This is not a traditional doughnut, because the batter is not leavened with yeast or baking powder. Rather, it is something akin to a sweet tempura: a quick, light, crispy dough that gains its lightness from the addition of beer and whipped egg whites.
Beignets are a fun party dessert. Your guests will love to stand around the kitchen waiting for each succulent beignet to emerge and be dunked in cinnamon sugar and drizzled with caramel sauce.
- 4 large (2 pounds) tart apples (Granny Smiths work well)
- 3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 eggs
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup light beer
- 1½ cups flour
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 3 cups vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ cup sugar
- Apple corer
- Cookie sheet
- 10-inch round sauté pan with at least 3-inch sides
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the cookie sheet or line it with parchment.
Prepare and roast the apple slices:
Peel and core the apples with a corer. With a sharp knife, slice each apple into 4 even doughnut-shaped cross sections. Lay the apples on the prepared cookie sheet and dot each slice with butter, dividing the butter evenly among the apple slices. Sprinkle the sugar on top and bake until the apples are puffed and slightly soft to the touch, and a knife inserted meets no resistance, about 30 minutes. If the apple slices seem firm and uncooked, bake for 10 minutes and check again. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.
While the apples are baking, prepare the beignet batter. Separate the eggs, reserving the whites. Place 3 egg yolks in a medium bowl; discard the remaining one or use it in something else. Whisk together the egg yolks, salt, oil, and beer. Add the flour and whi sk the batter, by hand, until it is smooth and thick. In another bowl with a clean whisk, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking until the whites have foamed and hold soft peaks. While continuously whisking, add the sugar and beat the whites until they have become shiny, increase in volume, and hold slightly stiff peaks.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape the egg whites into the egg yolk batter. Place the spatula in the center of the bowl, scrape the bottom, and bring the bottom over the top. Rotate the bowl 45 degrees and continue folding until all the egg whites are incorporated. Cover the batter and refrigerate until you are ready to fry the apples. Do not leave the batter unused for more than 1 hour.
Fry the apples:
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat to 325°F but no higher than 340°F. If you do not have the size pan I recommend, make sure the oil in the pan you do use is at least 1 inch deep. While the oil is heating, mix together the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and place it next to the stove. Line a plate with 3 paper towels to drain the beignets before dipping them in the sugar. Also have ready a second plate on which to place the finished beignets.
To test that the oil is hot enough, drop ½ teaspoon of beignet batter into the hot oil. The batter should puff immediately and the oil should bubble vigorously a round the batter. When the oil is ready, dip each roasted apple in the batter, coating both sides, and gently lay it down in the hot oil. Cook 6 to 8 apple slices at a time. Using a slotted spoon or small spatula, flip each apple over and cook it until the batter has taken on a golden brown on both sides. Remove the beignets and rest them on the paper towel for 1 minute before dredging in the cinnamon sugar.
Serve immediately. Place 2 beignets on a plate with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of the Rum Caramel Sauce, if desired.
Roasted Pear Beignets:
Substitute 4 large ripe Anjou pears for the apples and follow the same directions.