Calas are rice fritters that come from Ghana and are eaten in Louisiana. This non-traditional calas recipe is inspired by the little information I could find at the time I developed it, and a comment my mom made in passing about eating rice donuts as a child.
You start by making a thick and intensely spiced rice pudding that then gets puréed and mixed into a dough. I don't know why I originally decided to purée the rice but in the end it made for a light-as-air donut. You can make the rice pudding ahead of time, but the dough has to be made the day you're going to use it. You will need about 3 cups of a high smoke-point oil, like canola or grapeseed, to fry them.
For the Pot de Creme you need instant espresso powder. The best brand to use for any dessert that calls for it is Medaglia d'Oro. Try to find it, it works better than any other espresso powder out there.
For a gluten-free version you can sub all-purpose flour with your favorite cup-for-cup type flour mix. The donuts will be crispier on the outside and slightly more cakey on the inside, but just as delicious.
Coffee Pot de Creme
1 Tablespoons instant espresso
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup medium grain rice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup coconut milk
1” piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thirds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1” piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thirds
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup of rice pudding (see above)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
To finish the Calas:
1 cup white sugar + the zest of 1 orange
Making the pot de creme:
Separate the yolks from the whites. (Save the whites for an omelette or meringue.)
Heat the cream, instant coffee, cardamom, and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until scalding hot, making sure not to boil it.
Whisk the yolks in a bowl. Temper them by slowly pouring the hot cream mixture into the eggs while whisking.
Return the mixture to the pan and whisk on low heat until it thickens— about 2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow it to cool.
Making the rice pudding:
In a small pot bring the rice, water, coconut milk, sugar and spices to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Stir every few minutes to ensure the rice isn’t burning at the bottom and cook until the rice is slightly al dente but definitely cooked— about 6-10 minutes. As it cooks you may need to add a little water if the rice looks dry but is not cooked yet. Add 1/4 cup of water at a time. When the rice is cooked remove it from the heat.
Making the calas:
Remove the cloves, and ginger from the rice. Pulse the rice pudding in the food processor until you have a chunky paste. Add the flour and sprinkle the baking powder on top, pulse a few times to combine. Add the eggs and process until it all blends together.
Frying the calas:
Prepare a dinner plate with paper towels to place the donuts on as they come out of the hot oil.
Make the orange zest sugar by pouring 1 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl and zesting an orange with a microplane over it. With clean hands rub the zest into the sugar to release the orange oils. Set aside.
Use a deep, heavy pot with sides high enough to leave at least a few inches above the surface of the oil. Heat the oil on medium and bring it up to temperature slowly. You want the oil to be at 375º but you don't need a thermometer if you don't have one. After the oil has been heating for a few minutes gently ease a little bit of dough into the oil. If it starts to bubble around the dough it's ready. If it burns or browns really fast lower the heat a smidge.
To shape the donuts you have a few options. Shape them between two spoons, scoop and drop them with just one or use an ice cream scoop to make bigger donuts. They can be rustic, but it's important that they're uniform in size so they cook evenly. Regardless of the shape, gently ease them into the oil and don't cramp the pot. Make sure your hands and utensils are dry.
The calas will drop to the bottom— I like to gently coax them with the back of a wooden spoon or a wooden chopstick so they start to float. They will turn themselves as they cook and cooking time will depend on the shape you choose. You want the outside to cook to a deep golden color. This will take at least 3 minutes on each side, but may take up to 6 on each side with the ice cream scoop shape.
As they cook remove them with a slotted spoon to the plate with a paper towel. Before removing the entire batch, remove one, wait a few seconds and split it open to ensure it is cooked through. Toss the donuts in the orange sugar after they have drained on the paper towels for a few seconds, but while still hot.
Repeat with the rest of the dough.
Serve the donuts with the pot de creme as a dipping sauce.
Never leave the pot of oil unattended while frying.
Never pour any liquids into the hot oil.
Allow the oil to cool before disposing.