Monday, November 6, 2017

Creole Calas (Rice Fritters)

A near lost south Louisiana classic, calas are a flour and yeast fritter, made with cooked rice and flavored with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Creole Calas (Rice Fritters)

I've certainly mentioned this before, but we eat a lot of rice here in the Deep South, and there's almost always some leftover. We have lots of ways to use that leftover rice (just click that link to see a few) including sweet things, like rice pudding and these sweet rice fritters, called calas.

A near lost classic, Calas hold a past in the city of New Orleans, though their origins date back more likely to Africa. In the French Quarter, Cala ladies would wrap fresh, piping hot Calas in towels and carry them in a covered bowl on top of their heads, hurrying to the streets to sell them, shouting "Calas, belles calas, tout chauds!"

Photo Credit: Times Picayune
If you've never heard of calas before, think in terms of the sweetness of rice pudding meets the fluffy texture of a beignet. They're maybe a little more closely related to the beignet family than a fritter, since they, at least originally, were made with yeast. Once baking powder became more widely available (and virtually every modern recipe) the yeast was skipped over by using baking powder instead. Y'all know me though. I'm going old school.

Although there are handwritten dictations of recipes dating back to the 1800s, the 1901 Picayune's Creole Cook Book is believed to be one of the last known written cookbook recipes from the original Cala ladies. It's a tad bit more involved than this, requiring an overnight rest for the yeast mixed rice. It warns to take care not to let the fritter touch the bottom of the skillet, but rather that it should be kept where the cala simply floats on top of the preferred fat of hot lard.

Like any doughnut, these don't really keep well, and should be consumed right away.  Serve warm right from the fryer with a generous dusting of powdered sugar, or drizzled with pure cane syrup, or  your favorite preserves or jam (fig is especially good) and a piping hot cup of café au lait.

Calas included some savory versions as well back in the day, usually made with bits of leftover meats and standing in for bread at lunch or supper. History shows, however, that the ones more well known, and those that spark the most fond memories, are of the Cala ladies and their beautiful, piping hot, sweet calas.

As always, when working with yeast, unless you are a frequent baker, I recommend blooming the yeast first to make sure it is still active. This is just a matter of mixing the yeast with some sugar and a little warm (110 degree F) water and letting it rest for about 10 minutes.

When it puffs up, you know the yeast is good. If it doesn't, throw it away and start off with fresh yeast, otherwise you will not be happy with the results.

Let's go make some!

Wanna bite?

Posted by on November 6, 2017

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