The best things in life are …………………………………………………………………………fried. It’s true. Maximum guilt is intrinsically linked to maximum pleasure. Sex is good, but sex in an elevator is better. You may feel guilty that old Mrs. Crotchet and her poodle caught you doing it doggie style when the lift doors opened too soon, but that makes it all the more memorable. And devilish. Which is equally true of these Halloween-themed beignets. They are Halloween-themed because they’re made of pumpkin and I served them with black garlic-maple butter. Note the trifecta of sweet sin:
- They’re delicious
- The black garlic wards off ghouls
- They get down with their orange and black selves
But I’m going to back up because there is a chance that you don’t know what a beignet is. A beignet is a fancy donut. I know you thought a doughnut was a fancy donut, and it is. The order is this: donut, then doughnut then beignet, with beignet being the fanciest. You have to eat this type of donut with your pinkie out, whereas a plain old donut is eaten clutched between two unmanicured, paw-like hands. You pair a donut with a flask of moonshine. You pair a beignet with a snifter of chartreuse and a navy beret. Doughnuts are somewhere in the middle. They’re for people who oscillate between political parties and adopt British accents after they’ve vacationed in the UK for three days. They serve doughnuts in purgatory, donuts in jail, and beignets in penthouse hotel rooms in Dubai.
Now that we’re clear on the distinctions, I should explain further that beignets are often square. Usually they’re just fried choux pastry (also called pets de nonnes or farts of nuns) but they are often yeasted as well. This is a good time to bring up the fact that the word “beignet” means “bump” in French. Can you think of other places you might see yeasty bumps? If you answered “what is ladybits for 1,000, Alex,” you are correct. The difference between these yeasty bumps and those adjacent to the anatomy of loose women, however, is that they don’t have holes. This also distinguishes them from donuts, although some doughnuts have been known to be hole-less also (maple bars, anyone?).
I filled these particular beignets with Mexican Coke-braised pork belly, and so they’re round rather than square. It’s much harder to fill a square. The logic behind braising pork belly in Mexican Coke is as follows:
Pork belly is the bees knees. It’s so good I bring it in the shower with me and rub it all over my body like an unctuous loofah. Mexican Coke is also straight dope. I mean the kind in a bottle, silly (but I’ve heard the other stuff is nice as well). I know that sometimes when you put two rights together it makes a wrong, but in this instance I cancelled that out by adding a bunch of other tasty shit in the mix like black garlic, Campari tomatoes and veal stock. Sure enough, my alchemy worked out because “cokebelly” as I’m dubbing it, is basically good enough that you’d eat it even if you had to lick it off David Hasselhoff’s shriveled happy stick.
The other really important part of this dish is the black garlic and maple butter component. You see I had to do something black so that I could successfully claim the Halloween card, and black garlic butter fit the bill because it adds yet another level of decadence to the dish. I mean, drenching fried, battered pork belly in additional butter? That’s three different types of fats in one mouthful! Can you think of anything more luscious?
Black garlic is nifty because it’s fermented. This takes the acerbic edge off and softens the flavor so it’s more earthy and sweet than a plain garlic clove. You could actually eat a clove of black garlic and then go play tonsil hockey with George Clooney and he wouldn’t mind, as long as you’re pretty, preferably Italian, and have nice boobies.
You know how people are always blathering on about how baking is an exact science? Coincidentally these people tend to be the same people who malign modernist cooking by spewing unfounded vitriol. It’s ironic because baking and modernist cooking have a lot in common in terms of precision measuring and things taking a really long time to perfect. They also share many ingredients, such as isomalt, invert sugar, specialty flours, fondant, xanthan gum and more. The dirty little secret of baking, however, is that it’s not so exact after all.
Unless the person who wrote the recipe you’re following lives in your house, there is going to be some variance in the final outcome. This is because of altitude, humidity, and cooking implements such as the type of oven or fryer. I made these beignets with bread flour and Italian 00 flour based on the measurements below, but in terms of flour for beignets, always add just a little bit less than a recipe calls for, then knead, as too little flour is remedied by adding more, whereas too much results in excessively chewy beignets. You could also probably use all purpose flour with no real ill effects if you don’t want to search out specialty flours, I just find I like the suppleness that 00 flour adds.
So if you’re looking for a pinkie-out recipe to add to your Halloween repertoire that will most certainly bring all the ghosts to the graveyard, this is it, lovelies. Just don’t kiss your mother with your greasy, satisfied lips right after. She might try to make out with you for the flavor, and that would just be weird.
Pumpkin Sourdough Beignets with Mexican Coke-Braised Pork Belly and Black Garlic Butter
Makes 20-30 beignets (depending how large you roll them)
Takes 1 hour active time, 3 hours inactive time
For the Beignet Dough
- 1.5 c bread flour
- 1.5 c 00 flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 c 100% saturation sourdough starter
- 1 tsp rapid rise yeast
- 1 c pumpkin puree (from a roasted pumpkin is better than canned, obviously, but you weren’t going to be that lazy anyway, right?)
- ¼ c buttermilk
- At least one quart of oil (peanut or canola) for deep-frying the beignets (I do this in a wok). You may need more oil if you’re using a deep-fryer.
- Confectioners’ sugar (optional, for dusting)
For the Pork Belly Filling
- 1 lb quality pork belly, cut into 3 slabs (I use Berkshire Kurobuta)
- ¼ c maple syrup
- 1 bottle Mexican Coke
- 8 black garlic cloves, halved
- 6 Campari tomatoes, halved
- ¼ c soy sauce
- 1.5 c chicken or veal stock
For the Black Garlic Butter
- 1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, softened
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 6 cloves black garlic
- Salt, to taste (I use 1 tsp of black Hawaiian lava salt)
- ¼ tsp black food coloring (optional)
For the dough
- Put all ingredients except one c of flour in the bowl of a stand mixer and blend with dough hook until well-combined, about two minutes. Allow to rest for five minutes so that the flour has a chance to relax. With the mixer on medium-low speed, begin to add the remaining cup of flour, adding just enough to go past the batter stage and form a loose dough. Once you’ve incorporated the right amount of flour, knead for an additional five minutes. Place dough in lightly-oiled bowl covered with a tea towel. Leave at room temperature for at least three hours and up to eight.
Meanwhile, make the pork belly filling:
- Par boil the pork belly in a medium saucepan for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool on a wire rack.
- Meanwhile, heat the maple syrup with ¼ c Coke until it becomes syrupy. Add the pork belly skin-side down and cook until it is glazed in syrup and deep caramel colored. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to boil.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 1.5 hours. Remove lid and simmer for an additional 45 minutes or until the meat is tender and falls apart.
- Remove meat from liquid and further reduce liquid over medium heat until ½ c remains.
- Shred the pork belly and add the cooking liquid. Combine and allow to cool completely before filling the beignets.
To fill and fry the beignets:
- Begin heating oil to 325°F. Punch down the beignet dough and create a floured work surface. Pull beignet dough off in pingpong ball-sized chunks. Flatten the dough between your two hands (see illustrations). Add a tablespoon of filling to the dough and wrap the dough around the filling to form a ball. Roll the ball in your fingers for a few minutes to smooth the part that was pinched together, otherwise it will separate during frying. Repeat with remaining beignets. Formed beignets will keep in the refrigerator for two days.
- Fry beignets at 325°F for two minutes per side, or until deep golden brown-orange.
- Dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired
To make the black garlic butter:
- Place all ingredients in the container for an immersion blender. Puree with immersion wand until smooth. You can pipe this butter for a pretty effect.