You may have noticed there was no blog this past Sunday. That’s because last Thursday we headed off for Orange Beach, AL. If you’ve never been to that part of the country, it’s on the coastline below Mobile. The Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area is pretty much a tourist area but the pristine, sandy white beaches are worth the visit. Given we are full-time caregivers to my sweet Mom, every now and again we need a small break from all the daily responsibilities. My sister graced us with the trip by staying with Mom and the pups so we could get away for a few days. Visiting Orange Beach in the “off” season is the way to go, but we were not expecting the temperatures to dip into the 30’s and 20’s while we were there. Not to be thwarted, we bundled up and picked up shells on the beach and listened to the waves. We felt all our stress and fatigue slowly fall away just like the movement of the waves on the shore.
If you are like us, one of the best things about traveling is experiencing new food and new places. This trip provided both in abundance. On our second day, we drove up to Fairhope, Alabama, which is about 30 minutes from Orange Beach. How delighted we were when driving into town to find a quaint, colorful and friendly town full of art, good food and some of the nicest people. Even though it was pretty chilly, we walked up and down visiting many of the little shops as we went. Naturally we stopped in at the combo coffee shop/bookstore. Next came the old record shop where we purchased two albums for our growing vinyl collection. I found a few “happies” in the Downtown Antique store, one of which was a 1950 cookbook by Rumford Baking Powder. By this time, we realized it was lunchtime and was directed to try Panini Pete’s.
Panini Pete’s is exactly as its name implies – a cute Panini shop serving up panini’s, sandwiches and burgers and some of the best beignets we’ve ever eaten – more about that in a minute. Located in a collection of shops called the French Quarter, Panini Pete’s Café and Bakeshoppe was a true delight. Chef Pete Blohme is Executive Chef and Owner having locations in Fairhope, Mobile and Destin, Florida, with more opening soon. Here’s the café in Fairhope and Chef Pete:
He’s been on several Food Network shows such as Diners, Drive-ins & Dives with Guy Fieri. After eating his food, we know why!
Our panini’s were fantastic – everything freshly made or locally grown. Delicious! BUT….the star of the show was the beignets. I’ve had beignets in NOLA many, many times but what we experienced at PP’s was a step above. Our waitress told us they were not like the traditional beignets at Café Du Monde and served with a wedge of lemon to drizzle over the top. Being a lemon head, we immediately ordered some. WOW!
I don’t think I can appropriately explain to you how fabulous these little orbs of dough are. They look like the traditional beignet but you quickly realize when you bite into one that they are far superior. The texture is almost custardy and the addition of the squeezed lemon over the top, truly make these special. Being me, I asked our waitress if there was a small shot I could know the recipe. She said she would send over the General Manager to chat with us. Sure enough, in a few minutes Cheryl Blohme, Pete’s sister stopped by our table to chat. I explained that we have a food blog and what we do. As any good chef/restaurant owner with an original recipe, she told me that she could not give me the recipe but she would share with me how they made the beignets. Her description was very helpful and the first thing I did after arriving back home on Sunday was to start “googling” French pastry recipes. The closet I found to her description was a traditional Pate de Choux (pronounced, shoe) which is used in preparing cream puffs and éclairs. (I learned this on The Great British Cooking Show!) I made these today and they are VERY close although not identical but that’s okay. They were enough like what we enjoyed at Panini Pete’s so I can make these from time-to-time until we can get back down there. We will make the trip for these alone – trust me. Cheryl was so friendly and generous, sending us away with a box of the treats for later. We enjoyed those the next morning with our coffee, which leads me to the next portion of this blog. If you are ever in the Mobile/Fairhope area, please visit Panini Pete’s. You can learn more about Pete and see pictures of all the great food on their website: www.paninipetes.com. Thanks again, Cheryl!
So after leaving Panini Pete’s, we decided we needed to walk off some of that delicious lunch. We turned a corner and saw this:
Now you know we’re huge Anglophiles so naturally a stop in here was in the cards. We were greeted by the sweetest and friendliest shop keeper named Mary Ann. She and her husband, Spencer, own The Church Mouse. She mans the front and all things English and he mans the fly shop in the back. We oohed and ahhed our way through all the silver, china and lovelies and then we saw this:
Hello gorgeous! Lemon goodness in a jar…from England…must have! We quickly made the purchase and went on our way. Fast forward to Saturday morning, breakfast time. Beignets with our coffee – of course. As I was preparing our coffee, I was marveling over the squeeze of lemon on top of those beignets when it hit me! Lemon – beignets – lemon curd….light bulb moment! So in case you haven’t figured it out, I broke out that jar of curd and spread it over those leftover beignets. Heaven!!
As an aside, my sister and I have birthdays a day apart this week – mine is in fact today. She is as much a lemon head as I am and I knew I had to get a jar of curd for her as well. We called to see if The Church Mouse was open on Sundays so we could stop in on our trip back home. They were not BUT Ms. Mary Ann told us to come by around noon and she would be happy to let us in long enough to pick up a second jar. I actually called to see if we could have some shipped and she insisted that we stop by as they live upstairs and would be home. So that’s just what we did. Not only did I get some of the best lemon curd made, I gained a new friend. I gave her my business card and she has already emailed me thanking us for shopping with them. So, my advice is to take yourself down to Fairhope, Alabama. Have lunch at Panini Pete’s and then stop and say hello to Spencer and Mary Ann at The Church Mouse. You can learn more about them and even shop online at their website, www.thechurchmouse.com. Thanks again, Ms. Mary Ann!
Have you guessed this flip yet? Yep, you got it. I’ve tried to recreate Panini Pete’s beignets and I’ve stuffed them with some of that lemon curd. This dough is not a yeast dough and very easy to put together. Allow the butter and eggs to come to room temperature, as I have found that recipes just turn out better when you do.
We are officially in Mardi Gras season which spells King Cake BUT it’s always a good time for beignets!
Choux Pastry Beignets with Lemon Curd
1 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
large pinch kosher salt
2 TBSP granulated sugar
1 cup self-rising flour
4 large eggs
oil for frying (canola, vegetable)
powdered sugar for topping
lemon wedges OR lemon curd
Place water, butter, sugar, and salt in a sauce pot over medium high heat. Stir until butter is melted and everything comes to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium. Add flour into the mixture all at once while stirring quickly. Continue to stir and cook off the moisture in the dough until it pulls away from the sides and starts to form into a ball. This should take about a minute.
Place dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a large bowl if using a hand mixer. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, add eggs in one at a time. Do not add another egg until the one before has been completely absorbed into the batter. The batter will look smooth and glossy when ready. (Alternatively, you can mix in the eggs by hand. This just takes a bit longer. Mix each egg until completely absorbed before adding the next).
Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to overnight.
Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a pan over medium-high heat to 350F.
Use a small scoop or a spoon to drop about 1 TBSP of batter per beignet into the oil. They will puff up considerably. Fry in batches.
Turn beignets after several minutes and continue to cook until each side is golden, the beignet is puffed, and it is started to create a seam (the dough will start to burst creating a seam when it is ready). This will take about 7-9 minutes of frying. Be patient so that the inside is not uncooked. Drain on paper towels
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately with a wedge of lemon to drizzle OR spoon teaspoon or so of good lemon curd into that little crease. Either way, it’s a win!