On the Hunt: Brenda’s French Soul Food Beignets

     Ramadan has officially commenced around the world, so it’s a good thing I ran around the SF food scene early in the game. But don’t think a month of daylight fasting will deter me from the restaurant tables; I’m already making plans to visit Candybar Dessert Lounge  *rubs hands*.

     I guess I like doughnuts; enough to find the best of the best in town according to Google. That’s probably one of a handful of things I got from my Uncle Banji – shout out for sacrificing the trans-fat-full Krispy Kremes. Brenda’s French Soul Food is a cute restaurant in the occasionally dodgy Tenderloin neighborhood, where Chef Brenda Buenviaje brought her New Orleans culture and cooking to share with San Francisco. We came for the beignets, but left with the intention of trying the shrimp and goat-cheese omelet or cornmeal-fried oyster po’boy. I’m a sucker for seafood and deep frying, so I think I could do some real damage here.

     This place gets packed. Lines out the door, and extra cozy dining rooms. This is a good sign, right? So is this one: “house rules”. They need a whole frame – I’m in. And luckily, literally. The 2pm Friday crowd was minimal, and my roommie Megan and I were seated within 5 minutes of entering.

     Check out the silverware cans and condiment buckets. True southern feel? I would think so, but I’ve yet to make it to Louisiana. What I do know is that some of these cans came from the famous Café du Monde in New Orleans. Authentic!

     Casual yet classy. Check out the mirrors on that wall. Check out the wall.

     So beignets. Megan and I were kinda in over our heads here…after some consideration, we went for a plate of traditional beignets, and a plate of Ghirardelli-stuffed beignets to split. Three beignets of each, three beignets each to consume. Totally doable, right? Maybe, but the real question is always “should it be”, isn’t it? We could barely move after enjoying the dense fried dough mounds and dark chocolate chip pockets, doused in powdered sugar.

     What exactly is a beignet, though? You could call it the French version of a doughnut, but for us, it’s closer to a “fritter”. I call it a ball or square of fried dough, that is always be covered in powdered sugar in this country. What may make it particular is the dough itself. The “choux” pastry is light and has butter, egg, and flour. Without yeast, these treats expand when steam is created from all the moisture and heat. In this traditional beignet, you can see the pocket of air. But don’t be deceived: these beignets pack a heavy punch. After one, you’re trying to calculate how you will finish the other two waiting on your plate.

     So much beignet…so little room. Here we have a lovely chocolate-stuffed beignet, where the middle is made up of Ghirardelli chocolate chips. Did I mention Ghirardelli originated in San Francisco? And this thing was chock-FULL. We instantly reevaluated our choice to order two plates among consuming our first one of these. I may have preferred shooting it than eating it – you really need to enlarge these images to get the full experience. The chocolate chips hadn’t even melted fully…there IS such a thing as too much chocolate, and I think we were in sight of a limit at Brenda’s. In any case, it was an excellent experience and I have no regrets. Only next time, I’ll be trying at least one of their different varieties: Granny Smith Apple (with honey butter!!) and Crawfish. A la prochaine, Brenda!

On the Hunt: Dynamo Doughnuts

     One morning I was inspired to google “best doughnuts in San Francisco”, and what it came up with was less than disappointing. Among the 2-3 different sites and opinions I received, Dynamo Donuts was a unanimous choice among doughnut eaters. They’re known for their wacky flavors and ingredient combinations. And of course, their prices are just as hipster as their options (apparently hipsters have money now? Completely different subject). Normally these rings go for $2 each or more, but past a certain time in the day, they present their “twofer” deal where they’ll give you two, so they can get rid of as many fresh doughnuts as possible. So you can go in the morning, where they’ll have probably around 10 flavors for $2+ each, or you can go in the afternoon, when they’ll have 4 flavors for half the price. I say it’s a win-win.

     That’s what was left around maybe 3pm? Minus one, because I took the last of it.

     I picked lemon sichuan because I love all things lemony, and the cashier suggested something like “hibiscus heart beet”. I’d hoped he knew what he was talking about.

