buttermilk beignets + chicory crème pâtissière

buttermilk beignets + chicory crème pâtissière

I remember New Orleans as if from a fever dream. I ran away from home at seventeen, all the way to Bourbon Street. I blamed it on an existential crisis. I still do. Well that and an unholy fear of a preordained life. I’d never set foot in Louisiana before that night, middle of the week, in my pale yellow shift dress, my school uniform. My high school textbooks were in the trunk. I smoked cigarettes and drove, untethered, unhinged, and free. I remember thinking I could feel the textbooks getting lighter and lighter, losing their very physical substance, the farther south I drove. I used maps, the paper kind. It was about midnight when I arrived, accidentally went over a toll bridge, spent my last dollar getting back over it, and parked illegally in the French Quarter. I wandered the streets in fake leather pants, ate my first oyster on the half shell, and naively accepted all sorts of charity. I drank like a high school girl who thought she was a woman. I read bad poetry (I thought it was good) with a homeless man. I thought I was living. I thought I was an immigrant. But I was a run away. And so happy. Because I didn’t understand a thing, and girls don’t possess the capacity for horror and anxiety that women do. It was one of the happiest times of my life. I went home a few weeks later because I didn’t want my mother to be sad. The day I left I ate an entire plate of beignets at Café Du Monde by myself, got a muffuletta from Central Grocery to go, and drove back north. That was my first time in New Orleans.

buttermilk beignets + chicory crème pâtissière

buttermilk beignets + chicory crème pâtissière

buttermilk beignets + chicory crème pâtissière

And after that all I wanted was to get back. Something I’d never found anywhere else seemed to live there. I felt at home. I didn’t fit in at the private girl’s school I went to growing up (no surprise), and I’d finally found a land where they spoke my own mad tongue. I ended up going to university there, at Loyola. The Jesuits, they’re good for studying philosophy with. So that’s what I did. I moved to New Orleans and studied philosophy, writing, and painting with the Jesuits. And learned to drink too much and how to wear perilously high heels and sit in a decrepit mansion with a a three-legged cat, how to live the novel I couldn’t write. I was still a girl and proud of everything that would ultimately become my life’s great failure. But that’s neither here nor there. I was fearless, did my nails on the streetcar on my way to work at dicey clubs. But it wasn’t all dark. I learned to eat there. Really eat. I fell in love with the food, and it’s where I learned to cook. I’d gotten a taste for it in Europe, and in New Orleans I found what I thought only existed across the Atlantic. It’s as close as you can get to Europe in the states, that’s what I’d always say.

buttermilk beignets + chicory crème pâtissière

buttermilk beignets + chicory crème pâtissière

I still think it’s the most marvelous city on earth. Tennessee is my blood home. And that means a lot. But New Orleans is my soul home. You don’t choose these things. They choose you. I don’t visit anymore. There are too many ghosts milling about, peering out the window above the ice cream parlor on Prytania, grilling eggplant in the Bywater. Too many ghosts. They’ll come a time when I’m ready, and I have a feeling it will be soon. But not just yet; I don’t know how to be who I am in that city. I only know how to be who I was: the girl shaking, blank faced and silently weeping & listening to Lou Reed croon Jesus, help me find my proper place; help me in my weakness because I’ve fallen out of grace as she drove, geeked out of her mind, from her secret-not-so-secret life in the Bywater back to her university existence in the Garden District. New Orleans’ great strength & great evil is that it can make the dark light. Those nights and days, those years, were punctuated by great bowls of red beans and rice, fried oyster po-boys from the corner of Magazine by my house, and my all-time favorites: a muffuletta from Central Grocery and chicory coffee & beignets from Café Du Monde. I’ve recreated that latter experience, best had at midnight, for you here in one bite: airy buttermilk beignets with chicory crème pâtissière and mountains of powdered sugar.

