This is a baked version of New Orleans iconic doughnut, the beignet. Square pillows of soft yeast dough are baked and showered in confectioners' sugar then dipped into a thick, homemade hot chocolate sauce. A traditional Mardi Gras - Fat Tuesday - treat.
Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in the warm water until dissolved, then stir in the yeast. Let sit until it gets foamy - about 5-10 minutes.
Add the egg, 60 ml of milk, remaining sugar, melted butter and vanilla seeds into the bowl of a stand mixer - or a large mixing bowl. Mix well, then add in the yeast water and mix with a spoon or whisk.
Stir in the flour in four additions, checking that it is well-incorporated throughout. When it is all mixed, use the dough hook to knead the dough over a medium speed until it no longer sticks to the bottom of the bowl - about 7-10 minutes. It will cling to the hook. If kneading by hand do so on a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and rather silky - about 15 minutes.
Remove the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Let the dough sit in a warm, draught-free spot to double in size - about one hour.
Lightly flour your work surface and gently roll out the dough to a depth of about quarter of an inch maximum. Use a sharp knife, dough cutter or pizza cutter to cut dough into even squares. Place these onto two parchment paper-lined baking trays, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm, draught-free place until nearly doubled in size - about half an hour to one hour.
While the dough is rising for the second time, preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C/375F.
When the dough has risen again, brush with the remaining 20 ml of milk and bake in the oven for 8-9 minutes, until golden and puffy.
Serve hot, showered in confectioners' sugar and with a dipping pot of hot chocolate sauce.
Sift the cocoa and sugar into a small saucepan - the sifting removes annoying lumps.
Over a low heat, whisk in the milk a bit at a time, stirring constantly. Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes, stirring. Add in the chopped chocolate and turn off the heat. Stir to melt the chocolate and serve warm. You may reheat the sauce over a gentle heat, adding a little more milk as necessary to loosen.
If making this for a vegan diet please use a vegan egg replacer mix rather than chia/flax eggs. The latter will not work well in this recipe.
To remove seeds from a vanilla pod, split the pod lengthways with a small pointed knife. Run the tip of the knife, or tip of a small spoon, along each half to extract the sticky, dark seeds. Set these aside to use in baking. Tip: add the hollowed vanilla pod pieces to a bag or jar of sugar to use in future baking.