*Allergy Safe in the title means entirely free of eggs, dairy, and nuts. Those with soy allergies can probably also follow this with only a couple substitutions.
I posted on my social media Saturday morning about these allergy safe (for my daughter, who is allergic to eggs, dairy, and nuts, among others) beignets I made, and at least a couple people were interested in the recipe. Unlike the food blogs my wife hates, I’m going to start with the recipe and then add some discussion.
So, credit where it’s due: I pretty much made this recipe with a couple simple substitutions: vegan egg replacer, vegan “butter” for the shortening, and evaporated soy milk. Keep reading for full details.
- 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (the recipe says 110 degrees F. I just ran the tap until it was hot.)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Egg Replacer equivalent to two eggs (I used this Namaste gluten free stuff and mixed it–4 teaspoons with 4 tablespoons warm water–in a bowl before adding to the mix)
- 2 cups soy milk, boiled to half volume (original recipe calls for 1 cup evaporated milk)
- 7 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup vegan butter (I used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks)
- Canola or other vegetable oil for frying
- A whole bunch of powdered sugar
Before starting, evaporate your non-milk. I put two cups of Silk Original Soy Milk in a saucepan and boiled it until only about 1 cup was left. I hated this, because I felt like I was burning it, and it’s a hard line to ride between “I don’t think this is really boiling,” and “Call the Ghostbusters, a foam monster has taken over my kitchen.” I’ve never used a double boiler, but I bet this would have been a good time to start. I did this step in the morning and stuck the evaporated milk in the fridge until I made the dough in the evening. There was a rubbery film layer on top when I took it out; I discarded that, but what the hell do I know?
For all the rest, I used my wife’s stand mixer, using the beater attachment until the second addition of flour, then switched to the dough hook.
First, yeast and warm water. Mix until dissolved. Resist the urge to drink this.
Toss in sugar, salt, egg replacer(again, I mixed this ahead, but it may be better to just put the water and egg replacer powder both into the mixer at this step; I felt like it started sticking to the bowl in the time between when I mixed it and added it, which was only a couple minutes), and evaporated milk. Mix mix mix.
When this is looking uniform in texture and color, mix in four cups of flour. Keep the mixer running until this gets nice and smooth. If you’re a dummy like me, someone should tell you to keep the mixer speed sloooow until the flour is all mixed in and saturated so you don’t toss a bunch of flour into the air and subsequently your lungs. Feel free to taste your product at this point, it’s only going to get less sweet. At least until you cover it in powdered sugar.
Next, add your not-butter.Original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of shortening. I used 1/3 cup of fake butter because we didn’t have shortening on hand, and I knew the butter was safe. I increased the amount because of something I read (and probably misunderstood) on the internet. It turned out fine.
I mixed the dough at this point until the butter was well-blended into the dough. The original recipe wasn’t super clear on that point, but it seemed like the best thing.
Finally, add the rest of the flour (3 cups). This is where I switched to the dough hook, and I kind of wished I had waited until the flour was mixed in–though I don’t know if that really would have been any better. Anyway, then you just mix the heck out of it, get it smooth and tasty looking, and toss it in a big bowl, cover, and refrigerate.I refrigerated overnight. If you want to do something different, you’re entitled to take your chances.
A reviewer on the original recipe recommended punching the dough down after it rises and letting it rise again–which it will do, because this is a southern recipe–and I think I screwed this up by not doing it far enough in advance of cooking. Take heed. It will need more than an hour to rise the second time.
Roll out your dough basically as thin as you can get it. Original recipe says 1/8 inch, but I don’t think I ever get it that thin. I use a pizza cutter to slice it into squarish pieces that are generally 1-2 inches on any given side.Your beignets will be the shape you cut them, but your taste buds will absolutely not give a shit whether they’re square or triangle or rectangle or what. Go nuts. Try different shapes and sizes and see what you like best.
