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All About Fritters, Doughnuts, Beignets and Other Fried Desserts
By Renee Shelton

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fritters doughnts donuts beignets fried desserts

We love our fried desserts. They are crispy, sweet, and warm. Here is a run down on the different types of fried desserts, namely fritters, doughnuts, and beignets.

Beignets and Fritters

A beignet is a fried dessert, and are more akin to fritters than doughnuts are. Recipes for beignets can range from a doughnut-like, cut-out fried dessert to a batter-coated fried fruit dessert.

If you look up the word beignet in a French dictionary, you'll get 'fritter, doughnut.' Similarly, when the word fritter is looked up in the Larousse Gastronomique, the French word 'beignet' is right next to it, with the definition:

Fritter (beignet): A preparation consisting of a piece of cooked or raw food coated in batter and fried in deep fat or oil. Other types of fritters can be made using choux pastry, yeast dough, or waffle batter...The principle of the fritter is simple, but the dishes vary enormously in shape and taste and range from regional specialties to classical dishes. (477)

Batter recipes for beignets and fritters that contain a bit of beer for the liquid gives the finished dessert a slightly yeasty flavor, which make it a perfect compliment for fruits such as apple, apricot, fig, pineapple, banana and cherry. Fruit fritters can also be macerated in sugar and/or a liqueur like kirsch, rum or Calvados, (depending on the fruit) before battering. Drain the fruit thoroughly before dipping in the batter and frying.

Dusting or No Dusting?

Fritters and beignets are traditionally dusted with powdered sugar before serving. They can also be sprinkled with grated chocolate or tossed with granulated sugar. The type of batter or fruit used can help decide if a coating will be used, too. If the batter is unsweetened, or if the fruit is especially tart, then a sweet dusting may be called for. If the fruit is extra sweet or if the batter is sweetened, then a dusting may not be necessary for flavor. Although, typically speaking, something dusted in sugar or finely grated chocolate is always more appealing.

Doughnuts / Donuts

Doughnuts are fried desserts made from a type of dough and typically rolled and cut out. The two types of doughnuts depend on the type of dough: yeast based 'risen' or quick bread 'cake'. They can be fried and served on their own, filled with a cream or fruit filling, sprinkled or dusted with a type of sugar, or glazed. Typical shapes include rings, twists, doughnut holes (tiny balls), or round shapes that are easy to fill.

Other Fried Desserts

Other fried desserts include:

  • Churros - Mexican/Spanish dessert made from choux pastry
  • Zeppoli - Italian doughnut holes sometimes served with a filling
  • Funnel cakes - Batter dropped from a funnel to make a pasta-spaghetti-resembling fried dessert
  • Sopaipillas - Southwestern crispy puffs drizzled with honey and often flavored with cinnamon or honey
  • Buñuelos - Mexican fried crisp pastry dusted with cinnamon sugar
  • Rosettes - Fried pastry made from a thin batter and using a special rosette iron
  • Crullers - Twisted doughnuts
  • Cannolis Italian fried pastry formed around a cylinder mold and filled with a sweet ricotta filling

Below are several fried desserts to try out. For further reading:

Below are batters for fritters, beignets and other fried desserts, and doughnuts using yeast.

Beignet Batter
This is for making fried beignets that are fruit filled. Make the batter and coat fruits same as using a fritter batter. This contains both milk and beer giving it a slightly yeasty flavor with a good coating. Great for all fruits.

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup beer

Measure the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Stir with a whisk. Add in the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Use for dipping cut fruits. Dust with powdered sugar if desired and serve immediately.


Fritter Batter
This recipe uses self rising flour and browns well with a good flavor. Serve immediately. Good for both sweet and savory applications.

1 cup self rising flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Oil as needed for frying

Measure the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Stir with a whisk. Add in the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Use for dipping cut fruits, vegetables and meats. Serve immediately after frying.


Cognac and Apricot Fritters
Use your favorite fritter batter for this recipe. Adapted from the Larousse Gastronomique.

