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Beignets - Technical Questions inside

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tzbrowne's picture
tzbrowne

Beignets - Technical Questions inside

Hi Everyone - First post here; so go easy on me!

Long story short;  In the past few weeks my attentions have been turned to nailing down my Beignet recipe with a view to selling commercially; however nothing I do can quite get me to the same gnarly, shattering and crisp exterior, with delicate, light and soft pillowy interior that I've had the pleasure of eating at Cafe du Monde over the years.

On Monday I spent a morning in development kitchen with a former head baker and pastry chef working on the recipe, however, despite how much we tried we were still just a few clicks of getting there 

The recipe we've had most success with is at the bottom of this post - but its still not right. The issues I have with it are pretty simple...

-Too uniform, the exterior has none of the little crackley gnarly parts on the outside that add texture. CDM's beignets look almost like fried fish! 

- Exterior browns very quickly, however, a good crust doesnt develop -the outside to the CDM recipe almost has a hard shell, which cracks and shatters. The recipe below however, have a softer crust, which is definitely a lot thinner - thus, within a few minutes they get much softer. 

- They get too poofy - the inside seems to puff so quickly in the direct heat of the oil, that any personality gets a bit lost - unless they're rolled very thin. 

 

My general thoughts on it are as follows - 

First, I'm almost positive that CDM use a mix of flours - some regular wheat but then possibly a mixture of refined rye and barley flours. My understanding is that these two flours have a much lowever gluten content than wheat - however, I'm not sure what effect this would have on the dough - do you think it would hold much bearing perhaps on the outer structure of the Beignet and affect the gnarly-ness? I did a test using some whole barley (its super hard to find the refined stuff here) but it just gave it a more whole-meal consistency. 

Second, I'm not sure that the three ratios (BP, BS and Yeast) are quite right. My understanding is the yeast is good at developing the soft doughy interior, but it sounds to me that i might be better using more baking soda to see if that creates a less uniform exterior?

Third - From watching a few videos of CDM's process, they're very liberal with flour on the Beignets before frying - is there anything in the idea that dousing so much flour over the rolled dough might effectively 'wick' away moisture from the exterior of the dough, thus creating a better crust (almost like a wet vs dry steak?). 

Finally - Do you think adding more sugar might have the desired effect of creating a crispier exterior? In my head this makes sense as it would caramelise and shatter more - however, my brain isnt wired to work out whether this is reality or nonsense! Also, having tried CDM's box mix, which seems to get gnarly pretty easily, the mix is distinctly savory; almost salty.

 

Any thoughts from you guys would be most appreciated!

Anyway - sorry to bombard you with questions, just thought you'd be the best man to ask about this kind of thing! Any articles you could link me to that you've covered this in would be great; or any advice you could give! 

Thanks,

Tom

 

CDM Beignet - Exterior - https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7208/6806200886_0f3c1a1c96_z.jpg

CDM Beignet - Interior - http://premeditatedgluttony.com/en-ca/wp-content/uploads/cafe_du_monde-beignet_bite.jpg

 

 

 

RECIPE 

310g AP Flour

5g Baking Powder

1g Baking Soda

2g Salt

15g Sugar (white)

7g Dried Yeast

1 x Egg

125ml Buttermilk

2ml Vanilla Extract

40g Warm Water

 

In a small bowl add yeast, sugar and warm water. Whisk to combine and leave to activate. In seperate bowl combine the all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

When yeast frothy, whisk egg, buttermilk and vanilla together with yeast mixture.

Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir until the flour is incorporated, transfer to floured surface and knead til dough formed. Rest for 2hrs.

After doubled in size, punch down dough and turn onto a lightly floured surface, roll out dough the thickness of two quarters, and douse liberally in more flour. Cut into Squares, fry at 190c (375f) until golden brown.

Boron Elgar's picture
Boron Elgar

CDM markets a mix. Checking the ingredients list may give you some hint as to what is going on and the different flours they use ( other online sources say rye is one of the flours used). Additionally, they offer "tips" about using the mix.

