Beignets and Chicory Coffee

Beignets and Chicory Coffee

A Taste of Wild - Gulf Coast

Jon and Aubrey head south to the Gulf Coast to discover the hot, humid bayou country, explore the deep and diverse flavors of Cajun and Creole cooking and share their favorite eats along the way.

Beignets and Chicory Coffee

A hundred mossy oaks, all dancing with the breeze, line the banks of the bayou, which rolls along in front of me.  Somewhere, a bullfrog coughs. If I listen hard, I can almost hear jazz playing in the distance.

I squint at some Spanish moss. “Like a… beard for trees.”

“What?”

“Sorry.  Nothing.”  

I snap out of it and turn my head. Aubrey and I are at a campsite on the outskirts of New Orleans. Yesterday we toured the city, with its sights and smells and its electricity. But now, we’re still.  As we stand and breathe in the sunshine, inspiration strikes. I grab her hands.

“Baby, put on a pot of coffee. I’m making beignets.”

It doesn’t get much better than a cup of hot coffee and a fresh pastry in the morning. But if you want to take your breakfast game to the next level, then we suggest upgrading to a cup of chicory coffee and a heavenly French beignet.

The most famous place for chicory coffee and beignets is Cafe du Monde, a true southern landmark. Established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market, the original Cafe du Monde was just a small stand that sold coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice and a sweet, fried pastry called a beignet. In addition to these unique square-shaped pastries, the coffee they served at was blended with a root called chicory. This method of mixing coffee beans and chicory dates back to the American Civil War, when coffee was in short supply. To stretch their coffee supply a little longer, Southerns used to supplement their beans with local plants and herbs. The chicory coffee ended up tasting better than expected, giving the brew an extra nutty, chocolatey flavor. Luckily, they sell this chicory coffee nationwide in an iconic yellow tin, which means you can have a steaming mug of Cafe du Monde with your homemade beignets, wherever you make them.

A few tips for cooking with hot oil: Toss a tiny bit of dough into the oil to test the temperature—did the dough cook too quickly? Or barely brown at all? Based on how the small piece cooks, you can adjust the heat accordingly. You’ll know the beignets are done when the oil surrounding them stops bubbling. Once you take the beignets out of the hot oil, immediately place them on a paper towel to absorb any excess grease. (No one likes a soggy beignet.)

Traditional French-style beignets are usually served warm with a light layer of powdered sugar. But if you want to add your own twist to these delectable treats, feel free to add jam, chocolate sauce, hazelnut spread or maple syrup instead. 

Beignets

Beignets

Yield: 25-50 pieces
Prep: 2 hours, 20 minutes Cooking: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • ⅔ cup lukewarm water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons shortening, vegetable oil or bacon grease
  • 2 cups neutral oil
  • Powdered sugar 

Ground coffee with chicory (Cafe du Monde or any other brand of your choice)

Cooking Tools

Method

  1. Place the yeast in a small bowl with water and sugar and let sit for 10 minutes to “bloom.”
  2. In a medium sized bowl, combine milk, salt, flour, 3 tablespoons fat and the yeast mixture. Mix together using your hands. Once blended, transfer onto a clean surface and knead for at least 10 minutes until the dough becomes smooth.  
  3. Place the dough back in a medium sized bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set it  in a warm area and let the dough rise for about 2 hours. 
  4. Once risen, punch down the dough. Then roll the dough out to  ½ inch thickness. Cut dough into approximate 1-inch squares. A pizza slicer comes in handy here.
  5. Add 2 cups of oil in a small pot so that you have enough oil for the dough to float in. Heat to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Carefully drop the beignets into the hot oil. Do them in batches so you can flip them over while frying. Crowding the pot causes uneven cooking and difficulty getting the beignets out of the oil. 
  7. Once they turn a light golden brown, transfer the beignets onto a plate lined with paper towel. 
  8. Top with powdered sugar dusted through a screen. Enjoy with fruit, jam, or maple syrup and a fresh cup of coffee with chicory.

Coffee with Chicory

Coffee with Chicory

Yield: 1 serving
Prep: 5 mintes

Ingredients

Cafe du Monde ground coffee or another coffee with chicory

Water

Milk (optional)

Cooking Tools

Pour over cone and kettle (optional A)

Saucepan (option B)

Method

  1. Pour-over method: Bring 12 oz. water per desired serving to a boil in a kettle. Remove from heat and let rest for half a minute to cool slightly. Line a pour-over cone with a paper filter, then pour a bit of the water over the filter to moisten it. Add 4-5 tablespoons finely ground coffee to the filter; it should be about the texture of sand grains. Going slowly, pour off just enough water to soak the coffee grounds, then wait for the coffee to filter through for a moment. (This preps the grounds to absorb more water in the next step.) Now, add the rest of your water in stages, pouring slowly to keep the grounds saturated without overflowing as the coffee filters out the bottom. Pour into a mug and add milk to taste. Cafe du Monde is generally served as a cafe au lait, with a 1:1 proportion of milk to coffee. 
  2. Saucepan alternate: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan over a stove or a campfire. Remove from heat and add ½ cup ground coffee with chicory; stir to combine. Let steep for 2 to 4 minutes. (You may need to adjust the time depending on how strong you like your coffee, your current altitude, and the grind of the coffee you have.) Slowly pour 1 additional cup of cold water into the pan––this helps settle the grounds and stop the brewing process. Let sit for 1 additional minute to let the grounds sink to the bottom of the pan. Then carefully pour brewed coffee off the top into a mug and add milk to taste. Cafe du Monde is generally served as a cafe au lait, with a 1:1 proportion of milk to coffee.

Jon and Aubrey used the stove and cutting board from Camp Chef, a brand THOR recommends for easy campground cooking.