Monday, February 8, 2010

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez! Watch out for the flying pigs!

I never thought in a million years the the Saint's would win a Super Bowl. Bourbon Street will never be the same! I guess it's fitting that my first recipe post is the Mardi Gras King Cake.

I was raised in North Louisiana and we really didn't start celebrating Mardi Gras in that area until the early 1990's. The one thing I always looked forward to was the King Cake. It is so ooey gooey good. After my husband joined the Army and we moved out of the state we really missed the cake. I looked into having one delivered but it was a little out of our price range. So I figured "How hard can it be to make one?" Well, it's not actually. The hard part is finding a recipe. If you've ever done a search for one on the net you'll find plenty. The problem is that most of these come out tasting bland or too yeasty (is that a word?). It took a few years and a few duds but I've finally got a recipe tweaked to awesome. Oh, there is one other hard part -- the filling. The filling can literally be ANYTHING you can imagine. If only my husband and I had the same taste! He likes a chocolate ganache filling I did one year. It was good but for some reason not my favorite. I like a cinnamon apple filling, but he hates apples. I'd end up making 2 cakes every year but with it being just the two of us, that's a lot of cake. Good thing single soldiers are always hungry. Now that he's out of the army and we've got no soldiers hanging out at the house we're back to that being a LOT of cake. I finally came up with a cinnamon filling that we both love. I've included the recipe but you can do anything you want. You wouldn't believe the different filling combinations I've see lately.

The key to the King Cake is that the dough has to have flavor too. You can't rely on just the filling for your flavor factor. A lot of people will use nutmeg or cinnamon in the dough and that does taste great, but after just coming off the holiday season, you tend to get a little burned out on nutmeg. I like to use Mace instead. I'm not talking about the stuff you spray in peoples eyes! If you're not familiar with it, mace is the strange covering you see on fresh nutmeg. It taste similar to nutmeg but is a little more subtle. You can use it in place of nutmeg in any recipe.

I'm about to do something I swore I would never do. I'm giving away my secret ingredient...and it's only the first post! I'm sure many of you probably already use this too, but it's "so secret squirrel" to think you have a secret ingredient that no one else knows about. It's Amrula Liqueur. I use it in place of Vanilla Extract in EVERYTHING!!! This stuff is the Drink of the Gods! If you've never had it you must get some now! Right now! Run along, I'll wait...

Amarula is a South African Creme Liqueur. It has hints of caramel, vanilla and CHOCOLATE. How could you ever go wrong with that? It's made from the fruit of the marula tree which only grows on the African plains. Elephants eat the fermented fruit and supposedly get drunk...I'd love to see that! It has recently become popular here in the states and it's a lot easier to find now. I saw it in Albertson's the other day.

Ok, back to the King Cake. I use Cardamom in the filling. Cardamom cost a fortune at the grocery store so I buy it online at Penseys Spices . It's much more affordable there. You can skip it if you want , but it really does add an extra little umph. The ingredient amounts make a large cake which is good for the braided technique. However, if you'd like a smaller cake just half the ingredients. If you do, I'd recommend that instead of braiding the dough, just roll it tight lengthwise like you would for a cinnamon roll recipe. Make sure it's tight. If it's not, the air trapped inside will make huge caves in the center. Make a circle with the dough and pinch the ends together. I only use the baby (or Mardi Gras coin) if I'm making the cake for a party. You would not believe how many people get freaked out by the baby! Of course my sick little sense of humor never seems to help that situation. Somehow I always ended up the black sheep of the FRG. Don't worry if some of the filling leaks out.

Hope you enjoy it!

Mardi Gras King Cake

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup milk

1/3 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon mace

4 teaspoons dry yeast

1/3 cup warm water (110° - 115°F)

4 eggs, room temperature

6 cups bread flour (All-Purpose can also be used)



Colored Sugar: Yellow (Power), Green (Faith), Purple (Justice)

In a saucepan on low heat, combine butter, milk, 1/3 cup sugar and mace. Stir until butter melts. Take off the heat and let cool to lukewarm.

In a large mixer bowl combine 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast and water. Let stand until it gets spongy, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Beat eggs into yeast and add milk mixture. Stir in 5 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Use reserved cup of flour for kneading surface.

Knead dough until smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes. It will probably take the whole cup of reserved flour. (If you have a stand mixer, use the dough hook to knead the dough, it goes a lot faster.)

Place the dough in a large bowl greased down with nonstick spray, turn once to grease the top, cover with a dish towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Make the filling while the dough rises.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

On a flat surface, punch down dough and divide in half. Turn 1 portion of dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to a 20 by 10-inch rectangle. (Just eyeball it.)

Spread half the filling lengthwise down one half side of the dough. Fold the other half over the filling side. Roll it with the rolling pin to flatten it a little more and get any air pockets out. Take a pizza cutter and cut lengthwise into 3 equal strips. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the strips to the baking sheet and braid the 3 strips together, leaving both ends loose. Form into a half circle. Now repeat the process for the other half of the dough. Connect the end pieces by pinching them together and finish the circle.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, til golden brown. Start checking it at 20 minutes.

While the cake bakes, make the glaze. Let the cake cool for about 10 to 15 minutes and then pick a spot to hide the baby. Do NOT bake the baby! Drizzle all over with glaze.Sprinkle the colored sugar over the glaze, alternating colors all the way around.

Cinnamon Sugar Filling

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons Vietnamese Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Cardamom (optional)

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Mix well with a fork.


2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon Amarula Liqueur or Vanilla Extract

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Stir until smooth. If it's too thick just add more condensed milk. Use a fork to drizzle it all over the cake.

To make the colored sugar, you'll need 3 ziplock bags. Add about 1/4 cup granulated sugar and a few drops of gel food coloring in the desired color to each bag. Close bag and scrunch up sugar by hand to mix the color in. Keep adding more color til desired shade is reached.

No comments:

Post a Comment