     I guess he did know. I was pleasantly surprised by the pink cake of the doughnut that could only have come from the ingredients. It was a nice combination of chocolate and natural sweeteners – again, from the ingredients, and not too much sugar. It was nice and simple. Particularly good for those who prefer their desserts less sweet.

     Then came my lemon. I’ve yet to ever go wrong with lemon. My favorite part about this doughnut was how it was “filled”. Instead of taking a whole doughnut and piping it, at Dynamo they form doughnuts halves and then place ample filling in between before frying away. GENIUS. Look at that space. No crowding of room, no cream oozing out of your bite and onto your shirt before you can get to it. The flavor was just as good: I guess the powder was supposed to be spicy, like a sort of pepper. So, definitely a healthier route than powdered sugar. But it was a very mild sourness, nothing too extreme. On the inside was the perfect lemon curd: not too sweet, and not overpowered by sour. Brought me back to my British jam days…mm lemon curd!

     Dynamo itself is a cool place. I’m finding that so many places in San Francisco where baking goes down, the kitchen is in plain view for all to see. Of course, not much happens in the afternoon…at all. But here’s where the magic happens. On the other side of the counter are chairs and places to sit and enjoy your high end coffee and doughnuts. In the back there’s a nice outdoor patio area where I hid.

     And here is my super shady picture of the store front. I passed by Dynamo almost twice when I went looking for it. The front is the counter that your walk up to, modest and quiet. But I’m sure in the morning there’s a line down the block! I wanted to document this, so I crossed the street with my big camera around my neck and hid behind this tree so as not to be seen by the guy working there taking a picture of this place without previously mentioning it. In hindsight, I clearly should have said something, and he definitely saw me. Then there was this guy parking his car. So I thought I’d leave this photo here to tell more of a story than to illustrate the unique store front of Dynamo…
     There you have it! Hipster doughnuts in the hipster part of town: Dynamo Donut + Coffee in Mission. If you’re in the area, definitely check them out!

How Many Different Ways Can You Spell Doughnut?

How about with some Fs? You know, like duffin! That’s what Torey, Tommy and I made one or two busy weekends ago. This adventure is proof that inspiration can come from anywhere – in this case, instagram. Yes, I do in fact shamelessly take pictures of my food and share with the world (http://instagram.com/carmzl). Don’t be envious of my food and picture snapping skills, there’s a good chance whatever you find in there will end up here so you might as well think of it as a preview of lovely recipes to come.
     So doughnut muffins. A doughnut or a muffin? I’ll give you a hint: You can usually go by the last word. So when you add nutmeg and muffin stuff to muffins, and glaze them, they’re gonna taste like muffins. With some doughnut…essence. I think we were envisioning light and fluffy “muffins” that were really doughnuts in disguise…more like muffins disguised as breakfast. Except they were also breakfast. Uh anyway, they’re pretty easy to make, and as long as you’re expecting muffins, you’ll likely enjoy them. The glaze was definitely the best part.

I promise I helped – there’s even proof
Look at that texture
Is that me? In my own blog?! The scary things that happen
when I share the camera
Per the request of Torey
Wasn’t lying about the glaze…
Next time we’re making doughnuts…no Fs included

Glazed Doughnut Muffins

For the Batter

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 to 1 ¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg, to taste (I used 1 ¼)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

For the Glaze

3 tablespoons butter; melted
1 cup confectioners’ sugar; sifted
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons hot water

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin tin. Or line with 12 paper muffin cups.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars till smooth.
  3. Add the eggs, beating to combine.
  4. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla.
  5. Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.
  6. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan, filling the cups nearly full.
  7. Bake the muffins for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they’re a pale golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean.
  8. In a medium bowl, prepare the glaze by mixing together the melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and water. Whisk until smooth.
  9. When muffins have cooled slightly, dip the muffin crown into the glaze and allow the glaze to harden. As recommended in the adapted recipe, I glazed my muffins twice.
  10. Serve warm, or cool on a rack and wrap airtight. Muffins will keep at room temperature for about a day.

Brought to you by one SemiSweetie