buttermilk beignets + chicory crème pâtissière

So if you’re like me and always a little broken hearted for New Orleans or if you’ve never been & want a taste: make these, listen to this, and watch this. Tom Waits, Jim Jarmusch, and these beignets will give you a fix. A little. I do, in fact, wish I was in New Orleans. And I actually see it in my dreams. Just the other night I dreamt I was walking across the Audubon green, my heart so light, thinking, “I’m home, I’m home. This is home.” It’s a recurring dream, that I’m back in New Orleans and finally at peace. I miss you, NOLA. So much it physically hurts. That’s the sort of city New Orleans is, one you can’t ever really leave.

buttermilk beignets + chicory crème pâtissière

Buttermilk Beignets with Chicory Crème Pâtissière

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 3 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 12 2x3" beignets, plus about 14 1x2" scraps

Buttermilk Beignets with Chicory Crème Pâtissière


  • 1 packet (about 2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 175 mL (3/4 cup) warm (110°F) water
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 120 mL (1/2 cup) buttermilk
  • 430 g AP flour, divided into 180 g, 220 g, and 30 g (3 1/2 cups divided into 1 1/2, 1 3/4, and 1/4)
  • 2 oz butter, softened and in 1/2" pieces
  • canola oil for frying, enough to come about 1.5-2" up the sides of a frying pan
  • powdered sugar for dusting, a lot, 2-3 cups
  • chicory crème pâtissière for filling, recipe below


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook combine water, yeast and sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes until foamy. You want to make sure the water is at around 110°F so that it's warm enough for the yeast to activate but not so hot it kills it. It should look foamy when ready.
  2. Add in the salt, nutmeg, egg, and buttermilk, and mix on medium to combine.
  3. Add in the first addition of flour, 180 g (1 1/2 cups) and mix on medium combine.
  4. Add in the butter, and mix on medium until incorporated. No worries if there are few bits.
  5. Add in the 220 g (1 3/4 cups) flour, and mix until dough comes together.
  6. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Dough will be very sticky. And annoying. You haven't messed up. Knead in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour by hand until dough is smooth, a couple of minutes.
  7. Form dough into a ball and put in a clean, lightly oiled bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap or covered with a (non-terry cloth) dish towel.
  8. Let stand in a warm area until doubled in size, about two hours. (Note: I have let it sit as long as slightly over 3 hours due to distraction. It's still perfectly good, perhaps a bit yeastier tasting, but I like that...so it's forgiving.)
  9. Remove dough from bowl onto a well floured work surface and lightly dust top with flour. At this point I am gentle with the dough; I like to leave some of the bubbles in. This is going to make them extra airy.
  10. Heat 1.5-2 inches of canola oil in a cast iron (preferably) pan to 350°F.
  11. Meanwhile, roll out dough to 1/2 inch thick.
  12. Trim the edges and cut with a floured knife or bench scraper into approximately 2x3 inch rectangles. Or whatever shape you want, really. You're a free agent here. I prefer the classic imperfect rectangles.
  13. Set a cooling rack over paper towels.
  14. Using a slotted metal spatula gently transfer the beignets to the hot oil and fry 3-4 at a time, rolling them around frequently, until golden brown on all sides. This takes about 3-4 minutes.
  15. As they finish transfer them to the cooling rack over paper towels.
  16. To fill: Let cool until you can handle at then, using the end of a wooden spoon, poke a hole in the end going all the way through the beignet without coming out the other side. Then pipe the chicory cream inside. Dust liberally with powdered sugar and serve warm.
  17. Alternately: skip the filling and serve so hot they almost burn your fingers, piled high with powdered sugar.
  18. Repeat with all remaining donuts. While they're optimal served fresh, you can store them, covered at room temperature. I don't like to do this and try to eat/give them away while warm. In the event that you do end up with stale beignets on your hands, I've been known to do the unthinkable and make French toast with them. Just sayin.


Adapted from a recipe from an unknown source, printed on a piece of paper.


buttermilk beignets + chicory crème pâtissière

Chicory Crème Pâtissière

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: about 3 1/4 cups

This not too sweet chicory coffee flavored pastry cream gives you your coffee & donut all in one bite.


