Cachangas con api, a simple and super satisfying breakfast
Years ago a chef friend, knowing about chicha morada and mazamorra morada, asked me if Andean peoples ever use purple corn as a flour and, if so, in what ways? At the time, I didn't know the answer to this question so I began researching it and discovered, yes! The flour is used to make a sweetened breakfast drink called Api. The fried dough, cachanga, that often accompanies it in Peru is beautifully infused with anise. While many countries have their version of fried dough this Peruvian version will not disappoint! I'm obsessed.
This combination plate of cachangas con api is a fun example of when Indigenous food preparations mix with colonial ones and create something new and delicious. This breakfast is typically consumed in more rural Andean communities. Now that I've learned to prepare it, I plan to keep this as part of our rotation. The crispy and chewy bread combined with the warming, slightly thick drink creates a flavor and texture sensation in you mouth. Let's talk about them!
Api is the ground flour of the maiz morado peruano, or Peruvian purple corn (shown in the photos above), and also refers to hot breakfast beverage made from it. Api is new to me and as I mentioned earlier I learned about it when I was researching common uses for Peruvian purple corn, as the only applications I was familiar with at the time was to make a cold beverage (chicha morada) or as a pudding (mazamorra morada). Until this last year I had never seen the flour sold in stores. I had considered buying it online but on a recent trip to my local bodega I pepped a brand new product! I was so excited and bought it (photo above). This is what gave me the inspiration to learn how to make it. If you are familiar, it is similar to Mexican atole or champurrado. The water used to make the drink is infused with cinnamon and cloves, sweetened with brown or cane sugar, and thickened with the corn flour. At the very end, lime is added to brighten to color and taste.
Cachanga is a fried flat bread that can be made either sweet or savory. In this wonderful combination with api, it is made sweet traditionally but it is only as sweet as you would like it to be. In South America alone, there are at least five different names (including the term cachanga) for this type of unleavened, fried dough: hojaldre, torta frita, torrejas, and buñuelos (the original term from Spain). Cachanga comes from the Quechua "kachangu" (and possibly mixed with a now extinct language puquina that was only spoken by the elite Inca). It's said to translate to "what the heck is that?" Ha! The sweetened dough is thinly rolled out and to about the size of a small salad plate. It is fried until just crispy on the outside but still soft and chewy. The anise-infused dough not only make it taste great but also gives off a beautiful scent when being fried. It is said that cachangas were used in colonial times to woo a love interest and brought as a gift to show one's affections. I can totally understand why. They really are very, very tasty!
The spice and flavor combinations you see in these recipes are very typically Peruvian: cinnamon, clove, anise, cane sugar or chancaca (aka piloncillo or panela), and sometimes purple corn. Many desserts utilize these same ingredients. Every country tends to have their flavor profiles, and these are very Peruvian.
I invited my dad over to eat the leftovers from this photo shoot and he just gobbled his plate all up! He did not grow up drinking api in Chimbote, Peru but was very familiar with cachangas, which he loves. He was pleasantly surprised to learn about this drink. It's always so special learning and sharing with my loved ones, particularly my Peruvian family. We are not a homogenous group and depending on how, when, and where we grew up we have different food memories and so it's a joy when we get to create new ones together. I hope you are able to find this specialty flour near you to give making api a shot. At the minimum, give this version of a fried dough a go. So worth it! It is an absolutely winning combination of flavors and textures! Buen provecho, amig@s!
Cachangas con api - Serves 6-8
4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup anise tea (made in advance and cooled)*
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cane sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons salted butter (room temperature)
Oil for frying
*To make anise tea, place 1 1/2 cups water in a pot with heaping tablespoon of anise seeds and let steep for 2 minutes, strain and let cool.
8 cups + 1 cup water
2 sticks cinnamon
4 cloves, whole
1 cup cane sugar
1 1/2 cups api (purple corn flour)
Pinch salt (optional)
Preparation Cachanga Dough
In a bowl, create a hole in the center.
Add baking powder around the edges.
In the center, add the sugar, salt, anise tea, and the whole egg.
Break the yolk with your hand, and mix with ingredients in the center.
Slowly pull the flour into the center and mix until well incorporated (5-7 minutes).
Add pats of butter and mix until well incorporated (4-5 minutes).
Cover with a damp towel and allow to rest for one hour.
After resting, divide the dough into 12-14 balls (between 2-3 ounces each).
Begin heating the frying oil at a medium to medium high heat.
Roll out each ball to create a thin disc. When held up to the light you should be able to see through it a bit.
Fry each disc for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden colored. Allow to drain on a paper towel-lined surface or container.
Serve hot, warm, or room temperature (best hot!).
In a large pot, add 8 cups of water (1/2 gallon or about 2 liters), with cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 15 minutes.
In a bowl or tall glass, add 1 cup of water and mix in the api (purple corn flour), Mix until smooth.**
Remove cinnamon and cloves from water. Add sugar and stir till dissolved. Add pinch salt, if desired (optional)
Add flour slurry and cook on medium for 20 minutes, stirring consistently so it does not catch on te bottom of the pot. The beverage should thicken nicely.
Add juice of 1 lime and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
Serve hot or warm.
**Mixing the flour with water to make a slurry is to prevent clumps.