Timesaving tip: Make dough ahead of time and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes about 30 beignets or 10 servings
1. In a stand mixer bowl, stir together yeast, 1/2-cup warm water and 1-teaspoon sugar. Let mixture sit for 10 minutes.
2. Fit mixer with dough hook. Add eggs, evaporated milk, salt and granulated sugar to mixer bowl.
3. Heat 1 cup water to temperature and add butter or shortening. Stir until butter or shortening melts. Add to mixer bowl.
4. At low speed, mix in 4 cups of flour until smooth. Add remaining 3 cups of flour and mix well. Dough will be sticky.
5. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and form dough into a ball. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours (preferably overnight).
6. Pour oil into heavyweight pot or Dutch oven to a depth of 3 inches. Heat oil to 360 degrees F (180 degrees C). For best results, use a cooking thermometer to monitor the temperature.
7. On lightly-floured pastry board or other surface, roll-out piece of dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Use a sharp knife to cut dough into 2-1/2-inch squares.
8. When the oil is hot, carefully slide the dough squares slowly into the hot oil, 2 or 3 at a time. Fry about 2 minutes on each side or until beignet is puffy and golden brown on both sides. Use tongs to flip each beignet once or twice for even browning. When it starts to puff, the beignet will rise to the surface of the oil. If the beignet doesn't rise, the oil is probably not hot enough. Check your thermometer and bring the oil up to temperature before frying more beignets.
9. With a slotted spoon or skimmer, remove beignets from the oil and drain briefly on paper towels or a wire rack. Sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar and serve immediately. If you're cooking for a crowd, keep freshly made beignets warm for up to 30 minutes in a 200 degree F oven.
Adapted from "New Orleans Beignet" recipe from Southern Living