/Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

I know I’m not supposed to mess with a good thing… and one of the simpliciest definitions of a ‘good thing’ is fried dough with mountains of powdered sugar.  So, it takes some true nerve, true gall, true grit to stand before you with an alteration to the already perfect powdered sugar covered beignet.  

I know better… but I also know cheese… which, piled high enough and paired with black pepper, actually makes a tremendous compliment to fried dough. 

With that in mind, and with a generous amount of audacity, I bring you SAVORY BEIGNETS with grated parmesan cheese instead of powdered sugar, and enough black pepper and scallions to make these feel extra special.

  

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Here’s what you’ll need for these savory beignets.  

•  Flour and yeast.  

•  Salt is important, as is a good pinch of sugar to balance the savory elements.  

•  Browned butter – because if we’re going to use butter, why not brown it to nutty delicious? 

•  Beaten egg and whole milk to add much welcome richness to the dough. 

•  Mountains of grated Parmesan cheese (really, a lot is key) and fresh cracked black pepper.  

•  I think it’s also fun to add chopped green onions.  

I used an electric stand mixer to bring this dough together.  I think a mixer is the best way to go though you can make this dough by hand if you need.  Mixing by hand can sometimes mean that you add more flour to keep the dough from being too sticky so just keep an eye on your flour additions if mixing by hand.  

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

We’ll bring the yeast to life with a bit of warm water and a pinch of salt. 

Let the yeast mixture fluff and froth – that’s the yeast eating up the sugar and releasing gas.  This momentum will create that fluff in our beignets so if the yeast mixture doesn’t come to life try again with another batch of yeast and warm water before going forward with the recipe. 

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

While the yeast comes to life, combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Flour, a bit of sugar, salt, and a half teaspoon of baking powder for good measure. 

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Green onions, too!  We’ll give the batter a savory kick with both green onions and a good dose of fresh cracked black pepper. 

(If you find yourself using pre-ground fine black pepper, use less that you would this coarse stuff.) 

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

We’ll add the wet ingredients in layers.  

Beaten egg plus, melted and browned butter, plus whole milk.  

All of these fats will help create a rich and pliable dough.  

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Before the dough goes onto the stand mixer with the dough hook we’ll add a small handful of grated cheese and use a spatula to roughly mix the dough into a moist shag.  

Mix on low speed for several minutes, adding a bit more flour if ya need. Mix for 5 to 6 minutes until the dough takes shape around the dough hook and bounces back when pressed with an index finger. 

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Place that little baby dough ball into a lightly greased bowl, sprinkle with a bit of flour, cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest at a warm room temperature for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. 

Once the dough has doubled, topple it out onto a lightly floured counter, roll to 3/4-inch thick (give or take) and slice into 2-inch squares.  

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Allow the squares to pull while you heat 2-inches of canola oil in a deep skillet to about 360 degrees F.  

The right temperature oil is key – we want the beignets to both cook through and brown to golden at the same rate.  If the oil is too hot the outside will brown before the inside is cooked through.  If the oil isn’t hot enough, the beignets will soak up too much of the oil and resemble little oil pillows which… well, no one wants that.  

I use a fry thermometer to fry food items at a consistent rate.  It’s my humble suggestion.  

Before frying it’s also super helpful to line a rimmed baking sheet with a truly tremendous amount of grated parmesan cheese, and fresh cracked black pepper.  The beignets will go straight from the hot oil to the cheese line pan to be tossed and coated. 

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

Fried to golden and tossed in peppery cheese.  

Cacio e Pepe Beignets

These are a show-stopper of an appetizer.  I’ve served them at several gatherings and the reactions are always suspicion followed by obsession.  I think they’re best served with cold beer or crisp champagne though I can’t think of a bad way to serve them.  

Photos with my dear Jon Melendez

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons warm water (99 degrees F to 105 degrees F)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons, plus a pinch of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm browned butter
  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed slightly
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 1/2 cups to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, plus 2 tablespoons more for topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onion, plus more for garnish
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 2 (8 ounce) containers finely grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand-up mixer, whisk together the water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar. Let it rest for 5 minutes, until foamy. Add the browned butter, the warmed milk, and egg.
  2. Add 2 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, the salt, black pepper, baking powder, and green onions. Beat on low speed, adding more flour (up to 1 1/2 to 2 cups more) until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, sprinkle with a bit more flour, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest at a warm room temperature for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  3. Punch down the dough and dump it onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out into a roughly 16 x 12-inch rectangle and, using a pizza cutter, cut it into 2-inch squares. Cover lightly with plastic wrap.
  4. In a medium saucepan fitted with a deep-fry thermometer and set over medium heat, heat about 2 inches of oil to 360degrees F.
  5. Spread a generous amount of grated cheese and fresh cracked pepper onto a rimmed baking sheet. Working in batches of about four, gently lower the beignets into the hot oil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes total, until golden brown on each side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them directly to the cheese mixture and then dust them with them with even more cheese immediately. Let the oil return to 360 degrees before each batch and repeat with the remaining beignets. Sprinkle with chopped green onions and enjoy immediately! These are best enjoyed the day they are made! What a time to be alive.

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