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons chicory coffee, such as Café Du Monde brand
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided in half
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Seeds of 1 vanilla bean


  1. Put chicory coffee in a French press (alternately you can make the coffee milk in the pot and strain it through a coffee filter).
  2. Using your fingers rub the vanilla beans into a 1/4 cup of the sugar.
  3. Bring milk to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom.
  4. Pour milk into the French press and let sit for 5-10 minutes, depending on how strong you like it. (if using a coffee filter remove milk from heat and just stir coffee directly into the milk.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and the other 1/4 cup of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium until pale yellow and falls in light ribbons. Add flour and whisk to combine.
  6. Press the milk and pour the resultant coffee milk back into the pot along with the 1/4 cup of vanilla sugar and bring to a bare simmer over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and prevent scorching.
  7. With the mixer on low slowly pour the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Emphasis on slowly, you don't want to end up with scrambled eggs.
  8. Once all the milk is whisked into the yolk mixture, return all of it to the pot.
  9. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, whisking constantly.
  10. Cook, while whisking, for two minutes to thicken and cook out the raw flour.
  11. Transfer to a bowl through a mesh sieve to strain out any bits that may have formed, pressing lightly. Once strained, press plastic wrap to the surface.
  12. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
  13. To pipe: fill a piping bag (or a sandwich bag with a tip cut off) with the pastry cream and use a wooden spoon to poke a hole in the beignet, creating a cavity. Insert the bag and pipe until it just comes out the end where you poked the hole, pulling the bag out slowly as you pipe to fill the length of the beignet.


Adapted from Martha Stewart's basic crème pâtissière.

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66 Responses to buttermilk beignets + chicory crème pâtissière

  1. Kari says:

    Beautifully written. You have an amazing talent! I identify with you about your soul home choosing you. I feel that way about Wilmington,NC. I have walked or biked every square inch of that city. I have a deep knowing of it and it is a piece of me and it is home. In addition, my husband and I have drunk Cafe Du Monde for years and made their beignets at home. It is my biggest dream to travel to NOLA and sit at Cafe du Monde. Thank you for the beauty this a.m.!

    • beth says:

      You should absolutely do it some time. I haven’t travelled the entire world…but in my humble travels I will say I’ve never found a place like it. It’s absolutely pulsing with an enigmatic energy. Also…amazing food! Just amazing.

  2. A delectable afternoon treat!

  3. New Orleans is such a fun city and part if it is totally the beignets! Lovely post + recipe :)

  4. Erika says:

    So true.. you can never really leave New Orleans.. I went to Tulane and told myself that I would never leave. Met my husband and got married in Audubon Park. But after experiencing Katrina, I left and I still have a hard time going back. But there is a undeniable spirit in New Orleans that I’ve been unable to find anywhere else. I love this beignet recipe with the chicory creme. Sounds amazing..

    • beth says:

      I completely understand. I was there two days before Katrina. Went back once years later…an unfortunate hazy Mardi Gras. Haven’t been since…I think there’s still a deep sadness about Katrina for me and it’s as big a reason as my personal reasons for having a hard time. Totally.

  5. amber says:

    Lovely writing! I love your memories of this city that holds a special place in my heart as well (I’m actually going there in a few weeks!) Your beignets look absolutely heavenly. I will have to try your recipe. I love the idea of frying them in a shallow skillet instead of deep frying. I’ll eat a beignet for you while in Cafe du Monde!

    • beth says:

      I’m so jealous of your upcoming trip! And I hope to see photos… even if they’ll tug at me. And if nothing else frying them in a shallow skillet = using less oil (always a plus)…and we both know that frying *anything* in cast iron is better for both poetic and heat retention reasons. : )

  6. Elvira says:

    Memories, story, recipe…wrapped in beautiful words, it’s a pleasure to read you!

  7. Joan says:

    Your words, girls don’t possess the capacity for horror and anxiety that women do…. so true! I wish we would be able to keep a wee bit of that as we age. I think we miss out on a lot because we know so much more of this world and what this world can do to us.
    I can feel the powdered sugar on my lips. Yum.

