|The King Has Arrived|
King Cake for Mardi Gras
I have been dying to make a hands on pastry for a while and found myself with some time to give one a good go. A few years ago I had been introduced by Ray Deter of d.b.a, to a New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition - King Cake. It's like a doughy coffee cake with sticky bun insides and Delta-style colors to get you in the mood to get to the French Quarter! Traditionally, a small plastic baby is tucked inside the treat for the finder to be the "King" for the day. On my own traditional, I used a small ninja and a cowboy instead (May the finder be gifted with silent prowess or rodeo skills for the day.)
The pastry used is basically a sweet bread recipe, taking all day to create with plenty of kneading and resting. Having tackled some bread recipes before I knew what I was in for. Bread recipes are an on/off all day affair. They don't require you to stay at home all day, just stay close enough so you can "punch down" what has risen. Bread's the perfect thing to make when you want to bake but have stuff to get done! Lots of fun to make and between kneading & rising, I got to the roof to snap some photos of my new love: the tiny hat! Recipe after photos.
Mardi Gras King Cake, Allrecipes.com
(My comments are in italics)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped pecans (I threw in some walnuts too)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup melted butter
(I did this in 3 small batches, one batch for each color)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon water (a little more to make more runny, a little less to make more sticky)
Scald milk (heat until about 180 degrees in a double boiler or in the microwave), remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Lightly oil (I used butter) a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. (I used pizza stones)
Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins. Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10x16 inches or so)(Mine ended up being a something more akin to the shape of Greenpoint or Staten Island). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals(Like the cuts in a Bear Claw pastry). Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake(after you have taken the cake out of the oven. I stuffed a ninja in the side of the cake. When you frost, be sure to cover the evidence!) Frost while warm with the confectioners' sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.