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Entries in doughnut (3)

Sunday
Sep072008

Parlez Beignet? An Exploration of New Orleans' Famous Treats

September 6, 2008: Beignets in Seattle
Our beignet story began with a brow wax. Now, generally "brow wax" and "delicious pastry" aren't things that go together--but it turns out, the aesthetician was originally from New Orleans, which inevitably led to a discussion about the best sweet stuff in the Crescent City. She waxed poetic about one specialty in particular--the beignet. (Cakespy Note: To avoid potential embarrassment later--it's pronounced "ben-YAY"--in your Frenchiest voice possible, please.)

What's a beignet? The answer may differ depending where you are in the world.


Beignet
The word beignet itself comes from the early Celtic word bigne meaning "to raise", and according to our French dictionary, the literal translation is "fritter". If this seems simplistic, there's a reason why--according to this site, "In France, beignet is an umbrella term for a large variety of pastries made from deep-fried dough with fruit or vegetable filling". However, though French in origin, the beignet's legend seems to lie in New Orleans, so we like this definition (from What's Cooking America) best:
Beignets, a New Orleans specialty, are fried, raised pieces of yeast dough, usually about 2 inches in diameter or 2 inches square. After being fried, they are sprinkled with sugar or coated with various icings. It is like a sweet doughnut, but the beignet is square shaped and without a hole. Beignets are the forerunners of the raised doughnut. When you hear people in New Orleans say, "Goin' fo' coffee an' doughnuts," they mean coffee and beignets. In 1986, beignets became the Louisiana State Doughnut.
And certainly, even if you've never tried a beignet, you'll recognize it as looking like a cousin to many other treats--at moments close to, but not quite the same as--doughnuts, zeppole, funnel cake, pączki, buñuelos, boules de Berlin...the list goes on.

But back to that pivotal brow wax.

Beignets from Cafe Beignet
Turns out, the N'awlins-bred aesthetician wasn't pining over the fried treats, for she had found beignets right in Seattle--in the unlikely spot of the Center House in the Seattle Center. The Center House, under the shadow of the Space Needle, isn't much of a destination--it's more of a mall-type food court, not exactly a foodie mecca--but as she had learned, this little spot makes their beignets using the same mix (note: though the thought of a mix might scare off some, the ingredients were decidedly tame--Enriched wheat flour, enriched barley flour, milk, buttermilk, salt, sugar, leavening (baking powder, baking soda, and/or yeast) as Cafe Du Monde, which is probably the most famous of the beignet joints in New Orleans, having garnered mentions in Jimmy Buffet songs and in John T. Edge's donut book, if you're into pastry name dropping (we totally are).

When we went to Cafe Beignet on a Saturday afternoon, there was no line, and we watched the young employee roll out, shape and then fry the beignets to order. Now, we've never been to New Orleans so we don't really have a point of reference--but we can say that our beignets, taken piping hot to go and liberally dusted with a cinnamon-sugar topping, tasted hot, fried, sugary--that is to say, in our estimation, pretty delicious.


In Seattle? See for yourself at Cafe Beignet, Center House, 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, WA; (206) 441-0262.

Not in Seattle? We found this recipe (below) which we're gonna try next time, or you could buy the Cafe du Monde mix at cafedumonde.com.


Beignets
Beignet Recipe
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, room temperature & beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 4 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
  • Vegetable oil*
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
* Use just enough vegetable oil to completely cover beignets while frying.

Using a mixer with a dough hook, place water, sugar, salt, egg, butter, evaporated milk, flour, and yeast in the bowl. Beat until smooth. If using a bread machine, select dough setting and press Start. When dough cycle has finished, remove dough from pan and turn out onto a lightly oiled surface. form dough into an oval, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until well chilled (3 to 4 hours) or overnight.

To prepare dough, remove from refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured board to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into approximately 3-inch squares.

In a deep fryer or large pot, heat vegetable oil to 360 degrees F. Fry the beignets (2 or 3 at a time) 2 to 3 minutes or until they are puffed and golden brown on both sides, turning them in the oil with tongs once or twice to get them evenly brown; beignets will rise to the surface of the oil as soon as they begin to puff. NOTE: If the beignets don't rise to the top immediately when dropped into the oil, the oil is not hot enough. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels, then sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar. Serve hot.

NOTE: The dough can be kept for up to a week in the refrigerator - it actually improves with age; just punch down when it rises. Dough can also be frozen; cut and roll, or shape doughnuts before freezing.)

