Buttermilk Beignets – How to Prepare and Portion

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 21,341
    Professional pastry chef David Guas demonstrates how to prepare and portion buttermilk beignets.

    David Guas

    In September 2007, Pastry Chef David Guas exchanges his longtime corporate role for an entrepreneurial path that includes private consultation, boutique catering, cookbook authoring, and, eventually, his own retail bakery. Damgoodsweet Consulting Group, LLC, the irreverent name he has given his company, is the perfect description for all of his work. In the beginning, however, odds were against the native New Orleanian having a culinary career at all. His family expected him to become a doctor. It was clear to this young man, however, that becoming a chef was his calling and the only path he could ever consider. Fortunately for Guas, his family background actually helped him chase his dream, all the way to the nation’s capital where, for nearly ten years he was the Executive Pastry Chef of Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, and TenPenh restaurants. In the Guas family, all gatherings and entertainment centered around food. From a very early age, during visits from his Cuban relatives, the curious boy seemed always to be playing indoors and not outside with the other kids. In this family, it was not always the women taking charge in the kitchen. Guas’ first mentor, his grandfather, inspired and taught him that being in the kitchen did not make him any less of a man. “Abuelo” (grandfather) opened Guas’ eyes to appreciate the cuisine of his Cuban heritage. “When Abuelo was visiting, my lunch changed drastically and my classmates knew from a single whiff of my lunch bag who had packed it that day.” Guas has fond memories of the pressed Cuban sandwiches with extra pickles and mustard. Whenever Abuelo visited, he prepared a new Cuban dish for his family to taste. “If only I had written down the recipes, I would have my first cookbook already,” Guas laments. There was, in fact, a strong feminine influence as well, right in his own backyard, in the form of his grandmother from Amite, Louisiana. “Granny” could often be found in the kitchen “burning” flour and butter in an iron skillet and promising that it was “goin’ to be good eatin’.” She taught Guas to appreciate the fruits of Louisiana’s soil, cooking with seasonal blackberries, strawberries, and even wild berries from the back woods. “It was so much fun picking berries or visiting nearby fruit and vegetable stands with my cousins first thing in the morning,” remembers Guas. Unlike most native Louisianians, who used large amounts of sugar and butter in everything they cooked, Guas’ Granny stewed and puréed the fruits naturally, often blending them with savory herbs to flavor poultry and meats. Sunday morning breakfast was a ritualistic gathering, with buckwheat or cornbread pancakes and puréed fig preserves or fruit syrup, all natural and no sugar added. (But don’t think for a minute that Guas didn’t sneak any of the butter tucked away in the fridge, which was, after all, an acceptable sneak with Granny – because she had made it!) Unwittingly, the young Guas was learning techniques he would eventually incorporate into his future desserts. The base provided by Guas’ family was strong. Add to that a natural talent and a passion for updating timeless desserts, and you have a recipe for success. Guas doesn’t boast a formal culinary degree, but a few specialized cooking classes at a small culinary school in New Orleans taught him the basic, classical preparations, as well as certain cutting-edge techniques he needed to secure a job in a high-profile kitchen. As an associate pastry chef at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans with Executive Chef Jeff Tunks at the helm, Guas churned out thousands of desserts per week to the delight of locals and national critics alike. Tunks took notice of this talented young assistant and began courting him: Tunks was leaving New Orleans to open his own restaurant in Washington, DC, and he needed a pastry chef. Guas packed up his bags and went off to Washington. DC Coast opened in June 1998 to critical acclaim. TenPenh followed two years later in August 2000, to more of the same, and Guas became Executive Pastry Chef, splitting his time between the two restaurants. In September 2003, he drew deeply from his Cuban heritage to create Latin American- and Caribbean-inspired desserts for Ceiba. And two years after that, in September 2005, with the opening of Acadiana, Guas developed sophisticated interpretations of his hometown dessert favorites from beignets to Bananas Foster. During his years with Passion Food Hospitality, Guas’ desserts were recognized and praised by such publications as Food & Wine, Chocolatier, Santé, Cooking Light, Food Arts, Where Washington, Restaurant Digest, Restaurant Business, National Culinary Review, and Nation’s Restaurant News. In September 2003, Bon Appétit featured Guas as one of eight “Dessert Stars” in the country. In 2004, the fourth year he was nominated, Guas was named Pastry Chef of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. He is listed in The International Who’s Who of Chefs, and has appeared regularly on The Today Show, demonstrating his expertise on national television. Of Guas’ sweets, the restaurant critic of The Washington Post writes, “I have yet to find a single dessert I can say no to,” and the critic of Washingtonian magazine states emphatically that Guas’ desserts are “worth saving room for.” Very sweet, indeed.

