Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Beignets, Bacon, and Southern Snow Days

I've recounted in past posts on this blog about the magic that is a Southern snow day.  When we were poor students in Utah, there was plenty to hate about the frigidity that dictated our footwear choices from September through May.  By the time we hightailed it out of there in an overflowing Uhaul, I had come to detest the beautiful snowflakes that eventually turned to less attractive mounds of ice and slush and covered every square inch of . . . well, everything.

In contrast, I can really get behind snowfall in the South.  I know it will melt in a day or two, and in the meantime, we get lots of extra snuggles by the fireplace.  

We've now had two snow storms hit Raleigh this year, back to back.  And while I'm going slightly cray-cray, stir crazy, could really use a trip to the gym, and kind of desperately want Kaden to go to preschool at least one day this week, I'm enjoying it.  

Kaden embraces the idea of snow so fully that he prays that the snow and ice will never, ever melt.


I kind of hope God chooses not to answer his prayer.

Everett, on the other hand, isn't so sure about the idea of a winter wonderland:

Every year, to celebrate the first snowfall of Winter, we make and eat our traditional beignet and bacon breakfast.  Today is your lucky day, because I'm sharing our recipe with you.  

 First Snow Beignets 
Adapted from Paula Deen's French Quarter Beignet Recipe

3/4 cup very warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/8 tsp. yeast
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 plus 1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 1/2 cups bread flour (Trust me.  Use bread flour!)
1/8 cup shortening
1/2 - 1 cup powdered sugar for topping
Oil for frying (Yes, I said frying.)

1.  Preheat oven to 170 degrees.  Once it's preheated, turn it off.    

2.  Combine water, sugar, and yeast together in a large bowl.  Let the mixture sit for ten minutes, or until foamy.

3.  In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.  Add salt and evaporated milk.  Add this mixture to the yeast mixture.

4.  Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and stir to combine.  Add the shortening and continue to stir, while adding the remaining flour.  

5.  Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth. 

6.  Place dough in a metal bowl that has been sprayed with PAM cooking spray. (I only use Pam.  It's true.  PAM is not paying me to say this.  Perhaps they should.)  Wet a clean kitchen towel with warm water, ring until just damp, and cover bowl.  Place towel-covered bowl in the warm oven for two hours.  (Remember, the oven should have been turned off after it reached 170 degrees.)

7.  Preheat oil in a saucepan.  (Or, if you are truly Southern born and bred, you may have a contraption called a deep fryer.  If so, feel free to use that.) You want the oil nice and hot, but not too hot, or you'll end up with scorched beignets that are doughy in the middle.   

8.  Roll out the dough (half of it at a time) to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut into squares (or mostly squares plus a few rectangles, if you're a former English teacher and geometry isn't your strong suit).

Toss them into the hot oil, a half-dozen at a time and deep fry them, flipping constantly, until golden brown.  Drain briefly on paper towels, before tossing into a bowl of powdered sugar and shaking furiously.  (My Pampered Chef batter bowl works perfectly for this!  I love that I can dump the doughnuts in while they're still hot.  I used to use a plastic bag, but I'd have to let the doughnuts cool almost completely, or they'd melt it.  This batter bowl has an airtight lid, so I can dump them in and shake it.) 

9.  Repeat this process until you have a bowl of sugary, delicious, New Orleans'-style doughnuts waiting to give you Diabetes.  

Stop and devour with the bacon that you've baked in the oven.  Wash the feast down with your favorite homemade hot chocolate.  

10.  Fry up the remaining doughnuts, sugar them up, and share them (while still hot) with the neighbors, who are likely sledding outside your door.  (If you're better than us, share your bacon.  But bacon and leftovers never coincide in this household.)

Do you have a favorite food to eat on snow days?    
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