Granted, you are way beyond the talents and expertise of those who will use a CDM mix, but one never knows what little "aha!" could be lurking there.

http://shop.cafedumonde.com/beignet_tips.htm

Many insist that cottonseed oil is one of the secrets to CDM's success.

Good luck. This is one recipe I have never tried at home, preferring to savor the memory of flavor, texture and confectioners sugar-face from my visits to NO.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I confess I have never had a beignet but my mother used to make donuts using a similar recipe-they made them in a ball shape but the best ones were the ones with the gnarly trails of dough that got so crisp. It was more of a batter than a dough-thick and sticky. They used a soup spoon to get consistent balls.

 When I google beignet images, many of them are soft,square pillows with large bubbled interiors. The CDM beignets are more like fritters with a crisp uneven texture (gnarliness) and some bubbles on the inside. It looks like the dough may have been moister and thus more sticky when being handled. Perhaps the unevenness due to the stickiness created some of that texture on the outside as it fried. As for the inside-perhaps increasing the liquid would change that also. With a 2 hour rest you are certainly not getting a lot of bubbles from yeast. I would assume the chemical leavener is more active than the yeast in this recipe. There may be better bubble formation from the BP and BS if there is a bit more hydration. Just a thought.

Another thought is to check the oil temp and make sure it is at the correct temp.,esp if you are using a thermostatically controlled fryer. They can be "off".  My mother also said to never crowd the pan-add a dollop of dough and wait a minute to allow the oil temp to come back up before adding the next dollop.  

They look delicious-I will have to try them!

logan24's picture
logan24

Why this recipe? Just wondering if it is one you prefer. Most recipes I have seen use evaporated milk.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7THoDg9uKGs

clazar123's picture
clazar123

You piqued my curiosity about beignets so I have been doing a bit of research. Something interesting to note is that there are many recipes (of course) for beignets.

  • Many use evaporated milk, 
  • Many use shortening,
  • Almost none of them used BP or BS, 
  • More than a few mixed the yeast dough and let rise overnight in the refrigerator,
  • All the yeasted recipes rose to double- (which took about 2 hours). The implication is to make sure the dough rises to double even if it takes 1 hour or 4 hours. The doubling is more important than the timing to develop the best product. Underproofing makes for a dense dough. If you are looking to tweak production time-that is a different problem.
  • All advise to minimize gluten formation by working dough minimally and the Café Du Monde behind the scenes article states they use a proprietary mix of flours that can include rye and others flours.

All clues and leads to follow. Research is like that.

One key change for your recipe: I would consider adding some form of shortening to your dough- either butter (which will flavor the dough), lard (makes the most tender and puffy bread) or shortening (listed in many of the recipes). Take a look at this old post about a rye bread. I know it doesn't sound related but if you scroll down to "gary.turners" comments and discussion about fats and gluten it will be revealed why I think this is related to your dilemma. The fat in the dough may help the dough to puff out as you cook it. Oil in the dough won't do that.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/24906/30-rye-sourdough-sandwich-loaf-yes-even-rye-breads-can-be-fluffy-and-soft 

Another link for info:

http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2012/02/doughnut-style-guide-definition--cake-yeast-old-fashioned-cruller.html

The link above is an interesting description of the many kinds of donuts with pictures-worldwide. The following is from that article.

"A doughnut that uses yeast as a leavener, resulting in a light, airy doughnut. They often have stretchy (rather than crumbly) interiors and feel lighter in-hand."

"Doughnuts made from a cake-like batter, leavened not with yeast but baking powder or soda. The resulting texture is denser than a yeasted doughnut, and often a bit crustier."

I have used both BP and yeast in some GF products but Naan and some biscuits are the only other types of recipes I have seen both. Neither are known for their light feathery texture. You might need some BS to counteract the acidity of the buttermilk but maybe not. BS and BP do add a slightly metallic taste to the dough. All things to consider for the final product.