  8. Courtney says:

    I was hanging on to every written word. Beautifully written. I grew up going to New Orleans, it is an eclectic place that is it’s very own. I love that. Beignets are my favorite!


    • beth says:

      Sometimes I wish I’d grown up there. Even only living there for five years…I feel weirdly possessive of that city. And if I grew up there I’d feel the right to feel that way!

  9. Beth this is beautiful. Your words seem to be as much infused with warmth as your food. Lovely lovely.

  10. evocative writing. i follow a lot of food blogs, but rarely read the text. but i was really drawn in and taken with the drive of your words.

    i feel like i can taste the city in the images and the prose.

    • beth says:

      Thank you. I always try to cut back on my text and always end up writing a lot. But I’m a writer. So it happens. I’m always very, very happy to hear people enjoy that component of this space. I don’t mind people skipping to the recipe…but it’s so wonderful to hear that some are reading!

      • I do the same thing with my writing. I always end up writing a tome and then have to cut out all of the extra fat. I’ve really been enjoying your pins on pinterest too! You have a beautiful aesthetic.

  11. What a beautiful post, and gorgeous photos to boot. New Orleans has been on my must-do list for so long that it’s a little ridiculous now to still have it on there, and not yet crossed off.

  12. What a sublime writing, cooking and food photography! The blog is so delicious! I want to read each post again and again. Thank you for sharing your beautiful world.

  13. Scot says:

    Beautiful writing Beth and really hits the heart of what is good and bad about New Orleans. I too went to Loyola after leaving Chattanooga but only managed to last 3 semesters before making the decision that the city would have killed me if I stayed. Too many late nights, classes missed, days drank away, robbed too many times, quickly developing a taste for too many other indulgences I had only dabbled with back at home. I still love New Orleans though as well and have been back to visit about 5 times since leaving in 1995, pre and post Katrina. I hope when you do return you will love it just as much as you once did but with a newer appreciation and find new experiences. I know when we return now I love that we can eat in places I only looked through the windows before.

  14. Absolutely beautiful, your lighting is stunning as always and those fluffy beignets have made my stomach grumble. Amazing work!

  15. phi says:

    I’m having cafe du monde right now {I’m vietnamese so vietnamese coffee}… Wakes me up for my morning writing job like a hot slap to the tastebuds. It could use beignet(s) though…

    I’ve not been to nawlin’ but one day, I’m gonna bank up a sack full o’ beads and eat those 7 course french dinners on my way to mardi gras.

  16. Jenni says:

    I was moved from Vermont to New Orleans when I was 9 and it was the worst culture shock imaginable. I spent the next ten years plotting my escape. I get why people love it but it wasn’t any kind of home for me. Still, it got in my blood and I’m NOLA enough to be persnickety and correct your use of the word “trolley.” It’s a streetcar, darlin. Ya’ll know bettah. ;)

    • beth says:

      It makes me sad that I even made that mistake! I even went back & changed it…I won’t have that sort of heresy here! Thank you for the correction. It’s been, as you see, far, far too long.

  17. Beth, I love this post! First I LOVE Cafe du Monde beignets and their coffee; the chicory in it makes it the closest to what I grew up with in S. India. Every time I visit NOLA,( I agree with its incredible food) I fall in love with the place all over again!!

    But, I love the honesty of your words more and really envy the freedom of your youth. As a woman now, I agree, I would be way risk averse!!!! But what an experience and so much learning!

  18. I could read all of your posts like novels.

  19. Jillian says:

    What beautiful words, and images as always. Really lovely to read.

  20. I was in New Orleans once when I was younger and only for a day, so I really didn’t get to appreciate it at all. I would love to go back and truly experience the city…and definitely eat a lot of beignets!

  21. I love everything about this post. The words. The photographs. The emotions. Such beautiful storytelling. My husband is from Louisiana and took me to New Orleans for the first time last summer. You’re right – the city stays with you long after you leave.

  22. This post is poetry! and the food styling and photography is mouthwateringly stunning! I have never been to New Orleans and your post makes me just want to do that! Thank you for sharing.