  • Macerate pitted apricots in cognac and a little bit of sugar for 30 minutes. Drain, dip in batter and fry until golden and done. Remove to drain, and serve with powdered sugar dusted over the top.


Apple Cinnamon Fritters
Cinnamon is added to a sweet fritter batter, and mixed with chopped fresh apples.

1 cup flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups chopped apples

Oil as needed for frying

Mix dry ingredients together. Add the wet and mix smooth. Stir in the apples and drop by spoonfuls into hot oil. Fry until golden on all sides, turning over half way through cooking. Remove to drain, and serve with a liberal dusting of powdered sugar.


Traditional Beer Batter
This makes a thin batter for coating. If a thicker batter is needed, add a little more flour when mixing. Allow the mixture to rest about an hour before using. Serve immediately after frying.

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup beer

Oil as needed for frying

Measure the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, starting with 1 cup flour. Stir with a whisk. Add in the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. If a thicker batter is needed, add slightly more flour. Allow to rest up to an hour. Use for dipping cut fruits, vegetables and meats. Serve immediately after frying.


Yeast Raised Doughnuts
This is an easy recipe, and doesn't produce a massive amount of dough like other yeast doughnut recipes. Gives great color when fried, and isn't too sweet. Shake in granulated sugar after frying, and serve fresh and warm. This dough is soft; resist adding more flour as this produces a wonderful, tender yeast bread.

1 pkg yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup warmed water
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 egg, beaten

Oil as needed for frying

Sprinkle yeast and sugar over warmed water. Stir and allow to foam. Take the milk and scald, add in the shortening and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool to warm. Place the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and stir. Mix the egg to the milk mixture and add to the dough. Add in the yeast mixture and mix the dough together. Scrape sides and place a piece of plastic wrap over the top, and allow to proof until doubled in size. Turn out dough onto a well floured surface, and punch down. Sprinkle with more flour to prevent sticking and roll out to desired thickness. Cut out doughnuts with a doughnut cutter or other shaped cutter, or simply cut into squares with a knife. Place onto a sheet pan covered with parchment paper that has a generous amount of flour to prevent sticking. Allow to rise, and fry in oil until browned and done.


Sugar Puffs
A favorite at our house, this fried dessert is made with beaten egg whites. I was experimenting with different fritter batters for the Fritter Dégustation, and found this is perfect served on its own. When spooned into the hot oil, they puff up and create perfect 'puffs'. The texture is light and airy with a tender bite. These are best served fresh. When cooled just enough to handle, dip the tops in granulated sugar and serve warm. Very addictive.

2 egg yolks
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon sugar
2 egg whites, beaten stiff

Oil as needed for frying

Mix the yolks, milk and oil together and add to the flour and sugar. Fold in the whites to the yolk mixture. Take tablespoonfuls of batter and drop into the oil. Allow to brown on one side then flip to brown the other. Remove to absorbent paper, allow to cool slightly and dip the tops in granulated sugar. Serve immediately.


Buttermilk Doughnuts
This is a recipe for sweet doughnuts with no yeast. Serve warm dusted with sugar.

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
5 tablespoons shortening, melted

Oil as needed for frying

Measure and stir the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat the eggs, sugar, buttermilk and shortening and add to the dry ingredients. Mix well and turn out onto a floured surface. Cut out with a doughnut cutter or other shaped cutter and transfer to a well-floured baking sheet; let rest 15 minutes. Fry in hot oil at 375°F until browned and done, turning over halfway through cooking. Remove to absorbent paper, allow to cool slightly and serve with powdered or granulated sugar.


References used:

Recipes from the files of Renee Shelton.

Dubois, Marguerite-Marie. Larousse's French-English English-French Dictionary. Revised ed. New York: Pocket, 1971.

Herbst, Sharon Tyler. Food Lover's Companion. New York: Barron's, 2001.

Lang, Jenifer Harvey, ed. Larousse Gastronomique. The New American Edition of the World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia. New York: Crown, 1988.

"Fried Dough" article from Wikipedia. Site accessed 2 Feb, 2008.

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