Brought to New Orleans by the French in the eighteenth century, Beignets are crisp little doughnuts made from a rich yeasted dough. Served hot and rolled in cinnamon sugar, these make a very moreish treat. Best of all, they freeze brilliantly, so you can pop them in the fryer and enjoy them anytime you fancy.
Note: you will need to begin this recipe about 3–4 hours before you want to eat, or even the day before, to allow the dough time to prove.
Place the water, evaporated milk, eggs and butter in the bowl of a food mixer and beat gently with the paddle attachment until combined. Add the flour, sugar, yeast and salt and continue to beat gently until well mixed in. Increase the speed and beat for another 3–4 minutes until you get a smooth, sticky dough. I would not advise making this dough by hand, as it is a wet and sticky dough and much easier made using a food mixer.
Lightly oil a large bowl and scrape the dough into it, turning it once or twice so it has a thin coating of oil all over. Cover the bowl with cling film (the oiled surface will prevent it from sticking should it rise that high) and set aside to prove for 3–4 hours on the worktop; it should double in size. You could also prove the dough in the fridge overnight.
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and stir through the cinnamon. Set aside. Turn out the ball of dough on to a lightly oiled worktop and slice into quarters. Roll each piece into a sausage shape of about 3cm diameter and cut on the diagonal into 2–3cm slices – you should get about 7 beignets from each quarter. If you wish to freeze a batch, space them out on a baking tray to freeze initially, then pack into a bag or tub and leave in the freezer until you want to eat (they cook from frozen so no need to defrost).
Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer to 180°C/350°F. Add about 4 or 5 beignets at a time and fry for 4 minutes until deep golden brown, carefully turning halfway with a fork to cook the other side. If cooking from frozen, add an extra minute or two to the cooking time. Drain for a few moments on kitchen paper before tossing in the cinnamon-flavoured icing sugar and setting aside on a plate. Repeat with the remaining beignets. Serve immediately while still hot.