  23. laurasmess says:

    Wonderful wonderful words, images and food as always. I love your blog, everything about it speaks in such rich imagery. Love the look of these beignets. Thanks for investing so much into this blog, it’s an art piece in itself xx

  24. Kathryn says:

    It’s a few years since I was in New Orleans – more than a few years in fact. I was 18 when I went and overwhelmed by the city, the sense of familiarity as European and the sense of total strangeness. I feel like it’s a city that you need to spend time in to really understand it and, even then, you never really will.

  25. I’ve been dying (literally!) to visit New Orleans for a long time now. These beignets are definitely a great nudge in doing so. Pinned :)

  26. My mom’s family is from Louisiana, and I almost moved there twice. I was accepted to Tulane, but didn’t go. I’m not the up-and-move type, but in my mid-20′s, I thought, I’m going to up and move to New Orleans. But I didn’t.

    I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had. Would I still be living there? Would I have liked it? It was one of those life choices that would have put me on a vastly different path than the one I traveled ~ it’s an interesting thing to think about…..

  27. Sini says:

    Thank you for sharing your story behind these beignets. I’ve never had any and am beyond excited to have (and make!) some!

  28. […] “recipe posts” are never really recipe posts to me. Which is especially true about this post about buttermilk beignets — it’s about New Orleans, why it’s such an important place to her, and what it […]

  29. elizabeth says:

    NOLA truly has a soul rooted deep into her heart. I visited her for the first time earlier this year when my husband and I worked the Taste of the NFL. In fact, in one of my posts about our trip I said “I am still in awe of the powerful spirit that radiates in New Orleans. Some cities exist as they are, some cities grow into richness and some cities are rooted in the ground making a permanent mark on this earth. New Orleans has made it’s mark.”
    I was whisked away by the creativeness that loomed around each corner. And the food, oh the food! Well, you know all about it :)
    lovely post and lovely words. Your writing creates such a beautiful web that draws you in deeper and deeper. just lovely.

  30. elizabeth says:

    and yes to the tom waits! that was my very first show ever. it opened the door to so many musical adventures.

  31. Rachel says:

    Thanks for this post. As a native New Orleanian living over 3000 miles from home, your words brought tears to my eyes and a longing from a depth that only this gritty city can touch.

  32. I just posted a blog referring to San Francisco as my “soul city” although, not as eloquently as you have done with NOLA. What a beautiful post. You have once again tugged at my heartstrings that are connected to the same (but different) pain I share in my past. Atlanta was the place I could not return to for so long. I remember those awful drives back home on the interstate amongst the living, going to work while I felt so alien and exposed. I eventually returned there a whole and different person. You will go back to NOLA and do the same. You’re almost there if you’re dreaming of it.

  33. Suzonne says:

    As a New Orleanian who left for twenty years and felt the inexorable pull to return, I understand your sentiments exactly. It’s a city of hope and despair, light and dark, beauty and decay…and more often than not, those things are one and the same. As a city, people either get it or they don’t, love it or hate it – and sometimes, as a resident, you experience both emotions in the space of a second.

    The city was ever so sad after Katrina and it broke my heart to drive up and down the streets. It’s taken a long time, but I am seeing great progress. The rebuilding has finally taken hold, the Bywater is filling up with hipsters, and there are so many new restaurants and small businesses opening that I almost feel like it’s a different city. Except that it never will be. But we’re here, it’s happening, and when you’re ready to return the city will welcome you with open arms, as it always does.

  34. Joy @ OSS says:

    Can’t believe you ran away from home! I wish I had your guts and determination. Love the recipes thank you.

  35. Melissa S. says:

    I’ve never been to New Orleans. I’d like to go. I do know what it’s like to have a soul city. Years ago, I lived in Prague for a year, and still when I think about it, I ache. I miss it, and it’s a strange, different kind of missing. I’ve never missed anything or anyone in the same way I miss that city.

