Happy Ash Wednesday, everyone! I know, I'm kind of late with this Mardi Gras post, I had two perfectly good weeks to write about it but I didn't. Still, surely it'll all be forgiven when you read what I baked yesterday, no? But first let's talk some more about Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras in the United States mostly, even though it is celebrated in many other countries as well. Actually I refuse to leave this world before I've seen the Mardi Gras in Venice.
While Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) isn't celebrated all over the United States, many regions and cities have different kinds of Mardi Gras celebrations from balls to King cake parties. Mardi Gras is a French Catholic tradition and was brought in North America by the Le Moyne brothers, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and Jean-Babtiste Le Moyne de Bienville, in the late 17th century. In most places the Mardi Gras season starts on Twelfth night (January 6) and ends on Mardi Gras day. Celebrations are especially concentrated for the last two weeks and the weather permitting, there's at least one parade every day for those two weeks. The biggest parades take place on the last five days of the season.
What did I bake then, you ask? What does Baking have to do with Mardi Gras? A King Cake, that's what I baked. A king's cake is a traditional treat eaten the whole Mardi Gras season, starting from the first week in January. King Cake parties are being held for the whole season up until this very day when the lent begins. The King cakes appeared after 1872 when Rex Krewe selected the traditional Mardi Gras colours, purple, green and gold. They each have a deeper meaning to them: purple represents justice, green faith and gold power. There are at least two things you can recognize a King Cake from. Firstly, it's sprinkled with purple, green and gold sugar and secondly, there's a small plastic baby or a red bean inside. The tradition is that whoever gets the piece with the baby or the bean inside will be the King or the Queen of the day, lucky for the following year and has to buy or bake the King cake the next year.
This cake was exceptionally hazardous for me. I almost broke two kitchen machines, couldn't find sugar with the right colours, rolled the dough a little too thin, made such a Hueg mess in the kitchen that I've never seen worse in this house and all sorts of things like that. But it was all worth it, the cake is So delicious. So delicious in fact, that it's almost gone already.
Even though Mardi Gras is already over for this year, here's the recipe I used without the slight variations I made so you can maybe make the cake next year. At first I was a bit puzzled with this recipe, but eventually everything turned out just fine.
King Cake Recipe Originally from NOLA Cuisine
For the Brioche:
1 Envelope Active Dry Yeast
2 Tbsp Warm Water (115 degree F)
1 tsp Iodized Salt
2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Milk
2 tsp Orange Zest, minced
2 Cups All Purpose Flour, sifted
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 Eggs, beaten
1 1/4 sticks cold Unslated Butter, cut into very small dice
1 Egg beaten and 2 Tbsp water, for the eggwash
1 plastic baby trinket
Dissolve the yeast in the workbowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, let stand until frothy.
Dissolve the salt, sugar, orange zest and milk in a small bowl. When dissolved combine the milk mixture with the yeast mixture. Mix the cinnamon with the flour.
With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, then gradually add the flour, until all is incorporated. Knead on low speed for 10 minutes, or until a smooth elastic dough is formed. A little more flour may be necessary. With the motor running, incorporate the butter into the dough, a little at a time but rather quickly so that it doesn’t heat up and melt.
Turn the dough into an oiled bowl, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour in a warm spot.
When the dough has doubled in bulk punch it down, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll the dough out to a 6 x 18 inch rectangle. Spead the Pecan filling (recipe below) out in the middle of the rectangle along the whole length, leaving about 1 1/2 inch on each side. Place the baby trinket somewhere with the filling. Fold the length of the dough over the filling and roll up tightly, leaving the seam side down. Turn the roll into a circle, seam side down and put one end inside of the other to hide the seam, and seal the circle. Place the cake on a baking sheet and let rise, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Brush all over with the egg wash, then place the king cake into the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
When the cake cools, brush with some of the glaze (recipe below) thinned out with more cold water. This will help the sugars adhere. Decorate the cake with the colored sugars and drizzle some of the thicker glaze onto the cake.
Place on a large round serving plate and decorate with Mardi Gras beads, doubloons and whatever else that you like.
For the Pecan filling:
1 Cup Pecan halves, broken up slightly and roasted until fragrant
2/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
1 pinch of salt
4 Tbsp Steen’s Cane Syrup
Combine all of the ingredients together.
For the glaze
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 Tbsp Bourbon
Water (enough to make a paste that can be drizzled)
Combine the sugar and bourbon, whisk in enough water to make a glaze that can be drizzled.