Then there is this: I think she unearthered a very important idea as to why their beignets are light.

http://www.bunkycooks.com/2013/01/the-secrets-behind-cafe-du-mondes-beignets/

"Cafe du Monde uses multiple flours in their mix, including rye flour, and they aren’t willing to share the exact mix and proportions in their recipe.  You might try your own combination at home to see if you can unlock that secret. "

Interesting. I have found that adding as little as a tablespoon of rye flour to my 5 cup flour bread recipe (simple French bread-AP flour, water, yeast, salt) and very thorough kneading to windowpane makes a huge difference in texture. The rye adds a starchy gel. I use American AP flour which is higher in protein than French flour so this is my way of mimicking traditional lower protein French flour. Many other non-wheat flours (rice,tapioca,sorghum,corn starch are some) can be used but they all have their own idiosyncracies and behave /taste differently.  I believe it is the development of the starch as well as the gluten through hydration and kneading that allows the development of the larger holes. Less gluten means less rubberiness and more tender dough. You never want a lot of gluten in these types of doughs but you do want to develop the smaller amount of gluten that is there.Dough that has some gluten that is well developed, "lubricated" by fat with the spaces between filled with starchy gel will produce the texture you want. Main concept: Use a lower gluten flour mix (AP may be too high) but develop the gluten and starch that is present  very well through hydration and kneading or stretch and folds. Can this concept be used to develop a good beignet dough?

A buttermilk/yeasted beignet recipe:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Buttermilk-Beignets-356850

Interesting that Epicurious used bread flour. To me that can make for a chewier and tougher beignet. Often bread flour is used so that there doesn't need to be so much kneading-like using instant coffee instead of brewing it-it's "easier" but I believe the product suffers. Bread flour and vital wheat gluten are additional tools in my baker's bag of tricks.

So here are some interesting thoughts and concepts for you. Perhaps there is more delicious research ahead. I am curious as to why you have both BS/BP and yeast in the recipe. Was it just because of the buttermilk? Was it an attempt to increase the airiness? Reduce production time as yeast can take a lot longer?

 

I think I should give a brief summary. Sometimes I get long-winded because I learn as I type.

  • Add fat to the dough (hard fat such as lard or coconut oil)
  • Lower the gluten/raise the starch content by adding something like a small amount of rye flour.
  • Eliminate the BP and BS
  • Allow dough to raise to double. Underproofing and overproofing will both create a dense outcome.
  •  If raised overnight in refrigerator you will have the best tasting product.
  • Keep the buttermilk-adds great flavor and yeast loves acidity. No baking soda need.

Keep baking deliciously!

 

 

 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

I also suggest snow white leaf lard - they still use lots & lots down in the Big Easy.

For some reason they just didn't "pay no mind" to all that heart stopp'in cholesterol talk...,

Wild-Yeast  

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Tom, thx for this thread, if nothing else I've learned something new from the linked articles (for example, that CDM blends rye in with their flour mix?)

In any case, my .02:

Cafe Du Monde uses Big Chief hotel and restaurant (H&R) flour for their dough (in addition to whatever they use in their blend, rye or whatever). I saw this flour piled high on pallets outside of their Decatur location in NOLA one morning in 2011. This is a bleached, bromated, unenriched white all-purpose flour, between 11.6-12.4% protein, according to the specs, and is milled in Texas for Koerner Co.

They do fry in cottonseed oil, which has a higher smoke point and enables you to fry at a higher temp. 

Based on the open, holey, almost custardy interior, I would say that their dough is very wet, and they use that liberal amount of flour to avoid sticking when it runs through their sheeter, as you can see in the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSaI6-bM-Yo

The custard-like interior to me suggests that they may be creating a kind of choux paste with their dough (cooking flour with water, buttermilk, butter, sugar and salt to create a roux, then beating in the eggs). I could be totally off with this.  

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

A similar discussion regarding doughnuts here.

Wild-Yeast