag with ⅓ to ½ cup of confectioner’s sugar, or brush with glaze (below).
To make the glaze:
Mix the confectioners’ sugar and your choice of liquid and flavoring in a small bowl. You can dip one or both sides of your beignets or brush some glaze over the tops. I use the dip method. It’s less mess and more fun!
Nutrition information per serving (2 beignets, dusted with confectioners’ sugar, 45g): 177 calories, 7g fat, 4g protein, 22g complex carbohydrates, 2g sugar, 2g dietary fiber, 20mg cholesterol, 141mg sodium, 101mg potassium, 28mg vitamin A, 15mg calcium, 83mg phosphorus.