First, I would like to say that I grew up in Slidell, LA, only 30 minutes from Cafe Du Monde. We ate beignets whenever we went to the French Quarter. Since being in Atlanta, I try to go to New Orleans once a year, but have not visited since Katrina. I recently had the worst Beignets ever in Atlanta (at Huey's). So I did some research and came up with the recipe.
Did you notice if there was much difference if the dough was rolled thinner 1/8 vs. 1/4 inch?
Yes. Rolling to 1/4" is spot on. At 1/8" the internal texture was not right. It was too hollow without the typical webbing found in authentic beignets. This webbing is the same thing many of us strive for in pizza crust. I wish I had snapped a photo, but the beignets were just getting cold.
Did the dough squares stretch at all when lifted to place in the oil?
Only slightly. This is really not a problem, since they are so small. Definitely not like moving a pizza dough from bench to peel.
How hollow was the internal structure?
See above. Hollow is bad, nice airy webbing is good.
I also found the box beignet ingredient list before formulating my recipe. I am guessing the box may not even contain chemical leavening and if it does, it is probably not used in the restaurant recipe.
They were soft and pillowy, and tasted much like a soft doughnut but in a different form.
I would not say it is like a doughnut. I don't remember the dough being as soft. I think a doughnut probably contains more egg and butter than a beignet. A beignet is slightly chewy, but not high gluten pizza crust chewy.
I am planning a November trip to New Orleans and will address my recipe again after a visit to Cafe Du Monde.