Take Five Cala Beignet - 5/30/2013

9:58 AM, May 31, 2013   |    comments
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Cala is a traditional deep fried treat found all over the world. It has recently become famous because of its resurgence in New Orleans after Katrina and championed by famed restaraunteur, Poppi Tooker. Her version is a modern wheaty beignet hybrid. Our version hearkens to the original treat made and sold by slaves in the market to buy their own freedom. That is the main reason why Cala is so loved and revered all over Africa and the Afro-Carribean Diaspora. It is a dessert that has its own songs. You may hear us sing one of them if you are near our booth at Festival or see the opening ceremonies wher WaZoBia will be playing one of those songs.

Our Cala is a rice ball or beignet made without wheat, gluten, milk or egg. It is our original recipe and the only one that can be enjoyed by those of us on restricted diets but it is just one of many versions that are made. Cala is a very forgiving recipe that can use just about any type of flour, real milk, add an egg or use leftover paella or fried rice and no sugar for a savory version.

The size is the only important thing as the heat can only penetrate so far and so fast so, to make larger versions (than an 1 1/4" you need to make 'patty' or 'donut' the shape a little). It also can be 'canelled' to make crispier edges or rolled and cut like gnocci to yield smaller nuggets. It can be steamed intead of fried to make a different treat that is covered with syrups or honey.

Dry mix (mix these in a bowl):

1 cup corn starch
5T baking powder
pinch salt optional

Wet mix or 'slurry' (mix these in a bowl):

1 cup warm water
3T non-dairy creamer - (this is lactose free but you can substitute 'casein' free if you like)
3/4 cup sugar

Cooked Rice:

2 cups dry long grain rice - (don't wash. You want the starch to make it sticky)
4 cups water - (it should be sticky so add extra water - up to a half cup p- if you have a 'dry' or separated rice like Basmati. Broken rice is a great way to make this but whatever you have is right as long as its white. Brown rice needs an extra cup.)

Make your rice in a pot or rice cooker in the normal way and then place the pan in the freezer to cool till you can 'handle' it (about twenty minutes about 40*f).

Add dry mixture and separate and coat the grains by mixing it good (use your hands).

When the grains are separated and coated add about 2/3 of your slurry. Mix thoroughly. Add the rest of your slurry till you have a very thick 'standing' pudding. It should be a stiff but sticky mess. Dont worry. It will set up and absorb the extra water.

Put it in the fridge over night, covered or about three to six hours before you need it.

When you pull it out, you should be able to take a level Tablespoon of the doughy mixture and 'roll' a ball about 1' in diameter. Put it in a cake pan and keep rolling balls till you have a layer. Cover with wax paper and start a new layer. You should have about 60 or so balls.

Refrigerate at least a half hour. If you do not intend to use within hours then cover with foil and freeze. It will keep like this for months if you transfer it to sealed freezer bags.

Preheat corn oil, vegetable oil or peanut oil to 375*f. in a deep frying pan. We use corn. Carefully drop Cala in oil one at a time and no more than ten at a time. It will go quicker if not frozen. Make less if you are making them frozen or have a low or electric element that can not keep the heat up. Lower temps will give a less crispy exterior that some prefer, almost chewy. I like crispy. They will be a golden brown unless you are using rice flour which is a flour that doesnt brown. Corn starch is best because of its creamy pudding texture it creates inside the crispy outside. Enjoy as soon as its cool enough to eat...


Powdered sugar plain or with a a ratio of 4:1 of any of the following cocoa, cinnamon, instant coffee or your favorite pumpkin or pie spice mixture. You can also make toppings with Shawarma, Curries, Your favorite sweet rub... We will be featuring a mixture called Berbere from Ethiopia/Eritrea which has twenty five herbs and spices including three types of chile and three types of pepper. Very spicy.

For information on Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts www.festivalgr.org



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