In fall 2008, we published a very special cookbook with The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. Cooking Up a Storm compiles beloved recipes that had appeared in the newspaper over many decades and were lost in Hurricane Katrina. I was lucky to travel twice to New Orleans shortly before the release of the book, for a culinary conference and then, the year after, to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Some day I’ll make it there for Mardi Gras!
Given the fact that it’s Mardi Gras time, what’s more appropriate than highlighting an iconic dessert that’s a must for this celebration? Have you ever made a King Cake? Do you include or omit the plastic baby? If you have a photo of a King Cake you’ve baked, post a link and share with us! Check out this amazing gallery of King Cake photos on Flickr. And by posting a comment and/or photo below, you’ll be entered to win one of THREE copies of the bestselling Cooking Up a Storm I’ll be giving away at random.
Happy Fat Tuesday!
Makes 12 servings
While king cakes are easy to come by in New Orleans bakeries during the Carnival season, there are those who choose to make their own. Every year during the holiday, The Times-Picayune always receives requests for king cake recipes. This one is a classic and appeared in the newspaper in 2003. The recipe, unlike the French king cake, is made with a yeast dough.
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees F)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 red bean, pecan half, or small plastic baby figurine
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
Purple, green, and yellow paste food coloring (or other colors depending upon the occasion)
For the dough: Pour the warm water into a large warmed bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast and stir until it dissolves. Stir in the warm milk, butter, sugar, nutmeg, and salt. Add 1 cup of the flour and blend well. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.
Lightly flour a flat work surface, and turn out the dough. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding more flour if the dough sticks. Put in a large greased bowl, and turn to grease the top of the dough. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
For the filling: Punch the dough down. Transfer to the lightly floured work surface and use a rolling pin to roll into a 30-by-9-inch rectangle. Brush with the melted butter. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Beginning at the long end, roll up tightly, as for a jellyroll. Pinch the seam to seal. With a sharp knife, cut the roll in half lengthwise, and carefully turn the halves so that cut sides face up. Join the ends, pinching them to form one ring, keeping the cut sides up so the filling is visible. Transfer the ring to a large greased baking sheet.
If using a red bean or pecan half, push it into the underside of the dough to hide it. (A baby charm will go in after baking.) Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 20 to 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove the cake from the baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack. If using a plastic baby figurine, push it into the underside of the cake.
For the frosting: In a small bowl mix together the sugar, almond extract, and milk until smooth. Divide among three smaller bowls. Tint one mixture purple, the second one green, and the third one gold, mixing each one well. Drizzle each color over the top of the cake.
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