One of America’s Favorites – Calas

February 24, 2020 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Plate of calas at a New Orleans restaurant

Plate of calas at a New Orleans restaurant

Calas are dumplings composed primarily of cooked rice, yeast, sugar, eggs, and flour; the resulting batter is deep-fried. It is traditionally a breakfast dish, served with coffee or cafe au lait, and has a mention in most Creole cuisine cookbooks. Calas are also referred to as Creole rice fritters or rice doughnuts.

The origin of calas is most often credited to slaves who came from rice-growing regions of Africa. A 1653 French recipe, beignets de riz, lends support to a French origin as well. The name “calas” is said to have come from the Nupe word kara (“fried cake”). According to The Dictionary of American Food & Drink, the word calas was first printed in 1880.

Creole street vendors, typically women, sold the fresh hot calas in the city’s French Quarter, with the cry, “Bel calas tout chauds!” (Creole for “Beautiful calas, still hot”). These vendors, called “calas women”, would sell their pastries in the early morning from covered baskets or bowls carried upon their heads.

Writers in the first decade of the 20th century refer to the increasing rarity of calas as street food. Though not widely sold, calas continued to be made at home using leftover rice, and was a typical breakfast food in early 20th-century New Orleans.

After World War II, while the beignet remained popular, the calas became more and more obscure. From a breakfast food it evolved into a Mardi Gras and First Communion treat among Louisiana Creole families. It could be specially requested at some restaurants. Through the efforts of food preservationists, interest in calas was revived and it began to appear on the menus of some restaurants.

In early recipes for calas, rice was boiled and cooled, then yeast added to make a sponge that was allowed to proof overnight. From this a batter was made by adding eggs, sugar and a little flour for binding. Rice flour was preferable but difficult to obtain, according to Eustis. A dash of salt might be included, and a grating of nutmeg was a typical addition. The batter was dropped by spoonfuls into deep, boiling lard and fried until browned. Modern recipes reflect the changes in available ingredients, cooking practices, and taste. Baking powder is sometimes used in place of yeast; vegetable oil is substituted for lard; savory variations have been developed.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Doughnut

December 28, 2015 at 5:53 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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A glazed yeast-raised ring doughnut

A glazed yeast-raised ring doughnut

A doughnut or donut (/ˈdoʊnət/ or /ˈdoʊnʌt/; see spelling differences) is a type of fried dough confectionery or dessert food. The doughnut is popular in many countries and prepared in various forms as a sweet snack that can be homemade or purchased in bakeries, supermarkets, food stalls, and franchised specialty outlets. Doughnuts are usually deep-fried from a flour dough, and typically either ring-shaped or without a hole, and often filled. Other types of batters can also be used, and various toppings and flavorings are used for different types, such as sugar, chocolate, or maple glazing. In addition to flour, doughnuts may also include such ingredients as water, leavening, eggs, milk, sugar, oil/shortening, natural flavors and/or artificial flavors.

The two most common types are the toroidal ring doughnut and the filled doughnut—which is injected with fruit preserves, cream, custard, or other sweet fillings. A small spherical piece of dough may be cooked as a doughnut hole. Other shapes include rings, balls, and flattened spheres, as well as ear shapes, twists and other forms. Doughnut varieties are also divided into cake and risen type doughnuts.

 

 
Shapes
Rings
Ring doughnuts are formed by joining the ends of a long, skinny piece of dough into a ring or by using a doughnut cutter, which simultaneously cuts the outside and inside shape, leaving a doughnut-shaped piece of dough and a doughnut hole from dough removed from the center. This smaller piece of dough can be cooked or added back to the batch to make more doughnuts. A disk-shaped doughnut can also be stretched and pinched into a torus until the center breaks to form a hole. Alternatively, a doughnut depositor can be used to place a circle of liquid dough (batter) directly into the fryer.

