Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mardi Gras King Cake

Recently, I took on the task of making a from-scratch King Cake to celebrate Mardi Gras.  This would have been the first pre-Lenten season without one, and just because my proximity to New Orleans and the splendid Gulf Coast has changed does not mean traditions have to. It was quite an undertaking, but I’m admittedly proud of the result!

One popular way to decorate is with colored sugar crystals. You can buy them at some grocery stores and baking shops or make your own like I did! Just make sure you give the sugar ample time to dry before putting it on your cake... and, yes, unless you want your hands to be multi colored you should wear gloves.

The Sugar:
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Food Coloring

I just started with 1/4 cup of sugar in a bowl and added drops of food coloring.  Mixing with your hands, is the best way I know to combine and spread out the color evenly. Just keep adding sugar or coloring until you reach your desired color.  Spread sugar on a flat surface to dry (Could take a few hours)

The Pastry:
  •   1/2 cup milk
  • 1/8 cup butter
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  •  2 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

In a small pot, scald the milk then remove it from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Wait a few minutes to allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let the mixture stand until it becomes creamy, which will take about 10 minutes. When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. 
Next, whisk in the eggs and stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. If you have a stand mixer you can transfer the mixture to your stand bowl then beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. 
When the dough comes together, either use your dough hook attachment to need the dough or pour it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic... this will make for a good arm workout as you knead for 8-10 minutes. 
Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume. This will take at least 2 hours but you can also let it sit overnight.
After the dough finishes rising give it a good punch!

The Filling:
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
Before making the delicious filling grease or line the cookie sheet with parchment. Now, combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, flour and raisins. Pour the melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.... try not to eat it all.. I know it will be hard but save some for the cake!
Now, roll the dough into a large rectangle (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll it up tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form an oval shaped ring. Place the ring on a prepared cookie sheet. Then, with scissors, make cuts 1/3 of the way through the ring at 1 inch intervals. Now to wait again...let the dough ring rise in a warm spot until doubled in size which will take about 45 minutes. Don't forgot to preheat your oven while the dough is rising!
Had lots of fun trying to wrangle the filled dough into this guy... but I think he's looking pretty yummy, even pre-oven!  

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or less (I baked mine the full 30 and it could have done to get it out a little sooner). Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm and pour on colored sugar crystals over the cake.  I added my colored sugar in sets of 3's, but decorate however you deem festive! Beads, masks, just go crazy... It's Mardi Gras!
The Frosting:
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Hope I got your taste buds tingling!

Laisser les bons temps rouler!

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