I learned to fry in a deep sided pot from my Hawaiian friend, Malia. I remember thinking she was brilliant when she showed me this. Before I had fried things at home in a shallow frying pan and oil would splatter everywhere. In a deep sided pot there is no mess. I use a 7-quart stock pot. Think of the pot you would use to make soup in or a pot you would boil spaghetti in. Then I use a spider to get the beignets out of the oil. You could use a slotted spoon but a frying spider works best. I roll them in cinnamon sugar immediately after I fry them and serve them warm.
You can make the dough a day in advance and put it in ziplock bags in in the fridge. Remember that heat kills yeast but the cold just slows down the rising process. So be sure to always use lukewarm water and not hot water. Also, use regular yeast not rapid-rise yeast.
2 sticks (1 cup or a 1/2 pound) of butter, melted, cooled to lukewarm and set aside
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus 3-4 cups for kneading later)
1 package or 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3 cups (1 29-ounce can) pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon nutmeg, optional
1 tablespoon ground ginger (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, slightly beaten
Canola oil for frying
Cinnamon and sugar for rolling beignets (I usually combine a cup of sugar with a half cup of cinnamon.)
1. Melt the butter and set aside
2. In a large bowl place the five cups of flour. Make a well in the middle of the flour and put in the yeast and a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Add 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Let it sit for a minute until the yeast starts to bubble a bit.
3. In a separate bowl combine the pumpkin, all the spices sugar and eggs and combine well.
4. Combine the pumpkin spice mixture with the flour mixture and stir to combine.
5. Put a decent amount of flour on a large wooden cutting board or a clean surface that you can use to knead the dough. (At least a half a cup of flour on the cutting board then the dough and then another half cup of flour on top of the dough.). The dough will be very wet and sticky when you begin. I recommend using a pastry scraper to fold the dough over on itself until you can knead it with just your hands. Remember that dough will be tough if you add the flour all at once, so you want to incorporate the flour little by little. Using the scraper keep folding the dough over itself and keep sprinkling flour as you go.
6. Then use your hand to fold over the dough and knead it. (I suppose I should take step-by-step photos to show the kneading process of folding the dough over and then pushing on it with the flat palms of your hand. That will be coming soon!)
7. Begin heating the canola oil. Start on medium heat. Do not let it get too hot or it will ruin the oil and you will not be able to use it. Use a deep frying thermometer and heat the oil to 350 degrees. (If you don't have a thermometer you can tell if the oil is ready if what you are trying to fry floats. If it sinks to the bottom the oil isn't hot enough. If it floats it is just right. If it browns too quickly and it is still raw inside the dough is too hot. Play with it and experiment and cut a few in half to get a feel for the correct temperature.)
8. Set the dough in an oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap or a damp cloth to rise. (Or put it in plastic ziplock bags and refrigerate to use the next day.). After the dough has risen for about 45 minutes, take it out and cut it in half. Roll out half the dough to about a half-inch thick. Cut the dough with a sharp knife or pizza wheel into little squares. (Remember they will double in size when you fry them so cut them smaller than you think. I usually aim for a 1-inch square.) Cover the cut squares and let them rise for at least ten minutes while you oil gets to the correct temperature.
9. Line a cooking sheet with paper towels and after frying the beignets for a few minutes (size will determine the frying time) then transfer them to a paper towel then immediately into the cinnamon sugar to toss and coat on all sides. (You can also make a pumpkin spice glaze with powdered sugar if you prefer that. I like cinnamon sugar.) Serve warm.