European coffee and coffee service have spoiled me so much that no American cup of cafe shall ever pass through these lips again. A bright, sweet cup of espresso is usually accompanied by a delicate pastry of the golden and buttery variety. I personally preferred the fried fritters of delicate dough filled with creamy custard, called fritas. This instantly reminded me of childhood vacations spent in New Orleans, at the Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter, snacking on golden fried beignets and sipping cafe au lait. Yes, such an idyllic childhood. As defined by Wikipedia, a beignet "refers to a French doughnut being a pastry made from deep-fried dough (either a choux or a yeast dough) and sprinkled with confectioner's sugar." The following is my take on coffee and doughnuts, using both coconut and lime as heavy-hitters in this recipe.
One last thing, there is nothing that beats the smell of fried sweet dough and hot percolating coffee on a Sunday morning.
COFFEE & DOUGHNUTS:
COCONUT BEIGNETS WITH LIME SUGAR
1/2 package yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp vegetable shortening
3/4 cup warm coconut milk (110 degrees)
1/2 tsp coconut extract**
3 tbsp sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 egg, beaten
2 cups flour
vegetable oil for frying
grated zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups strong brewed coffee, hot
2 cups whole milk, hot
In a bowl, mix well the first seven ingredients. Add the flour and salt in two batches. Mix until a dough forms, and continue kneading for 2 minutes. Form the dough into a smooth ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.
Combine the lime zest and sugar in the food processor and pulse until it is well incorporated. The sugar will become a lovely light green. Pour into a shallow bowl.
Place the dough onto a floured surface and roll out into a cylinder, 1 inch in diameter. With a sharp knife or pastry cutter, cut the dough into 14-16 pieces of dough, depending on what size you prefer (keep in the mind the beignets will expand slightly as they fry later). With your palms, shape each piece into a ball and place back into the oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oil in a pot to 350 deg F. Fry the beignets, 3-4 at a time until golden brown and crispy on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Immediately transfer to the bowl of lime sugar and roll to cover each beignet completely.
For the cafe au lait, mix coffee with milk.