Mardi Gras 2010 is tomorrow, February 16th, and whether you’re celebrating in the streets of the historic French Quarter or throwing a small party at home, one Mardi Gras “must” is piping hot beignets, piled high with powdered sugar.

The powdery pillow-shaped doughnuts, made famous by the French Market’s Café du Monde, are as synonymous with a New Orleans-style Mardi Gras as jazz and beads. Serving homemade beignets is a delicious way to incorporate traditional Mardi Gras ‘flavor’ into your celebration.

The secret to this southern treat, according to Café du Monde, is simple. It’s the oil. Café du Monde lets us in on their secret. They use only 100 percent cottonseed oil, which is very neutral in flavor, and won’t overpower the simple sweetness of the beignet. Cottonseed oil is America’s original vegetable oil. It is naturally trans fat-free and a popular oil for many southern fried foods. Consumers can purchase the oil at Target and various sporting goods stores, including Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sportsman’s Warehouse.

Cottonseed oil is ideal for preparing beignets because it is capable of reaching very high temperatures without burning. Arriving at a high temperature, around 370 degrees, is a crucial step, according to Café du Monde. They recommend using a count test to determine if the cottonseed oil is hot enough. If the dough rises to the top of the oil within eight seconds, it’s ready. To achieve the desired billowy effect, scale back the beignet size.

Café du Monde uses giant fryers and gallons of oil. At home, most cooks use a smaller skillet and a smaller quantity of oil, which together hold less heat. With smaller beignets, the heat reaches the inside more easily, making them perfectly light and puffy.

Searching for Café du Monde Beignet Mix, try your local Publix Supermarket or go online to www.cafedumonde.com.

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One Response to “Celebrate Mardi Gras Big Easy Style”

  1. Clair Beaver says:

    Thanks for the Beignet tips. I thought about contacting Cafe du Monde and asking why my beignets didn’t always turn out like theirs even though I use their mix. I will try the cottonseed oil next time. Already do them pretty small due to pan size like you thought.

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With a Southern Twist is all about good living in today's South. A true Southerner, the author's passions include food, home design, travel, restaurants, shopping, and entertaining. It is a fun blog about one of her most beloved regions of the country, shared through personal experiences.