Makes 18 beignets.





Cafe Beignet on Urbanspoon

Monday
May122008

Donut Speak: Sweet Talk About the Iconic Treat's Name

Doughnuts
Recently, we did a little survey to see what type of doughnuts you preferred: cake, yeast, or "other"--cream filled or special versions, like a cruller or fritter. Turns out that while there's a lot of love for all types of fried dough out there, moreover Cakespy readers vote, resoundingly, for the cake doughnut (of course, is that a big surprise here?).

But of course, this still left a nagging question that just wouldn't leave our heads: which is it, doughnut or donut?

Time to Make the Donuts 2
Let us first premise the ensuing argument by saying that no matter what they're called, we love rounds of fried dough. So while it doesn't necessarily matter to us which name is used--doughnut or donut--we were curious to know if one was more "correct". On the one hand, doughnut seems more honest and working-class; donut has the distinct feel of, say, kitchen products that employ the use of "brite" instead of "bright", or something of the like. But really, what impresses us most of all is how both terms are still commonly used. Is it just a matter of time before one spelling reigns supreme? This may be--but in reading the below, at least you'll be educated on that day of reckoning.

 

First documented usage?

It's true--doughnut was the first term to be used. The earliest known recorded usage of the term dates an 1808 short story which describes a spread of "fire-cakes and dough-nuts." However, its more famous debut is cited as Washington Irving's 1809 History of New York, in which he describes "balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks." Interestingly enough, these little balls he describes probably more closely resemble today's doughnut holes (or Munchkins)--so the term likely refers to the fried dough looking like a nut once finished. Cakespy Note: Of course, there's also a little historical vignette in John T. Edge's wonderful book Donuts: An American Passion (see more info on the book at the end of the post) about the name coming from a crazy lady who sold fried dough (a dough-nutjob, as it were) which we rather like too.

Coffee and DonutThe first known printed use of donut was in a 1929 Los Angeles Times article, wherein a writer bemoans the decline of spelling, and that he "can't swallow the 'wel-dun donut' nor the ever so 'gud bred'." The interchangeability of the two spellings becomes evident in several "National Donut Week" articles in The New York Times during the 1939 World's Fair; out of four articles during this time, two articles use the "donut" spelling. Dunkin' Donuts, which was founded in 1948 under the name Open Kettle (Quincy, Massachusetts), is the oldest surviving company to use the donut variation, but the now closed Mayflower Donut Corporation seems to have been the first to have used the spelling in their company name, having done so prior to World War II.

 

Last Night, I Dreamt of Doughnuts...Because I say so: Here are some thoughts that individuals have on the matter:

  • The Intellect: Kenneth G. Wilson, in The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, says: "Doughnut is the conventional spelling, donut a variant used in advertising or signs and as eye dialect."
  • The Electronic Intellect: Spell check says "donuts" is correct; then again, it also says "doughnuts" should be dough-nuts. Source: Cakespy mini sleuthing. 
  • Random Dude on the street: "Donuts" sounds lighter and less greasy to me.
Literary or Pop Culture References:
In Laura Ingalls Wilder's book Farmer Boy , Almanzo's mother makes doughnuts, both braided and ring-shaped, and the round ones are referred to as "new-fangled".

 

Vegan DonutsIn Wayne's World, the shop they frequent (and which is home to one of Garth's amazing breakdowns) is Stan Mikita Donuts


Other Observations: Some things we noticed
  • Price: Interestingly enough, there does seem to be a connection between the price of the fried dough ring and what it's called. Not in all cases of course (Krispy Kreme, which purveys doughnuts, comes to mind as an exception), but enough times that we kind of noticed it.
Doughnut Plant: Generally more than $2.00
Top Pot Doughnut: Generally more than $1.00
Voodoo Doughnut: Generally more than $1.00
Dunkin Donuts: Generally less than $1.00
Winchell's Donuts: Generally less than $1.00
LaMar's Donuts: Generally less than $1.00
  • Supermarket Bakeries: In a tour of five Seattle area grocery stores and their bakery sections, four referred to their fried dough treats as Donuts.
A few final arguments in favor of "Donut":

Voodoo Doughnut, Portland OR
Of course, we would be remiss if we did not mention that two of our favorite aficionados on the subject both choose to just donut. In his wonderful book Donuts: An American Passion (oh, please buy it now!), John T. Edge notes in a sidebar that he chooses Donut; also, our favorite website dedicated to all things fried dough and holey (well, mostly, though they feature cream-filled and hole-devoid versions too), theblognut.net, refers to 'em as donuts. Considering their expertise, this is a strong argument indeed!
So, all things considered, is either doughnut or donut correct? Though some can get quite passionate about the subject, ultimately we elect that no, it's not a matter of being right or wrong; dollars to do(ugh)nuts, taste wins every time. Oh yes, we really just said that.

