Stick season in New England is just as lovely as it sounds. The leaves have yet to grace us with their lushness, the ground is soft with mud, and the days are still chilly. But, the silver lining of this shoulder season is MAPLE! The sap is running and our local western mass maple syrup producers are working hard boiling down the sweet nectar that we all love! And the maple deliciousness doesn't stop at syrup...maple cream, and maple sugar deserve their spotlight too.
For the entire of month of March, we ran our "Maple Brunch Menu" with specials highlighting our local delicacy. Our specials included Beignets with maple cream; Maple cream cheese and cinnamon strudel stuffed french toast; and Maple Fried Chicken Sandwich with maple praline bacon. And although March is in the rearview mirror, not all our maple specials are going away.
Our Monte Cristo with applewood smoked ham, swiss and cheddar cheese, and a maple-cinnamon egg wash is still on our all-day menu. As are the buttermilk pancakes, and the crispy Brussels sprouts with our cider-maple glaze and shoestring onion rings. And of course we have maple lattes. You really can't beat the combination of maple, high quality espresso, and local whole milk.
The maple offerings are like the rest of our menu, we look for ways to combine the best of New England with our years of experience with New Orleans food. It's about depth of flavor, playing with savory and sweet, using high quality ingredients and presenting them in a beautiful way in a great atmosphere. There's a reason New England ski journal voted Wells Provisions as one of the Best Restaurants to fuel up on Breakfast before hitting the slopes. We hope you continue to make Wells Provisions the place you stop in for breakfast, lunch and dinner when you're in Western Mass.
So although you won't find beignets on the menu at Wells Provisions right now (we have a feeling they'll make a come-back soon based on how much y'all love them!), you'll find lots of other delicious maple options to get you through this stick season! And for those who aren't afraid of a little fry oil, we're happy to share one of our favorite recipes for beignets by southern baker, Cheryl Day! It's a pretty simple recipe, but the results are delicious - puffy, fried goodness, that benefits from a liberal powdering of confectioners sugar, and a drizzle of maple cream (you may need to heat the maple cream slightly to make it so you can pour over the beignets).
Recipe adapted from Cheryl Day's Treasury of Southern Baking
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (we use our smoked sea salt, but regular is great too)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup water, at room temp
1 large egg, at room temp
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (you could swap out with maple extract for a fun twist)
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Confectioners' sugar for dusting, and optional maple cream for the best friend maple dough experience you'll ever have!
Special Equipment: Spider skimmer or slotted spoon; candy or digital thermometer
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the water, buttermilk, egg, butter, and vanilla (or maple extract) on medium-low speed until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix on medium-low speed until well blended, 2-3 minutes. Stop the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then continue to mix for five minutes, or until the dough comes together. The dough will be loose and sticky. Turn the dough out onto a liberally floured work surface and lightly dust the top of the dough with flour. Shape the dough into an 8" square. Fold the dough in half, then rotate it a quarter of a turn and fold in half again. Repeat two more times, then shape into a ball and place in a large lightly oiled bowl.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size. The dough should be very soft and just slightly sticky.
Doing your best not to deflate the dough, gently turn it out onto a liberally floured work surface. Gently lift, stretch and pat the dough with floured fingers to shape into a 10 x 16 inch rectangle, about a half an inch thick. After this workout, let the dough rest for two minutes, then cut into 24 equal squares with a sharp knife or pizza wheel.
Heat about three inches of vegetable oil to 370 degrees in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Test the oil by dropping in a tiny piece of dough. The oil should sizzle and the dough should brown within 30-40 seconds.
Fry a few at a time, but make sure not to crowd the pot, or the temperature of the oil will drop too much. Fry until puffed and golden on each side, flipping them with a slotted spoon, approximately 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove with slotted spoon and place on paper towels to absorb the extra oil. Repeat until all dough has been fried. Dust the beignets with powdered sugar and if you're in New England like us, drizzle some maple cream over them!