Spiced Pumpkin and Bourbon Beignets with Vanilla Bean Sugar and Spiked and Sparkling Norman Mulled Cider for Bon Appétit

RECIPE: Spiced Pumpkin and Bourbon Beignets

Spiced Pumpkin Beignets

Spiced Pumpkin Beignets

Today in London, all of a sudden, it was November. The wet leaves swirled in the wind, and I bit into my favorite Godiva pumpkin truffle that my parents had left for me on their last visit here. And as I walked up Kensington High Street, the Indian summer finally gave out, and it was cold.

I love November. Maybe it’s because my twenty-seventh birthday is lurking around a corner. And with that brings the inevitable promise of cake, which I do not take lightly. A birthday should never break its promises. But I think also that Halloween is the hors d’oeuvre in a great two-month banquet. And if you love food, you can’t help but wake up on November 1, bloated from Halloween candy, thrilled to start the feast.

I think there is something about the holidays in your twenties. You are old enough to be away—sometimes, as I am, very, very far away. Too far away to come home. In some ways, as young adults, we try to distance ourselves from the stodgy mud of our pasts, thinking exuberantly that we finally get to do it our way. And then, after one too many Thanksgivings spent eating pumpkin ravioli and turkey meatballs, you realize that childhood was really just yesterday, and you miss probably more than anyone the great laden tables popping with stuffings and birds and ciders.

My mother, for instance, used to greet me everything Thanksgiving break with a pumpkin pie. It is maybe my favorite food. For all the high-falutin’ claims that usually come to mind—like rose macarons and truffled mac and cheese and lobster—I remind myself every year around this time that pumpkin pie is what I wait all year long for. I would come home and there would be two pumpkin pies in the fridge: one large one for Thursday, and one slightly smaller one for Wednesday night. It was all mine, and I would sit, exhaling the frenzy of school, on the couch with a fork and a television. It was a match to the death; I always won, and the pumpkin pie was always devoured.

Now, here in London, where pumpkin pie is something of an oddity, cans of pumpkin are in limited supply. It feels like we Americans are on war rations. The cans are priced at 2.50 GBP, and great neon signs read: PUMPKIN! Get it while you still can. I bought eight cans.

When Bon Appétit asked me to create a holiday dessert, I knew it had to be pumpkin. Nothing else is quite so special. Peppermint, gingerbread. You can eat them whenever it suits your fancy. But pumpkin—you have to wait for it. It is precious as it is common. I love its Americana, its richness, its warmth. It is a call to the table, the period at the end of a very long and filling run-on sentence.

That is why I chose pumpkin. But why beignets? Firstly, because the holidays are about family. And though mine is currently across an ocean, my French relatives, including Maman, think pumpkin pie is useful only for hurling at people in old-fashioned sitcoms. Beignets are just what my family calls donuts. I chose them because like pie, they are “salt of the earth”—only sweeter. They are old fashioned and rustic, and yet elegant and urbane. Restaurants all over the world, like Stanton Social in New York and Wahaca in London, are selling out of their little gourmet donut desserts. It just goes to show you. You can make a chocolate truffle cake. But people just want to eat donuts.

These are made from a simple choux pastry, cut with dense pumpkin, spiced with gingerbread spices, and spiked with Bourbon. When they are puffed and golden and hot, I toss them around in vanilla bean sugar. I love that they do triple duty: on Thanksgiving, I add shredded apple for a harvest vibe. For Hanukkah, they’re fried, so job’s done. And at Christmas, the gingerbread spices and deep Bourbon predominate. Like the evergreens outside, these outlast the season. I serve them with a Spiced and Sparkling Norman Mulled Cider, made from sparkling apple cider from Normandy spiked with Calvados and simmered with cinnamon sticks and cloves. For an elegant dinner, fry these up just before serving, and place them in scalloped paper cones. For an informal feast, have your guest in the kitchen and dare them not to eat the beignets right from the fryer. Nothing is more rustic or refined, more simple or surprising, than these Spiced Pumpkin and Bourbon Beignets with Vanilla Bean Sugar.

I hope you’ll make them and share them this winter. Merry Christmas (and Hanukkah and Thanksgiving) to all, and to all a good bite. Bon app!

This recipe is an entry in the Bon Appétit Blog Envy Holiday Dessert Bake-Off. Click here to vote for me! Merci! (It is the last category: “Miscellaneous Desserts.” Click on the “Vote on the Next Batch” button until you get to the sixth category.)

Spiked and Sparkling Norman Mulled Cider

serves 4


75 cl cidre buché (Norman or Breton hard apple cider)

2 tablespoons Calvados

1 cinnamon stick

2 cloves

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar


Place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Turn the heat on the stove to medium-low, and allow the mixture to heat through for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Bon Appétit Blog Envy. VOTE!

Spiced Pumpkin and Bourbon Beignets
makes about 45 beignets

Spiced Pumpkin BeignetsIngredients for the Beignets

  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin

  • 2 tablespoons Bourbon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar

  • Pinch salt

  • 6 tablespoons water

  • 1 stick butter

  • 1 cup flour

  • 3 eggs

  • 1/2 Golden Delicious apple, peeled and grated (only for gilding the lily; optional for Thanksgiving)

  • Vegetable oil for frying

Ingredients for the Vanilla Bean Sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 used vanilla pod

Procedure for the Beignets

  1. Combine the pumpkin, Bourbon, spices, brown sugar, salt, water, and butter in a medium saucepot.  Cover, and sit over medium high heat until the butter is just melted and the mixture is bubbling.

