Caveman beignets

- 1 packet yeast, bloomed in 1/4 cup water - 3 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour - 1 teaspoon salt - 1/4 cup granulated sugar - 1 1/4 cups whole milk - 3 beaten eggs (room temperature) - 1/4 cup melted (unsalted) butter - (optional) 1 teaspoon wheat gluten - extra flour for hands and kneading surface - canola or cottonseed oil for frying - powdered sugar for dusting - cafe au lait for dunking
Blossom the yeast in a small cup, using water between about 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit. Prep the dough (typically the day beforehand): mix the dry ingredients (except for the powdered sugar) in a big metal bowl, then add the wet ingredients, including the yeast and butter. (Addition of wheat gluten will make the fritters more airy but a little tougher -- it's your choice to do this or not) Mix to combine into a dough, cover with a clean towel, and either rise for an hour at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge. When you are ready to eat the fritters, get out the flour and sprinkle it over the surface (use a cutting board or a big piece of wax paper, don't use your countertop), wet your hands, and coat them with flour too. Gather up the dough in the bowl and put it on the floured surface you just prepared. Knead the dough a couple times (not too much or you will make it too tough), then roll it out about 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick. If you do not own a rolling pin, a wine bottle dusted in flour is fine. Cut some squares 2-3 inches a side (or triangles 3+ inches a side) and set to rest (final rising stage). Meanwhile, heat a quart or more of oil to 365-375 degrees (a candy thermometer is cheap and useful for this purpose). The more oil you use, the less it will cool off when you add each fritter, but the more it will cost. I use a 1.5qt pot and fry them one at a time. If you own a fryer, set it for 375 degrees. Get a cooling rack (or steal one from your toaster oven, bbq grill, or screen door) and put paper towels underneath it for draining. After about 10 minutes, the oil should be up to temperature and the pieces of dough should have risen noticeably. Use a slotted spoon to put each one into the frying oil -- if you are using a small pot, you'll fry them one at a time. After about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, or once the fritter has puffed up and turned golden brown, flip it over and fry the other side (another 1 to 2 minutes). Remove with the slotted spoon and drain on the cooling rack, so that any excess oil drips onto the paper towels underneath. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve immediately. Traditionally served with hot cafe au lait (scalded milk + pot-extracted coffee and chicory), the fritters are also tasty with berry preserves or syrup.