Beignet is the French word for fritter, and is pronounced "ben-YAY" in English.
I like the "yay" part because that's what comes to mind when you bite into the warm and tender pastry, sweetly dusted with powdered sugar. Sinfully delicious.
Well, beignets can be made savory, too, but we're thinking of the New Orleans classic accompanied by a steamy cup of cafe au lait.
There aren't very many beignets to be found in Charleston, and the good ones always get noticed. Such was the case at the former Marie Laveau's restaurant in West Ashley's Avondale section.
By the way, have you been to Avondale on a weekend night lately? It is a happening place.
Anyway, Marie Laveau's enjoyed a too-brief time in the space that had been neighborhood hangout Liberty Cafe for 15 years prior. Citing costs, Marie's owners Jennifer and Mike Kulick had to close their Louisiana-inspired restaurant in 2007 after only a year and a half.
However, the Kulicks still run the Voodoo Lounge in Avondale and the Tattooed Moose in "NoMo," or North Morrison Drive on the peninsula. You can still find Marie's -- make that Mike's -- famous Duck Club sandwich at the Moose.
February is Mardi Gras month in New Orleans, so there's no better time to answer "O.B." O'Brien's recent request for the beignets once served at Marie's.
The Kulicks graciously agreed to share their recipe. (O.B. also asked for their mac and cheese, but the Kulicks declined, saying it might be reincarnated.)
Mike sent the beignet recipe, saying: "This is scaled down from a large batch, but it ought to work. I recommend using a stand mixer. Mix liquids and shortening with paddle attachment; change to dough hook for flour."
Additional note: "If not using a fryer, use a shortening thermometer to get your oil temperature right. Too cold and they won't cook right, too hot and you might burn your house down. Beware spattering oil and hot steam."
Marie Laveau's Beignets
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup sugar, divided use
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup shortening
7 cups all purpose flour, sifted
Powdered sugar for dusting
In mixing bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, water, 1 teaspoon sugar (taken from the 1/2 cup), and a pinch of the salt. Allow to sit and become foamy (5-10 minutes).
Add remaining sugar and salt, eggs, milk and evaporated milk. Mix well. Add shortening and mix well.
Add 3 cups of the flour and mix well. Slowly add remaining flour until dough forms ball and pulls away from sides of bowl.
Cover with damp towel and leave to rise double in a warm place.
After rising, punch down dough, remove from bowl, and place in greased container, allowing room for dough to expand 2 to 3 times its size. Cover loosely and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
When ready to use, heat fryer or deep skillet full of oil to 350 degrees.
Turn out dough onto well-floured counter or cutting board. Roll out to 3/16- to 1/4-inch thick; no thinner, no thicker. Using sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 3-inch squares.
Drop a few at a time into hot oil. Turn once when bottom browns and brown the other side. Remove and drain on paper towels or wire rack. Place a few on a plate and sprinkle with 2 to 3 teaspoons powdered sugar.
Virginia Ellison wrote to ask about the "wonderful" Raspberry Rhubarb jam she remembered from the former and very popular Baker's Cafe on King Street. Alas, no recipe, but we do have a source for the jam.
The former owner, Kimberly, got in touch. She is maintaining the jam business on a small scale, mostly around the holidays.
While she doesn't actually make the jam, she still has the original maker on board, and has other flavors as well. Jars are 15.5 ounces and sell for $6.50. Call 412-6110.
A while back, Donna Maria LaBrasca of Charleston asked about a recipe for Sugar-Free Fruit Cookies published in this newspaper in the late '70s to mid-'80s. The cookie she described eluded us.
Since then, I have heard from a Summerville reader, who sagely pointed out that sugar-free fruit cookies may be an oxymoron, since fruit has sugar. Anyway, she passes along this no-sugar-added recipe from Mature Living magazine.
Yields 42 cookies
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup apple juice
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup chopped nuts
In a saucepan, blend raisins, dates and apple juice. Boil for 3 minutes. Cool. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Chill in refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours.
Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.
Who's got the recipe?
--Jean Prather of James Island would like a recipe for tomato jam, a homey condiment that we've noticed more restaurants serving lately, too.
--A Charleston reader requests recipes for vegetarian main dishes cooked in a slow cooker.