If you've been to New Orleans, you've likely enjoyed beignets and cafe au lait at Café du Monde. Beignets are those awesome warm, soft pillows of fried dough sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar.
The "Picayune Creole Cookbook" credits the early French colonists for bringing the delicious tradition of beignets to New Orleans. The cookbook tells a story of how the early Creole cooks responded to hungry children "...handing a beautiful golden beignet, piled with snowy sugar, to the expectant little ones." Their version of beignets is simply a plain baking powder batter to be used as the basis for fruit-filled fritters.
You don't have to go to New Orleans to enjoy these wonderful French market doughnuts. Beignets are traditionally made with a sweetened yeast dough, deep-fried to soft pillowy perfection. Terri contributed an interesting and tasty shortcut version made with canned refrigerated biscuits. Whether you choose to make the homemade yeast version or the quick and easy beignets, you won't be disappointed. Sprinkle them with plenty of powdered sugar, provide a few napkins, and enjoy!
Calas are not as well known as the beignet. They are another New Orleans fried dough tradition harkening back to the turn of the last century. Calas are fried breakfast fritters made with cooked rice, flour, sugar, and spices. According to "The Dictionary of American Food & Drink," the word Calas was first printed in 1880. The word purportedly comes from one or more African languages, such as the Nupe word kárá, or "fried cake."
African American street vendors with baskets perched on their heads were once a common sight in New Orleans' French Quarter. They sold the fresh hot calas with the familiar cry, "Calas, belles, calas tout chauds!"
Calas can be made with a yeast dough or a basic baking powder dough, much like doughnuts. The cooked rice gives them a unique, pleasant texture. If you want less texture, cook the rice until it's soft.