Pour a bunch of oil in a deep pan or a fryer. You probably don’t want to do this in a standard frying pan, but the cooking beignets will float and don’t really need a very deep reservoir. Heat to ~360 degrees F. Be patient. If you jump the gun, your beignets will suffer. I know this from experience.
When the oil’s hot, drop your cute little dough shapes in there and watch’em plump up. Fry them 2-3 minutes on each side until they’re a toasty brown color. Place them on paper towels to drain, then bury those beautiful bastards in powdered sugar and serve’em up hot. C’est bon!
I further recommend, for the fullest French Quarter experience, that you get some Cafe du Monde or French Market coffee with chicory and make a cafe au lait to pair with these. For further authenticity, stay up all the previous night drinking whatever the hell a hand grenade is, then have your beignets and cafe au lait outside just as the sun is rising. While you’re at it, have a friend come by and hose off the sidewalk while you eat. That’ll get you most of the way there, I think.
Final Recipe Note:
I gotta warn you, this recipe makes a huge amount of dough. I always end up freezing half to use later. Consider cutting it in half, or be prepared to eat a whole lotta beignets. I know, I know. But seriously, it’s a lot, and they don’t save well.
Now, the Blog Part:
Raise your hand if you read that and thought, “That wasn’t the blog part?” Nope; that was really just the recipe. Sorry it’s so wordy. I guess I’ll never write a cook book. Now put your hand down. I can’t see you, and you look ridiculous.
Let’s talk about beignets. And food. And culture. And allergies.
See, I’m from New Jersey. My parents, however, are from Louisiana. I gotta tell you, it’s a little weird not being from the place–and corresponding culture–as your parents, because you still grow up with it, and you feel like it’s a part of you, but never like you’re a part of it. And that’s how I’ve always felt about Louisiana. It was always clear to me that being “from” Louisiana and being Cajun were a part of my identity, but they came to me very indirectly and even in a fantastical, idealized sort of way. My conception of what those things mean is very different from my parents’ or my cousins’ who actually grew up south of New Orleans. (And some of whom, incidentally, read this blog and are probably laughing at me for even wanting to “be Cajun.”)
This became clear to me in a moment in college. I was dating a girl whose father was Puerto Rican and mother was Ecuadorean, and she was giving me a hard time about being a white kid from Jersey and basically having no culture. I argued something about my Cajun roots, and she laughed at me. She asked me how I was Cajun–basically, what I did that made me Cajun. I was like, “Well, food.” Duh.
I mean, think about it. In America especially, so much of our connection, and in cases like mine our most direct connection, to our ancestry and ancestral cultures, comes through food. Plus, I mean, y’all–Cajun food. You feel me? It’s so good!
So, food-focused faux-Cajun that I am, it was a big deal for me as a young man to make a few pilgrimages to the Motherland and eat all the foods. It wasn’t just delicious–though it was that–it was personally and culturally significant. At a key moment in my life, it helped me sort out who I was, and who I wasn’t.
You see where this is going, right? My daughter, in all likelihood, will never be able to do that. I try not to see her food allergies as limiting, but there are definite limits; that’s her reality. For me, that means a couple of things. On the one hand, it means intentionally refocusing how that transfer of culture happens, because I do want my children to know where they come from and be connected to their family history, and that is a much bigger and richer wealth of experiences than some gumbo and red beans. On the other hand, it means working to pass along at least some of those food-based traditions safely, so that even if she can never sit down to a plate of Cafe du Monde beignets at Cafe du Monde, she won’t be completely missing out. Some things, like the Pascal’s Manale BBQ shrimp recipe my parents made for special occasions–and that I used to win my wife’s love–are out of the question (she’s allergic to shrimp and garlic), so it seems extra important to me to do what I can and build our own traditions that she and my son can both cherish and hopefully carry on in their own families. Like fresh, homemade beignets.
In some ways, then, this was just a tasty treat on a Saturday morning, but really, for me at least, it was a lot more than that. And though I called it a small victory in my social media posts, it was just one part of a much larger battle.