Hey! You’ve found my fun, very-much-on-hiatus side project. As a baker and reader, I wanted to find a way to combine the two, so I began creating recipes inspired by the food I found in the latest (or some of my favorite) books I had read. It’s great fun, but hard work, so I set it aside and intend to update it utterly at my leisure. It’s here as a fun thing to share and show my personality!
Fair warning: while I can follow a recipe like a pro, I can’t yet make up my own like one. So although I found each of these recipes delish, they’re not pro quality, friends! Try at your own risk 😉
A Review of The Beautiful and Beignets
Confession time: I bought this almost immediately after it released. But then I took forever to read it, and then I took forever to write this. So, I’m keeping it brief so that I can stick to what I remember.
I loved Flame in the Mist so, so much. So when I saw that Renee Ahdieh was coming out with this book, I was excited to read it.
In some ways I was disappointed, in some ways not.
I knew going in that this wasn’t going to have the Japanese culture that made me fall so in love with Flame in the Mist. I was pleasantly surprised by the reveal that Celine Rousseau, the protagonist, is mixed (apparently with Asian), as are a few other prominent characters. Celine is white passing, and has been taught all her life to hide her heritage by her white father in France. I liked that Ahdieh chose to explore this aspect of being mixed–that some of us are shamed by one parent for the other parent’s bloodline, however unintentionally. It felt real, but wasn’t hammered home so much that it became too big of a focus.
TINY SPOILER ALERT:
You’ll have seen in other reviews that this is a story with vampires. That’s true, but it’s told a little differently than certain other YA vampire stories (cough). The mystery of what La Cour des Lions really is isn’t made into a thing. Instead, it’s part of the story’s larger tapestry, which is filled with lots of other lovely things like friendship, romantic tension, and hidden secrets. So if that’s what has you hesitating to read this, don’t worry.
The most polarizing part of the story: its over-the-top-ness. Maybe it’s my lack of experience with the era, but the way everyone spoke, the villains, the dialogue, Celine’s personality and humor, the writing itself; it all felt rich and heavy in a way that didn’t necessarily do credit to the book’s content. That said, it absolutely fit well with the beautiful background of 1872 New Orleans Ahdieh paints. For that reason I forgive the more cloying aspects of the book ever so slightly.
And what’s the best part of 1872 New Orleans?
Beignets, people. Ben. YAYS.
Also, did you know that the most famous beignet cafe (heh, it rhymes) in New Orleans, Cafe du Monde, opened in 1862? That means it was there when Celine came to town.
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tbs evaporated milk
- 2 tbs unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 4 cups bread flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Oil for frying
- Powdered sugar
- Measure out 3/4 cup water that’s between 105 and 115 degrees F. Or you can practice my funny trick: run some hot water until it’s hot enough that you can only stick your hand in for a second, but NOT steaming. It may take some trial and error but I promise getting the hang of it will pay off in the long run (no more taking the temperature of water…ugh).
- Whisk together the water, sugar, and yeast. Cover with a clean towel and set aside for ten minutes.
- Beat the egg and beat in the vanilla, evaporated milk, and butter. Set aside.
- Combine flour and salt. Set aside.
- Add the egg and yeast mixtures to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.
- When everything has mostly come together, dump onto a clean surface and knead until smooth and slightly tacky. (I kneaded for 20 minutes. My right shoulder cried.)
- Spray a large bowl with oil. Dump the kneaded dough in, flipping once. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours.
- Punch the dough down and roll out to 1/3-inch thickness. Cut into squares/rectangles around 2×4 inches.
- Fill a gallon bag with powdered sugar.
- HARD PART AHEAD. All the directions I found said to deep fry at 360 degrees F for 1 minute a side. I used my dutch oven to fry, and that temperature turned my poor little guys black. I ended up keeping the oil somewhere between 330 and 350 degrees, and I fried the bennies for 4 minutes a side. I highly suggest doing a few test bennies to figure out your ideal method. If you’re a deep frying pro, just listen to your heart.
- Remove the beignets from the oil with a slotted spoon and let drain for a few seconds on a wire rack. While they’re still warm, dump them into the gallon bag and shake it all about to coat the bennies with sugar.
- Eat immediately. (They’re still delicious on the second and third days, but they don’t look so good :P)