Saturday, November 28, 2009

009.Cafe Du Monde Beignet Mix French Doughnuts


Produced in New Orleans
Claim: "Original French Market Coffee Stand"
Ingredients: Enriched wheat flour, enriched barley flour, milk, buttermilk, salt, sugar, leavening (baking powder, baking soda, and/or yeast), natural and artificial flavoring.
$2.99 for 28 ounces

Found this mix on the top shelf on the baking aisle, above the other flours. (Top shelf in a grocery store and top shelf at a well-stocked bar, of course, reflect quite different strategies.) I bought it because of the line drawing of Saint Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square that towers in the background. It and other memories of the Big N.O. the box evoked.

Beignets, tradition goes, are an Acadian creation. Proper beignets, according to the box, are fried in cottonseed oil, flavored with powdered sugar and served alongside a cafe au lait. They are nothing more than a doughnut and must be prepared as deftly.

Hubert Fernandez bought the Cafe Du Monde from Fred Koeniger in 1942. Since, the Fernandez family has franchised more than 50 cafe locations, all of them in Japan. (Another handful of cafes are scattered about the New Orlean's metro area.)

The franchising page of the Web site carries on almost apologetic, we-told-you-so tone about it, meant to warn people off the apparently dodgy idea of bringing another Du Monde into the world. Invariably, the warning goes, such bright ideas are usually borne after a morning's coffee and beignets among hordes of tourists dropping dollars on doughnuts.

"Each Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand," it goes, "has required a substantial capital outlay that the Fernandez family has been able to shoulder because of its business diversification over the years. Part of the Fernandez family's reluctance to franchise is that an individual would be ill prepared to shoulder the financial risk of opening an unsuccessful Cafe Du Monde. We do not wish to place another family in this position."

I brightened the boys' Cheerio morning by telling them beignets were on the rise. They dug them whole-heartedly, each wolfing four apiece. (They'd eat each other, I believe, if dredged extravagantly enough in powdered sugar.) The box instructs the cook to roll out the dough to one-eighth inch. My first go with beignets proved that more like a sixteenth is required to get the dough to puff. Most of my beignets fell rather flat.

And so, hence, my attempt to cook up a lost memory.

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