There are two types of ring doughnuts, those made from a yeast-based dough for raised doughnuts or made from a special type of cake batter. Yeast-raised doughnuts contain about 25% oil by weight, whereas cake doughnuts’ oil content is around 20%, but they have extra fat included in the batter before frying. Cake doughnuts are fried for about 90 seconds at approximately 190 °C (374 °F) to 198 °C (388 °F), turning once. Yeast-raised doughnuts absorb more oil because they take longer to fry, about 150 seconds, at 182 °C (359 °F) to 190 °C (374 °F). Cake doughnuts typically weigh between 24 g and 28 g (0.85 oz to 0.99 oz), whereas yeast-raised doughnuts average 38 g (1.34 oz) and are generally larger, and taller (due to rising) when finished.

Topping
After frying, ring doughnuts are often topped. Raised doughnuts are generally covered with a glaze (icing). Cake doughnuts can also be glazed, or powdered with confectioner’s sugar, or covered with cinnamon and granulated sugar. They are also often topped with cake frosting (top-side only) and sometimes sprinkled with coconut, chopped peanuts, or sprinkles (also called jimmies).

Holes

A variety of doughnuts

A variety of doughnuts

Doughnut holes are small, bite-sized doughnuts that were traditionally made from the dough taken from the center of ring doughnuts. Before long, doughnut sellers saw the opportunity to market “holes” as a novelty and many chains offer their own variety, some with their own brand names such as “Munchkins” from Dunkin’ Donuts and “Timbits” from Tim Hortons.

Traditionally, doughnut holes are made by frying the dough removed from the center portion of the doughnut. Consequently, they are considerably smaller than a standard doughnut and tend to be spherical. Similar to standard doughnuts, doughnut holes may be topped with confections, such as glaze or powdered sugar.

Originally, most varieties of doughnut holes were derivatives of their ring doughnut (yeast-based dough or cake batter) counterparts. However, doughnut holes can also be made by dropping a small ball of dough into hot oil from a specially shaped nozzle or cutter. This production method has allowed doughnut sellers to produce bite-sized versions of non-ring doughnuts, such as filled doughnuts, fritters and Dutchies.

Filled
The filled doughnut is a flattened sphere injected with fruit preserves, cream, custard, or other sweet fillings, and often dipped into powdered sugar or topped off with frosting. Common varieties include the Boston cream, coconut, key lime, and jelly.

Other shapes
Others include the fritter and the Dutchie, which are usually glazed. These have been available on Tim Hortons’ doughnut menu since the chain’s inception in 1964, and a 1991 Toronto Star report found out that these two were the chain’s most popular type of fried dough in Canada.

There are many other specialized doughnut shapes such as old-fashioned, bars or Long Johns (a rectangular shape), or with the dough twisted around itself before cooking. In the northeast U.S., bars and twists are usually referred to as crullers. Another is the beignet, which is square-shaped, covered with powdered sugar.

 

 

 

Glazed doughnuts rolling on a conveyor belt at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop

Glazed doughnuts rolling on a conveyor belt at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop

Doughnuts have a disputed history. One theory suggests they were invented in North America by Dutch settlers, and in the 19th century, doughnuts were sometimes referred to as one kind of oliekoek (a Dutch word literally meaning “oil cake”), a “sweetened cake fried in fat.”

Hanson Gregory, an American, claimed to have invented the ring-shaped doughnut in 1847 aboard a lime-trading ship when he was 16 years old. Gregory was dissatisfied with the greasiness of doughnuts twisted into various shapes and with the raw center of regular doughnuts. He claimed to have punched a hole in the center of dough with the ship’s tin pepper box, and to have later taught the technique to his mother. Smithsonian Magazine states that his mother, Elizabeth Gregory, “made a wicked deep-fried dough that cleverly used her son’s spice cargo of nutmeg and cinnamon, along with lemon rind,” and “put hazelnuts or walnuts in the center, where the dough might not cook through”, and called the food ‘doughnuts’.

According to anthropologist Paul R. Mullins, the first cookbook mentioning doughnuts was an 1803 English volume which included doughnuts in an appendix of American recipes. By the mid-19th century, the doughnut looked and tasted like today’s doughnut, and was viewed as a thoroughly American food.

Another theory on their origin came to light in 2013, appearing to predate all previous claims, when a recipe for “dow nuts” was found in a book of recipes and domestic tips written in 1800 by the wife of Baron Thomas Dimsdale, the recipe being given to the dowager Baroness by an acquaintance who transcribed for her the cooking instructions of a local delicacy, the “Hertfordshire nut”.

