The Kitchen Prep: From "Fat Tuesday" to "Skinny Thursday"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

From "Fat Tuesday" to "Skinny Thursday"

I have enjoyed this week of festive eating as much as the next girl, I'm not gonna lie. But the way I see it, we still have two more days to go until the end of Mardi Gras week and we've gotta pace ourselves. And by "we", I mean "I". {You might not have a pair of skinny jeans threatening you from your closet as I do. Lucky.}

Anyway, I love to feed my friends. I actually like cooking for others way more than I like making food for myself. {Which could be why, more often than not, I'm eating leftovers or throwing together random things when it's time for a meal.}

When my girlfriends and I have "Girls Night",  I see it as a time to make all the things I don't get to make at home on a daily basis. Like bite sized appetizers. And cute little finger foods. And desserts that include as many forms of chocolate as humanly possible. {Because the hubs doesn't eat chocolate. At all. Weirdo.}

But I also know that these lovely ladies watch their girlish figures. And the last thing I want to do is sabotage all the hard work they do to keep looking svelte.

So, when I volunteered to bring dessert to our get together last night, I knew I wanted to find a recipe that was 1. New Orleans themed {to coordinate with the blog, of course}, 2. Figure friendlier than, say, Nutella Caramel Swirl Cheescake Bars, and 3. Worth the calories.

I'd say these Oven Baked Beignets fit the bill.

When I pulled these out of the oven yesterday and sacrificed one beignet for "quality control", I was so pleasantly surprised with the results. They were warm and delicate little powdered sugar covered pillows of dough. And between the airy texture and the Cafe Au Lait dipping sauce, I didn't miss the fact that they weren't fried. At all.

Sure, they're no Cafe du Monde beignet, I'm sure. But that just means you can eat a few more without the guilt {or the air travel, for that matter.}

Make these to share with friends, or to savor all by yourself.

Oven Baked Beignets with Café Au Lait Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1 package quick-rising active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut up into little cubes
  • 3/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, for coating
Café au Lait Dipping Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons cups granulated sugar
  • tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips {depending on how chocolatey you want it}

1. In a small bowl, combine warm water and yeast, plus of 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Stir and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In large bowl {or in the bowl of a stand mixer}, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and remaining granulated sugar.With paddle attachment, pastry blender, or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs.

3. Stir buttermilk and egg into yeast mixture until blended. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture and stir until combined and soft dough forms. {Dough will be sticky.}

4. On lightly floured work surface {and with floured hands unless you want more dough on you than in the beignets}, knead dough lightly several times until dough is smooth. Spray same bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place dough in bowl. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.

5. Spray 2 large cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray {or use silicone baking mats}. Punch down dough. On floured work surface, with floured rolling pin, roll dough to 9-in. square. With floured chef's knife {or even better, with a pizza cutter} cut dough into 6 strips, then cut each strip into 6 pieces, making 36 (1½-in.) square pieces.  {They will seem small, but they grow a bit in the oven.}

6. Transfer Beignets to cookie sheets, placing about 1½ inches apart. Let rise 20 minutes in a dark place.

7. Meanwhile, prepare Café Au Lait dipping sauce. In 3-quart saucepan, with wire whisk, combine granulated sugar, espresso powder, and cornstarch. Place over medium heat, and whisk in milk, making sure there are no lumps. Cook for 8 minutes, whisking often, until mixture comes to a slight boil and begins to thicken. {Be careful not to scorch.}

Reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove pan from heat. Add chocolate chips and whisk until melted and smooth; cover and set aside. Makes 1 3/4 cups {that's a lot, in case you were wondering.}

8. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake risen Beignets 10 to 12 minutes, or until just golden brown, rotating sheets between upper and lower racks halfway though baking. 

Remove from oven and immediately toss with confectioners' sugar, until coated. Serve Beignets warm with warm Café au Lait Dipping Sauce.


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