Today’s recipe is so not Italian. Well, actually it’s a variation on a Carnival treat my mother-in-law used to make, but the link is so tenuous that I can’t really make a case for it as a Tuscan classic. Instead it’s really inspired by the beautiful weather we’ve been having in Tuscany. Today is the first day of spring officially and I’m feeling like I am well and truly ready for warmer weather. Today at work, one of my fellow teachers made a joke about me going to the beach over the weekend. I think they were alluding to the fact that I dress a little too summery regardless of the weather. I laughed along and silently crossed him off my Christmas card list. Joking, I just went home and drowned my sorrows in beignets.
Beignets are a classic New Orleans doughnut. They’re diamond shaped – or at least, they should be. I turned my back for a second while I was making these with Giulio and he cut the least diamond-looking shapes I have ever seen. Clearly shapes are not his strong suit. I love a doughnut in any shape and form and all was forgiven once they were fried. Lucky for him.
Beignets are a great doughnut because they don’t require any special kneading skills or proving expertise. You just whip up the dough in your electric mixer and chuck it in the fridge overnight. The next day, you roll, cut, fry and serve, which brings me to how you serve them. I sprinkle any doughnut I make with caster sugar and cinnamon. It’s non negotiable, but I did whip up an earl grey ice cream to serve alongside these. I thought it was appropriately spring and floral. Insert eye roll from my mother when I told her about it over the phone. Her exact words: flowers are for vases, not dining plates.
I can’t win her over, but I can win you over. This is my signature ice cream since you don’t need to make a custard. It’s just cream, evaporated milk and sugar with a hefty dose of tea to infuse. The flavour is subtle, but beautifully floral and perfect with your beignets. There is something so feminine and delicate about this dish. I can’t help my flutter my eyelids and get all High Tea whenever I make it!
Beignets with earl grey ice cream
55gm caster sugar
7gm dry yeast
250ml condensed milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
600gm plain flour
60gm vegetable oil
For the earl grey ice cream:
200ml thickened cream
50ml condensed milk
85 gm caster sugar
¾ tbsp Earl Grey tea leaves
Combine the sugar, yeast and 125ml of warm water in a jug and leave to foam for 10 minutes. Add the egg and condensed milk, then pour the entire thing into the bowl of your electric mixer. Using the dough hook, slowly beat in the plain flour and vegetable oil, then increase the speed to medium and mix for 5 minutes or until your dough is nice and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge to rise overnight.
For your ice cream, heat the cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the tea leaves and infuse for 15 minutes. Strain and refrigerate overnight.
Tip your dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rough rectangle. Cut into 20 diamonds and leave to rest on a tray lined with baking paper and covered with a clean tea towel for 30 minutes. Fry your doughnuts in vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes each side or until golden. Toss in a mixture of caster sugar and cinnamon.
Churn your ice cream according to the instructions for your ice cream maker and serve alongside your just-fried beignets!
Maybe with a little homemade jam, if you have it!