Praline Cream-Beignet Tower
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
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.