Most cultures have some forms of beignet, i’m thinking of American donuts, Japanese tempura, Spanish churros, Italian Zeppole, German spritzkuchen, Greek loukoumades and many more. I grew up in France where fried dough come in many forms with a myriad of different names like bugnes, merveilles, oreillettes, pets de nonne (um.. literally nun’s farts), but don’t let this confuse you, we’re French, we’re a tiny bit rude and we like to disagree about everything with a passion.
Beignet is an umbrella term for a large variety of pastries made from deep-fried dough with fruit or vegetable filling. What you dip in the batter is up to you. It’s a bit confusing but who cares? As long as the whole world agrees that fried dough is freakin’ fantastic, there’s hope for humanity.
Quinces make great beignet but unlike apples, pears or bananas (all of which can be used here instead of quince) they need to be poached first in a citrus-infused sugar syrup to soften them up and bring out their flavor. While this is happening you can keep busy and make the beignet batter with (preferably) some Belgian golden ale and an egg for extra puff and richness.
It’s your choice whether to serve the beignets hot enough to burn your tongue and a few fingers or to stack them up and enjoy them at room temperature. But hot or cold, they should be dusted with confectioners’ sugar. You can stop there or you can make a crème anglaise flavored with orange-flower water to use as a dipping sauce. I’m a bit over-zealous sometimes so i also made a Buddha’s hand lemon dipping sugar to go with it. Can’t go wrong either way.
Quinces Beignets with Orange Flower Crème Anglaise
- Serves 4 to 6
- Recipe inspired/adapted from Francois Payard
For the Poached Quinces:
- 1 cup sugar
- zest strips from 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 4 medium quinces, peeled and cored
For the Quince Beignets:
- 1 cup flour
- Pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup beer, preferably Golden Ale
- 4 cups canola oil, for frying
- confectioners sugar
For the Orange-Flower Crème Anglaise:
- 2 cups half-and-half or whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 strips of orange zest
- 2 tablespoons orange flower water
For the Poached Quince:
- In a large saucepan, combine 4 cups water, 1 cup sugar, the orange and lemon zest and the vanilla bean. Bring to a boil. Cut each quince into 4 slices.
- Add the quince slices to the boiling syrup and reduce the heat. Poach until they are easily pierced with a knife, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and drain on a rack
For the Quince Beignets:
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, a pinch of salt and egg. Whisk together and gradually add the beer. Whisk until the batter is smooth.
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Toss a drop of batter into the oil to check temperature (if it pops up quickly to the surface, it’s ready). Dip a few slices of poached quince into the batter and carefully drop them into the oil. Fry until golden on both sides, about 4 minutes
- Drain beignets on paper towels and dust with confectioners sugar.
For the Orange Flower Crème Anglaise:
- In a large saucepan, combine the half-and-half and orange zest and cook over medium heat just until small bubbles appear around the rim, about 5 minutes.
- In another medium bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks just until combined. Whisk in half of the hot half-and-half. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sauce has thickened slightly, 4 to 5 minutes. It should coat the back of a wooden spoon. Refrigerate until chilled. Whisk in the orange flower water.