  2. Take the pan off the heat, and dump in all the flour at once.  Using a wooden spoon, stir forcefully and rapidly until all the flour is absorbed.  Place the pan back on the heat over medium-low heat for 30-45 seconds, until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan.  Decant the hot dough into a large bowl.

  3. Stir the dough around to cool it off, and then add the eggs one at a time.  Add one egg, and use the wooden spoon to stir it in.  You could also use an electric hand mixer.  Once the egg is absorbed, add the next, and then repeat for the third egg.  The final pumpkin spice choux pastry should be smooth, thick, and sticky.  The perfect way to gild the lily for Thanksgiving is to add 1/2 peeled and grated Golden Delicious apple to the pastry dough now, before frying.  It adds autumnal sweetness and moisture that is irresistible.

  4. Heat a deep pan half full of vegetable oil until it registers between 310 and 325 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Drop in teaspoon-sized amounts of dough in batches, careful not to overcrowd the pan and effectively drop the temperature of the oil.  Fry the beignets for 6 to 9 minutes.  The trick is to allow them to fry until they crack.  The fissure will expand.  That is what creates the puff inside the beignet.  When the fissure and the rest of the beignet are about the same color, six to nine minutes should have passed, and you’ll know the inside is cooked.  Remove with a spider or slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.  Toss with the vanilla sugar (recipe follows).

Procedure for the Vanilla Bean Sugar

  1. Vanilla sugar is the perfect way to use up scraped vanilla pods that you’ve used in other recipes like crème brûlée.  Save the pods in a baggie, and then decant the sugar into a bowl.  Use your fingers, and get some of the sugar into the crack in the split vanilla bean; then scrub with the sugar as though you were scouring a pan with salt.  You won’t believe how much vanilla is still left inside, and it is more than enough to make vanilla sugar for these beignets.

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Categories: Recipes

17 Responses to Spiced Pumpkin and Bourbon Beignets with Vanilla Bean Sugar and Spiked and Sparkling Norman Mulled Cider for Bon Appétit

  1. Anonymous says:

    I love pumpkin too! That was a really wonderful sounding recipe~you always have such lovely ideas! I want to try & make this (along with my usual pumpkin pie) for Thanksgiving. Thanks for another great recipe!

  2. Anonymous says:

    ps. I think maybe the "link" did'nt take~I clicked on it but nothing happened.

  3. Anonymous says:

    No, no. It wasn't you! Sorry Jon, the link is dead. I am going to fix it this afternoon once Bon Appetit has put my recipe into the contest. They need a couple of hours to sort through and post it! Please check back and vote when the link is live!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Here is the link! I am in the last category: "miscellaneous."


  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi Kerry! I'll go vote for you right now!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Voted — just 'cuz these look so darn amazing! (and I'm not a huge pumpkin pie fan)

    Thanks for sharing! Good luck in the contest.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Do Beignets have to be eaten hot? Or can they be made in advance and served @ room temperature?


  8. Anonymous says:


    They don't have to be hot, but they do have to be fresh–as in cooked in the last hour or so. You can push that a bit depending on your taste, but making them earlier in the day usually results in them being a bit soggy. So, you don't have to fry and serve, but it's not a do-ahead activity either.

    Hope that helps!

  9. Anonymous says:

    HI Kerry,

    I posted a comment on your blog 2 months ago regarding my upcoming LCB intensive basic. I want to thank you for all of your advice. I started the course yesterday and was able to take advantage of a couple of your tips immediately. I grabbed an end counter for the practical which I really liked. Also, some of your tips about recipes, and note taking were really helpful. Keeping my knives in sight at all times is another tip which I plan to follow religiously. It was a shame, but I marked all my stuff last night. Thanks again for your help and good luck with the contest:)


  10. Anonymous says:

    Hi Kerry! I wanted to wish you a really happy thanksgiving! I hope yours is wonderful!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hi Kerry! I hope you had a really nice Thanksgiving!

  12. Anonymous says:

    As an English cider maker I'm always open to new ways of dinking it so I'll try this recipe.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thud, how cool and interesting! Will I have heard of your cider? I'm quite interested on your opinion of the difference between French and English cider. I have found French cidre bouche to be very flesh-of-the-apple, and only delicately sparkling, while the English cider I've had is sweeter and more carbonated, like champagne versus beer (not in associated "quality," but in nature). Have I had only limited exposure to English cider?

  14. Anonymous says:

    I first stumbled across your writing on Serious Eats and I immediately fell in love with your style. I am 24, All-American with not a shred of French in me but I have always been fascinated by the country. I was fortunate to travel to Paris when I was fifteen and it was an absolutely amazing trip. I know this particular comment has nothing to do with your Pumpkin Beignets (though they sound amazing and I can't wait to try them) I just wanted to take the time to say that you are extremely talented–in your writing, your cooking, and your wonderful stories. Your blog has sparked a new inspiration in me to get in the kitchen and to sit down and actually write like I want. I think you will have a book in no time. :) Best of luck to you and keep up the good work!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Julie! Such a lovely comment. And do…do get into the kitchen and do write like you want. The two best things I ever did.

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