 

 
National Doughnut Day, also known as National Donut Day, celebrated in the United States of America, is on the first Friday of June each year, succeeding the Doughnut Day event created by The Salvation Army in 1938 to honor those of their members who served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I. About 250 Salvation Army volunteers went to France. Because of the difficulties of providing freshly baked goods from huts established in abandoned buildings near the front lines, the two Salvation Army volunteers (Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance) came up with the idea of providing doughnuts. These are reported to have been an “instant hit”, and “soon many soldiers were visiting The Salvation Army huts”. Margaret Sheldon wrote of one busy day: “Today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, 700 cups of coffee.” Soon, the women who did this work became known by the servicemen as “Doughnut Dollies”.

 

 
Frosted, glazed, powdered, Boston cream, coconut, sour cream, cinnamon, chocolate, and jelly are some of the varieties eaten in the United States and Canada. Sweetening, filling, and fancy toppings are now so common that plain doughnuts are now commonly labeled and sold as “old fashioned”.

There are also potato doughnuts (sometimes referred to as spudnuts). Doughnuts are ubiquitous in the United States and can be found in most grocery stores, as well as in specialty doughnut shops.

A popular doughnut in Hawaii is the malasada. Malasadas were brought to the Hawaiian Islands by early Portuguese settlers, and are a variation on Portugal’s filhós. They are small eggy balls of yeast dough deep-fried and coated in sugar.

Immigrants have brought various doughnut varieties to the United States. To celebrate Fat Tuesday in eastern Pennsylvania, churches sell a potato starch doughnut called a Fastnacht (or Fasnacht). The treats are so popular there that Fat Tuesday is often called Fastnacht Day. The Polish doughnut, the pączki, is popular in U.S. cities with large Polish communities such as Chicago, Milwaukee, and Detroit.

In regions of the country where apples are widely grown, especially the Northeast and Midwest states, cider doughnuts are a harvest season specialty, especially at orchards open to tourists, where they can be served fresh. Cider doughnuts are a cake doughnut with apple cider in the batter. The use of cider affects both the texture and flavor, resulting in a denser, moister product. They are often coated with either granulated or powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.

In Southern Louisiana, a popular variety of the doughnut is the beignet, a fried, square doughnut served traditionally with powdered sugar. Perhaps the most famous purveyor of beignets is New Orleans restaurant Cafe Du Monde.

In Quebec, homemade doughnuts called beignes de Noël are traditional Christmas desserts.

 

 

Chocolate-frosted doughnut

Chocolate-frosted doughnut

Within the United States, the Providence metropolitan area was cited as having the most donut shops per capita (25.3 doughnut shops per 100,000 people) as of January 13, 2010.

National Doughnut Day celebrates the doughnut’s history and role in popular culture. There is a race in Staunton, Illinois, featuring doughnuts, called Tour de Donut.

In film, the doughnut has inspired Dora’s Dunking Doughnuts (1933), The Doughnuts (1963) and Tour de Donut: Gluttons for Punishment. In video games, the doughnut has appeared in games like The Simpsons Game and Donut Dilemma. In the cartoon Mucha Lucha, there are four things that make up the code of mask wrestling: honor, family, tradition, and doughnuts. Also, in the popular television sitcom The Simpsons, Homer Simpson’s love affair with doughnuts makes a prominent ongoing joke as well as the focal point of more than a few episodes. There is also a children’s book Arnie the Doughnut and music albums The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse and Desert Doughnuts.

In several media, doughnuts are frequently presented as enjoyed by police officers during coffee break. This cliché has been parodied in the film Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, where Officer Zed is instructing new recruits how to “properly” consume their doughnut with coffee. It is also parodied in the television series Twin Peaks, where the police station is always in large supply. In the video game Neuromancer there is a Donut World shop, where only policemen are allowed. During a city-wide “lockdown” after the Boston Marathon bombings, a handful of selected Dunkin’ Donuts locations were ordered to remain open to serve police and first responders despite the closing of the vast majority of city businesses.

 

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