I tasted my first beignet in New Orleans. One minute, I was puffy-faced and bleary-eyed from breaking up with my first boyfriend; the next minute, I was on a road trip. My father’s idea. I thought he’d lost his mind, that I would spend the whole time crying and making the world miserable with my misery. But there wasn’t time. He signed us up for every tour in New Orleans: a French Quarter walking tour, Garden District trolley tour, historic tours, bus tours, voodoo tours, riverboat tours.

I was so busy that I forgot to be miserable.

Our last morning there, we stopped at Cafe Du Monde and ordered breakfast: Cafe Au Lait with a basketful of beignets. Deep-fried squares of dough baptized in powdered sugar. A transcendent indulgence beyond the tyranny of grams and calories and Points.

I came to New Orleans heartbroken and empty. I left happy. And very, very full.

What I learned was the importance of celebrating in advance. Not just having faith that bad times won’t last but celebrating the good times on the way. That’s why I made these Apple Cider Beignets with Butter-Rum Caramel Sauce. Freshly sliced apple rings dipped into a sparkling apple cider batter, fried and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Oh, and the sauce … The perfect accompaniment to times we know will get better. And the perfect representation of all four food groups: butter, sugar, liquor and fried. I mean fruit.

Apple Cider Beignets with Butter-Rum Caramel Sauce

Adapted from “Gourmet” (October 2007)

    Sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    Beignets:

  • About 8 cups vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples
  • 1 3/4 cups self-rising cake flour, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup sparkling apple cider
  • confectioner’s sugar for dusting
  1. For Sauce: Heat sugar in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber. Stir in butter, water, rum, vinegar and a pinch of salt (caramel will harden and steam vigorously). Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel has dissolved. Add cream and bring to a boil, stirring, then remove from heat. Cool to warm.
  2. For Beignets: Preheat oven to 250°F with rack in middle. Set a cooling rack in a large shallow baking pan.
  3. Heat 2 inches oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat to 375°F.
  4. Meanwhile, peel apples and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut out core with cutter, then pat apple rings dry.
  5. Put 1 1/4 cups flour in a large shallow bowl and make a well in center. Beat egg in a small bowl with a fork, then stir in cider and 1 tablespoon oil and pour into well. Stir with fork until a lumpy batter forms.
  6. Working in batches of 3 or 4, dredge apple rings in remaining 1/2 cup flour, shaking off excess, then dip in batter to coat, letting excess drip off, and fry, gently turning over once with a slotted spoon, until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes total per batch. Transfer to rack and keep warm in oven. Return oil to 375°F between batches.
  7. Just before serving, dust warm beignets with confectioner’s sugar. Stir sauce, then serve on the side.