    Hi, I am David Guas with Damgoodsweet Consulting Group based in Washington DC area. Were here to talk about Beignets. In order to make your Beignets. In order to make your Beignets, what were going to need, is weve used our milk portions, which is about three quarters of a cup of milk, and weve heated that up, brought it to a boil. It takes just about a minute or so. And here we have our buttermilk, which is one-and-a-half cups of buttermilk.

    And what were going to do is, again something called tempering, where were taking something hot and adding something cold. The important part in this particular procedure is that if you add the buttermilk to something that is too hot or too quickly, youll curdle it, which youll end up with a final product looking like cottage cheese. So, continually whisking the hot milk, well add our buttermilk, and what that does, is one, it doesnt allow us to heat the butter milk directly, but it warms up the entire mixture, because weve had our milk base already heated. And you see all were doing is, its about temperature. So, I am just going to check it with my finger, and its nice and warm. That way we know that its active in a perfect area to get the yeast started.

    Now, in this case, were using just about a pack-and-a-half of a dry yeast. You can use rapid yeast, rapid rise. Were adding that directly into the one mixture. Now, the important part is to check it with your finger like I did, to make sure that its not too hot. A mixture thats too hot can kill the yeast or something that its too cold, it can allow the yeast not to activate properly, and it will take a lot longer to proof our dough.

    Now, yeast always acts on being fed, and in this case with most things well feed it with sugar. So, weve added our teaspoon of sugar, granulated sugar. And thats all we have in there. Were going to go ahead and add this to our electric mixer. Now, if you dont have electric mixer at home, you can use a bowl, and what you would do is, you would have your liquid in that bowl, in the mixing bowl, and with a wooden spoon youd slowly add your dry ingredients, mixing it almost like a biscuit dough.

    So, once we have this in our mixer, were going to go ahead and add our baking soda to our bread flour, which is approximately a teaspoon of baking soda to five-and-a-half cups of bread flour. Now, you can add all your dry ingredients all at once, making sure that youre getting all of your dry ingredients in your bowl.

    Once all your flour is in, were going to go ahead and lock our mixer, and turn it on a low speed. What youre looking for in the dough is your final result, its going to be a very wet sort of sticky dough. You dont want it dry, and like a ball like a piece of dough or any kind of bread. Its going to be a very wet final product. And what were going to do once this is fully mixed, were going to put it into a bowl that weve greased with pan release, and were going to go ahead and let it proof in a warm dry place for one hour. Once its completely finished, were left with a dough similar to this after its been proved.

    So, once youre finished here in the mixing bowl, youre going to go to a warm dry place for one hour. Youre left with a proofed dough. Were going to go ahead and dust the work surface, a flat dry work surface, clean work surface with a little bit of the same flour. Its important to use the same flour thats in the recipe, so youre not mixing different flours, because even though this is just for working, it is also going to be part of the recipe eventually.

    So, you turn your dough out. And you can see how sticky it is, and thats what were looking for. Its going to ensure a nice, moist Beignet once its fried. So a little additional flour on top. I am going to just sort it to form a ball and then flip that back over and again, a little bit more flour. Once we have a nice flat product, Im going to just go ahead, and just roll this out approximately three-quarters-of-an-inch to half-a-inch in thickness. The beauty about this dough is you can go and portion it entirely, and layer it between parchment papers; which has been sprayed with pan release in refrigerator overnight. So, if you want to do this a night before and serve it for breakfast the following day, the dough will hold up just fine. But in this case, were just going to go ahead and portion and immediately drop into the hot oil. Now, the oil itself is at 350 degrees, and I use peanut oil. So, in between when your dough is out of the mixture and youve begun your proofing process, which takes an hour, its a good idea to go ahead and get your oil started.

    Now, on portioning, if you want them exact, you can use a ruler a yardstick. In this case, eyeballing it for your dinner party will work out just fine, depends on, if you want small ones or if you want them fairly large. Theyre great for pass order, parties, in that case we would make them a lot smaller, but the general shape is the square. So thats what weve portioned today, approximately one-and-a-half inch by one-and-a-half inch. Now, they are ready for the hot oil.

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