 

Thursday
Nov152007

Doughnut Stop Believin': A Doughnut Guide to Seattle

Picture this: a drizzly, foggy, and grey day in Seattle. Oh, wait: it's November! We have at least five more months of this to look forward to. But no need to hightail it to the Aurora Bridge quite yet. We know what will cheer you up: sweet, hot, cakey doughnuts. No matter where you are in Seattle, surely one of these places will beckon.

Cakespy Note: Doughnut or Donut? Both are valid in our mind, so we've tailored it to reflect what each establishment calls their version of this holey, wholly delightful treat.

Countryside Donut House: If you like Krispy Kreme's lighter texture, but want more flavor, this is your place; it has an extremely dedicated following and couple of locations, although none directly in the city. 11613 124th Ave NE Ste E at NE 116th St., Kirkland; 21919 66th Ave. W., Mountlake Terrace.

Dahlia Lounge / Lola: Both of these Tom Douglas restaurants, perched on either side of Fourth Avenue at Virginia, have beautiful mini-doughnuts on their menu which are unexpectedly rich and delicious; they're like doughnuts on a higher plain, served with sides like vanilla marscapone and seasonal jam. Call ahead to confirm availability. Dahlia Lounge, 2001 Fourth Ave.; Lola, 2000 Fourth Ave.; both at the corner of Virginia St; online at tomdouglas.com.

Daily Dozen Donut Co.: Watch cute punk rockers dole out cute mini donuts? Yes please. These lilliputian donuts are simple and unpretentious, usually available in plain, cinnamon-sugar or "fancy" with sprinkles--they're best hot, and we'll admit to a certain thrill when they shake the brown takeaway bags open with a snap. 93 Pike St., Pike Place Market (right across from DeLaurenti).


Family Doughnut:
Perched near the freeway exit and next to a 7-11 in Northgate, it's not going to win for ambiance, but the doughnuts are so good, they will frequently sell out early on Sundays. Ridiculously cheap: most doughnuts are under one dollar. Cake Gumshoe Allison suggests the "old fashioned" doughnuts. 2100 N. Northgate Way, Unit S (at Meridian).

Mighty-O Donuts: They're vegan, so basically they're health food, right? Sure, if that's what you need to tell yourself. Get a donut here, vegan or not; they have a delightful denseness which is very comforting on a cool day and lovely with warm (soy) milk. Our favorite is the lemon poppy cake donut, although we hear that they've got killer pumpkin donuts too around this time of year. 2110 N. 55th St.; online at mightyo.com.

Pike Place Bakery: Although they are a full-service bakery, one of their signature products is their "Texas-sized" donuts, which are so big that you wouldn't dare finish one in front of someone (although at home, alone, you might). We recommend the maple donut. 1501 Pike Place; online at pikeplacebakery.com.

Top Pot Doughnuts: It's true; Top Pot supplies doughnuts to Starbucks. Does this lessen quality? Not so, as proven by our recent doughnut experiment. We favor the Belltown location for its coziness and quirky building, but Capitol Hill and Wedgwood both have their loyal followers (hipsters and families, respectively). They have a great variety of flavors; whether it's the chocolate sandcastle or a Homer Simpson-worthy pink frosted cake doughnut, be sure to try an ovaltine latte too; they're amazing. Various locations; online at toppotdoughnuts.com.

Winchell's: Sometimes, we've been known to just go in here and sniff the sweet air, and then leave just as quickly. While we don't think their donuts are the best in Seattle, we wouldn't say they're terrible. And if we have to buy one every once in a while just to preserve that sweet smell along 45th Street...then so be it. 211 NE 45th St.; online at winchells.com.

Bonus Buy: Need a mascot for your tasting adventures? Invest in a felt doughnut made by Seattle-based Sew Dorky. Available at Bluebottle Art Gallery, 415 E. Pine St.; online at bluebottleart.com.

Also: a must-visit for any doughnut/donut lover is theblognut.net. Just go, you'll see.


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