Big Easy Pumpkin Beignets
['1 package active dry yeast', '1/2 cup very hot water', 'Pinch of kosher salt', '2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour', '3 large brown eggs', '1 tablespoon cooking oil (peanut, grapeseed, or coconut)', '1 cup canned pumpkin puree', '1/4 cup organic plain whole-milk kefir', 'Vegetable oil, for deep-frying (I use a mix of grapeseed and peanut oil)', '1/2 cup powdered sugar']
Dissolve the yeast in the hot water with the kosher salt. Combine the dissolved yeast with 1 cup of the flour and mix until smooth. Form the yeast/flour mixture into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Use a fork to beat the eggs until frothy. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour and the cooking oil, mixing well with a wooden spoon or whisk. Once the yeast/flour mixture has doubled in size, combine it with the egg/flour mixture. Stir in the pumpkin puree and kefir and mix until completely smooth.
Let stand for 1 hour. The dough should be elastic and spring back when stretched. Pour 1 1/2 inches vegetable oil into a deep, straight-sided frying pan and heat the oil to 360°F. (You can test the temperature by dropping in a small amount of the batter. If it immediately starts to bubble and float, the temperature is correct.) Using a soup spoon or a large tablespoon, drop spoonfuls of dough into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Use the spoon to baste the cooking dough with a bit of oil as they fry. Drain the beignets on paper towels, then use a small sieve to dust them with powdered sugar.
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