Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hot Pillows of Love topped with Powdered Sugar

If you know what I'm talking about in the title of this entry, chances are you're from Louisiana or you've at least heard of Cafe du Monde in Jackson Square, New Orleans. But for anyone who doesn't know, I'm talking about BEIGNETS! There isn't much better when they are hot out of the fryer and served with a steamy mug of hot chocolate or cafe au lait, if you're doing it Louisiana style. I was inspired to write about them when I read Shannon Lane's post on her travel blog about her recent trip there. Nothing better than the bittersweet feeling of a wave of nostalgia!

Shannon got me thinking about the old Coffee Call in Village Square off of College Drive. Village Square used to be THE shopping center in Baton Rouge, besides Cortana Mall, with all of the ritziest boutique stores. Its anchor store was a Sears where I'm pretty sure Santa Claus bought most of my Christmas presents including the swing set my sister and I got one year. According to mom, Santa starting assembling the swing set with a flask of whiskey and by the end there were lots of extra swing set parts left, but not much whiskey! I'm happy to report that the swing set never fell apart. There was also an A&P where folks minded their P's and Q's, A Steak and Ale where my Granny found a bug in her salad once, and it was the home of the first Blockbuster Video in town. We rented VHS tapes there - Sleeping Beauty and the Parent Trap were family favorites.

But, I mostly remember the original Coffee Call with it's powder blue painted walls, cool ceramic tile floors, ceiling fans, and white exposed light bulbs arranged in arches on the wall around the dining area looking like something right out of Mary Poppins. I half expected Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke to show up singing "Super-calla-blah-blah-blah-blah" in the sugar/fat induced delirium. It was usually busy, day or night, and the beignets were always fresh, hot, and messy. If they'd been sitting out too long, the kind folks who worked there would volunteer to bring some fresh hot ones out to you. If you ate them correctly, the sugar would be all over you by the time you'd finish, and your fingers would be sticky for at least a few hours afterward.

So, what the heck is a beignet anyway? Well, it's a pastry that is made with yeast, flour, and shortening. It's allowed to rise briefly, deep fried in hot oil, and topped off with as much powder sugar as possible. Think of it as the New Orleans version of fried dough. A lot of folks associate Cafe du Monde with beignets, but if you grew up in Baton Rouge, chances are you're pretty loyal to Coffee Call. I feel like it's somehow a little more authentic because the beignets always seem to be hot and fresh there, whereas Cafe du Monde has lost a little in quality because of the demands of the tourist trade. But as my Grandma Daniel might say, you can't fault those Yankees for not knowing good beignets!

Sadly, the original Coffee Call circa 1976, Baton Rouge's first coffee house, is now just a memory. It closed in 2004 and moved across the parking lot to a larger, more modern location. According to local news reports, they even had a parade from the old location to the new with much fanfare and ballyhoo in true Southern Louisiana style. One of my favorite personal memories is about the time we went after prom and took turns blowing powdered sugar all over each other's formal wear. A tuxedo looks especially terrible speckled with white, but it was really funny in retrospect. I'll miss the old place, but I'm looking forward to making more memories in their new location.

So, if you ever happen to be in Baton Rouge, check out the Coffee Call on College Drive. You can't miss it. It's right next to the Wal-Mart across from the Taco Bell.

Here is a recipe for beignets from that seems pretty good, but unless you have a deep fryer and lots of counter space, you might consider buying a plane ticket to Baton Rouge just to avoid the hassle!

French Quarter Doughnuts aka Beignets
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (approx. 105°)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup shortening, softened
  • oil for deep frying
  • powdered sugar
In large bowl, sprinkle yeast over the warm water; stir to dissolve and let stand for 5 minutes. Add sugar, salt, beaten eggs, and evaporated milk. Whisk or use electric mixer to blend thoroughly. Add 4 cups of the flour; beat until smooth. Add shortening; gradually blend in remaining flour. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours or overnight. Roll out on floured board to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2 to 3-inch squares. Deep fry at 360° for 2 to 3 minutes until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Serve hot with coffee.
Dough can cut and frozen, separated in container with waxed paper.

Makes 4 to 5 dozen.


  1. I was JUST talking to my mother about Coffee Call. I used to apply 2 lbs. of sugar to my serving and have 2 hot chocolates. MMM MMMMM!!!

  2. Thanks for the mention! The new Coffee Call is good and I hear Bobby Jindal stops buy every now and again. The new one has nothing on the original though. When you come back to Red Stick, we'll have to enjoy a few orders :)

  3. shannon - thanks for the invite to coffee call. i'd love to get your insight into blogging over hot chocolate and beignets. thanks for checking out my post.