Wednesday, January 2, 2013

RECIPE: Carioca

For New Years eve I decided to make a dessert for a family gathering. Filipino gatherings usually have a bunch of people, especially my family where we're easily over twenty people in a house. Food gets eaten fast. So of course, I wanted to bring something to the potluck.

For that occasion I made a Filipino dessert called Carioca. Carioca was one of my favourite desserts growing up - I remember my parents going to the Filipino grocery store and bringing me back a brown paper bag and inside was a skewer with three carioca balls on it.  Carioca is pretty much like donut balls that have sugar and shredded coconut inside and deep fried and coated with sticky/hard toffee-caramel sauce. It's a confection that is sticky and somewhat crispy (or really crunchy depending on how you make your caramel) on the outside and chewy on the inside.

This is a great potluck food or just for eating as a snack or dessert. It's sweet and best of all it's gluten-free and vegan!

Sorry for the pictures, haha, I'm going to try harder to get better quality pictures for my forthcoming recipes...

Carioca Recipe
Yields approximately 24 medium sized balls

Dough balls:
- 2.5 cups of Mochiko flour OR 2.5 cups of glutinous rice flour [Note: If you are using glutinous rice flour and not Mochiko, add in 3 tablespoons of icing sugar]
- 1/2 cup of shredded coconut
- 1 can of coconut milk
- Additional rice flour for dusting
- Oil for deep frying, flavourless oil recommended [I use canola]

Caramel sauce:
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar [I use light brown]
- 1/4 cup of water

Notes: It is important for this recipe that you use glutinous rice flour, not plain rice flour or you won't get the chewy-sticky texture. Many grocery stores and even Wal-Mart carries Mochiko Rice flour. If you are using Mochiko you do NOT add any sugar in the mixture. Plain glutinous rice flour will require you to add some sugar.


1. In a mixing bowl or stand mixer add the rice flour, shredded coconut, and coconut milk. Mix well until well blended together.
2. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the dough mixture and roll out the dough into small spheres. They will expand while frying. I try to keep it medium. If the dough is sticky, add a bit more rice flour until it isn't so sticky anymore. Set aside the dough balls.
3. Heat the oil to medium-low. [IMPORTANT: This temperature is important because while frying, if it is on TOO HOT it will splatter everywhere as it cooks, getting oil everywhere and burning you. I learned the hard way. Slow heat is best for this.] On my stove it is about a 4 out of 10 notches.
4. Fry the dough balls for about 5-7 minutes, or until your dough balls float to the surface and are a nice golden yellow colour. When they're ready, remove them from the oil and set aside in a huge mixing bowl.
5. In another pan, put in the brown sugar and water and stir until dissolved. On medium heat, stir until the caramel sauce begins to simmer and bubble and reduce. That's when it will be ready - or use a candy thermometer until it gets to the firm ball stage. 
6. Pour the caramel sauce in the mixing bowl with the balls. Using tongs or another utensil of choice, stir the balls around until they're all coated in the caramel sauce mixture. Afterwards, move onto your serving tray of choice. They will be sticky!

Photos in sequential order of method:

Here is what they look like being rolled into 'spheres'. They're not perfect but they will be rounded and smoother once they're in the fryer. I put them on a cookie sheet as I make them.

I fry my Carioca in my 'creuset' (don't know what it is in English) it's like a cast iron pot or something? Mine is Kitchen Aid. Anyway, I put in about a little more than 1/4 the pot of oil to fry. Make sure to fry it on medium low heat or it will burn or while it is cooking, the heat will cause the balls to expand rapidly and that results in oil splatter, hurt, and agony. Also, the coconut flakes may be burned too. The black spot on one of the ball is one of the leftover burned flakes from the previous batch. I use a slotted spoon above to remove them and set them aside.

In another small pot this is my caramel. When the liquid starts to simmer like this, it's almost ready. It should have lots of bubbles from reducing. When it reaches this stage I remove it from the heat and stir to set aside for a bit. Then I pour it into the mixing bowl...

Like this! Coat them evenly with the sauce using tongs or another utensil. 

I didn't take pictures of the nicer batch, but this is what they should look like. This was my first batch where I fried them on high heat - which resulted in overly crunchy balls, which is not ideal unless you like it like that, the end result should be crispy yet very soft on the inside. It also separated while frying, making it look like cell division, lol. Not too aesthetically pleasing, this picture - but hey, they were still freaking delicious! 

Additional notes: Carioca is best served fresh but it keeps for about 3-4 days. If you decide to refrigerate, the dough will firm up a bit and is still edible, however if you microwave for about 30 seconds it will be a chewy texture again. 


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