Make the praline filling and dough up to two days ahead. If your beignets don’t cover the entire cone, trim the excess. You’ll still have a nice tree shape.
PRALINE CREAM FILLING
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon pecan liqueur
1 (1/4-oz.) envelope active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (100° to 110°), divided
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup shortening
6 1/2 to 7 cups bread flour
Vegetable cooking spray
120 heavy-duty 2-inch wooden picks
1 (177/8- x 415/16-inch) plastic foam cone
How to Make It
Prepare Filling: Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a large heavy saucepan; whisk together half-and-half and egg yolks in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk half-and-half mixture into brown sugar mixture, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, about 7 minutes or until mixture just begins to bubble. Cook, whisking constantly, 1 more minute; remove from heat, and whisk in butter and pecan liqueur. Whisk until butter melts. Spoon mixture into a medium bowl, and place plastic wrap directly onto filling (to prevent a film from forming). Cool 30 minutes. Chill 4 to 24 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare Beignet dough: Combine yeast, 1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°), and 1 tsp. granulated sugar in bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer; let stand 5 minutes. Add evaporated milk, eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar to yeast mixture, beating at medium speed until combined.
Microwave remaining 1 cup warm water in a 2-cup glass measuring cup until hot (about 115°); stir in shortening until melted. Add to yeast mixture. Beat at low speed, gradually adding 4 cups flour, until smooth. Gradually add remaining 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour, beating until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to a lightly greased (with cooking spray) bowl; lightly grease top of dough with cooking spray. Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours.
Turn dough out onto a heavily floured surface; roll half of dough to 1/4-inch thickness. (Refrigerate remaining dough until ready to use.) Cut into 2-inch squares with a pizza wheel or a sharp knife. Repeat with remaining half of dough.
Pour oil to a depth of 2 to 3 inches into a large Dutch oven; heat to 360°. Fry dough, in batches, 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on a wire rack.
Insert a small metal tip (we used a #17) into a large pastry bag. Using a long wooden skewer, poke a hole in the side of each beignet. Fill pastry bag with half of chilled Praline Cream Filling. Pipe a small amount into each beignet. Repeat with remaining filling and beignets.
Assemble: Starting at bottom, insert 1 pick into cone. Press 1 beignet onto pick. Repeat with remaining picks and beignets, covering entire cone. Dust entire beignet-covered cone heavily with powdered sugar.
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I made this for a Christmas party, and it was a hit. I couldn't find pecan liqueur, so I just used a little bit of brandy in the cream. But I found an online recipe for pecan liqueur, so will make some for the next time I want to make this. I used a smaller cone, and was glad I did, as I wouldn't have had enough beignets for the larger cone. I used canola oil, which smelled a bit fishy when it got hot. When I tasted the first beignet I thought it tasted a bit fishy, too, but maybe it was just the smell. When the beignets were done and were filled with cream and covered with powdered sugar, they were delicious. The tree was beautiful, and the beignets got lots of compliments. They did not last long.