Author Notes: Because we too have our ‘beignets’…..This is a staple in celebrations in the sweltering heat of my birthland, Nigeria. Popular streetfood, they have now transitioned into party bites and are commonly served as part of party platters called ‘Small Chops’ (Hors D’Oeuvres to you, my friend). They are great on their own but in a trendy twist, I had them once upon a wedding day with crisp friedbait. I waited 10 years to recreate it perfectly. —Kitchen Butterfly
Makes: a lot
20g fresh baker’s yeast or 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
400 – 500ml water, lukewarm (about 1 1/2 – 2 cups)
500g all purpose/white flour
50 – 100g granulated white sugar
1 – 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
Raisins, currants, candied/mixed fruit – to taste
Vegetable/Tasteless oil, for frying
OPTIONAL: 200g fresh whitebait
OPTIONAL:Salt, to taste
OPTIONAL:Extra plain or wholemeal flour to toss the whitebait)
- Stir 2 tablespoons of sugar in 125ml (1/2 cup) of warm water and then add the yeast. Using a spoon or your fingers, add the yeast and mix till it has dissolved. Set the mixture aside. If using fresh yeast, you don’t have to wait for it to bloom. If using active dry yeast, you should wait till it blooms and is foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Once the yeast mixture has bloomed, tip it into a large bowl and add about half of the flour, half of the sugar and the grated nutmeg. Add 1/2 – 1 cup of warm water and using a wooden spoon or your hands, stir to combine. Then add the other half of the flour, sugar and the water. Combine again.
- Begin to mix the mixture with your hand, squeezing the batter till all the bumps and lumps are out and the resulting batter is smooth. The mixture at this stage should not be too thick or thin – the consistency should be somewhat similar to cake batter: it will be much softer than bread dough and much thicker than pancake mix. Mix for about 3 – 4 minutes.
- You will notice once you begin to mix the dough, it will be extremely sticky. However, once it is ready, it will be a smooth, elastic mixture which doesn’t have the same ‘gluey’ qualities as the initial batter.
- The batter/dough is now ready to go into storage. Cover the bowl with a large tea cloth and keep in a warm corner to rise – like an oven (not switched on).The rise time will vary depending on the climate/temperature conditions but a minimum of an hour should be observed.
- Heat up some oil in a large, deep pan or wok – the oil should be a couple of inches deep or you will end up with pancakes, rather than balls. Another alternative it to use your deep-fat fryer (sorry!), set to 180 degrees centigrade. Don’t let the oil overheat if using the stovetop – a cube of bread should brown in 30 seconds!
- Make a test batch to check the sweetness levels – fry 2 or 3 balls, and then taste. If they aren’t sweet enough, remove a portion of the dough into a small bowl, add some sugar, mix to combine and continue with the frying steps below. The addition of sugar at this late stage will not affect the mixture. Add dried fruit/currants, etc at this stage if using
- You can use your hands at this stage (if comfortable) to form the balls. Oil your hands lightly and grab a small amount of dough, think walnut size – squeeze this into the hot oil by pushing it down to your fingertips and pinching off. Repeat till the pan is full but not overcrowded. If you aren’t comfortable with your hands, use an oiled tablespoon/ice cream scoop.
- The frying dough balls should begin to rise to the top of the oil almost immediately. Let the puff-puff brown on the underside and then flip them over. This is the tough part because the browned sides tend to want to stay under, and the uncooked sides….give in. You’ll have to keep the light side down to cook properly so the balls are brown all over. They should cook in 3-4 minutes.
- Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Allow at least 5 – 10 minutes to allow the balls cool down. Serve on its own with extra sugar, if required or with some whitebait
- For whitebait: salt the whitebait and toss in enough flour to coat the fish. Then deep fry in hot oil for a few minutes till crisp and lightly browned.
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