  36. em says:

    I would like bourbon and beignets right now, your posts make me year for the southland

  37. sarah says:

    I’m so late commenting, but I read this the day you posted it, and now I’ve read it again. It made me tear up both times. I’m so glad you’re in such a good place now, Beth, and that you’re finding healing and wholeness. Your openness speaks so much beauty, and I always learn something here, and walk away with much to think about.

    And a soul city! I haven’t traveled enough to have one. I need to work on that. xo

  38. Sara says:

    What lovely melancholy words

  39. Cósima says:

    Good morning.
    I want to inform you that I have used an image of this post for making a summary link on my blog about international blogs with interesting content. You are perfectly linked. Thanks a lot

  40. Eva Dewitz says:

    beautifully written …haunting. Thank you

  41. dana says:

    i love your writing. you inspire me so much… to write… to cook… & to be freely me! thank you for sharing with us! xo ,dana

  42. sarah cooper says:

    i’ve been to NOLA once. i was 15. it was with my 8 yr old brother and my parents. during the day… needless to say, i must go. it’s as if i’ve never been, as if i’ve never lived. take me with you when you go.

  43. imen says:

    Beth, you have a beautiful soul…..no matter who or where claims it. I get swept up into your writing like linguine on the tine of a swiveling fork. Every. single. time. NOLA is a place I have never physically ventured {yet}….I hope that soon I will experience it through you and another tine twindled magnificent post… For now, I will make midnight beignets. In your honour.

    • beth says:

      Imen…I don’t know what the universe is going on about but that’s exactly what I needed to hear right now. Thanks for the kind words. Especially the part about “no matter who or where claims it”. Feeling a little blue…this helps. Thanks, friend.

  44. Henning Håkansson says:

    I started to read your blog this summer and I just have to say that you really inspire me!
    So, continue to write more inspiring and fantastic texts, then you will have a permanent reader of you blog!

  45. adeptimpex says:

    Chicory is the valuable herb which for a long time has won popularity in national medicine.Chicory was also often prescribed by herbalists of recent centuries to cure a whole host of ailments; the herbalist of the middle ages often recommended herbal remedies made from the chicory roots as tonics, as laxatives, and as diuretics.

  46. Sam Taylor says:

    Dear Beth

    I have been scouring the web looking for a recipe for beignet, and I am delighted to have come across your site. This post, so beautifully written almost made me forget that I was looking for a recipe and I was a little sad to reach the end of it. How fabulously you use your talent.

    As for the beignets, well I can only hope I do them justice.

  47. you did the right thing… i still regret not running away from home at 17.

  48. Nicole says:

    Your photos tell a story that is accompanied by your writing. Such an amazing blog!

  49. […] Buttermilk Beignets with Chicory Cream from Local Milk combine all of the renowned goodness of a staple New Orleans pairing—powdery-sweet beignets and chicory coffee from Cafe du Monde. The combined appeal of the sweet recipe, stunning photography and stirring account of the blogger’s first visit to New Orleans is enough to set a spark of wanderlust in any of us. […]

  50. Sara Habetz says:

    Holy moly, your prose is amazing.

    I now need to hop on I-10 ( I can see it from my office) and cruise down to NOLA. Southwest Louisiana may be home, but there really is something special about New Orleans.

  51. […] recipe I’m following is from the AMAZING PERFECT Local Milk. Which… by the way, has a fucking baddass superhero-like origin story to her recipe that I […]

  52. […] 175 milliliter (¾ cup) warm (110°F) water1 packet (about 2 teaspoons) active dry yeast50 grams (¼ cup) sugar¾ teaspoon kosher salt¾ teaspoon nutmeg1 large egg120 milliliter (½ cup) buttermilk430 gram all-purpose flour, divided into 180 grams, 220 grams, and 30 grams (3 ½ cups divided into 1 ½ cup, 1 ¾ cup, and ¼ cup)2 ounce butter, softened and in ½-inch piecesCanola oil for frying, enough to come about 1 ½ to 2 inches up the sides of a frying pan2 to 3 cups powdered sugar for dustingChicory crème pâtissière for filling (recipe here) […]

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