Mardi Gras King Cake
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- Yield: 12 servings
King cake becomes legal again on January 6th, King’s Day, the official start of the Carnival Season. If you don’t have a king cake baby to hide inside, hide a bean. That’s what they used to do in the old days. While the source of original recipe unknown, it was modified by New Orleans School of Cooking Chef, Anne Leonard.
- ½ cup lukewarm water (110 to 115 degrees)
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons plus 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
- 3 ½ to 4 ½ cup unsifted flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon peel
- ½ cup lukewarm mild (110 to 115 degrees)
- 5 egg yolks
- 8 tablespoons butter ( 1 quarter-pound stick), cut into ½ inch bits and softened
- ½ cup finely chopped candied citron
- 1 shelled pecan half, uncooked dried bean or plastic baby
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1-tablespoon milk
- To make the cake, pour the lukewarm water into a small shallow bowl and sprinkle the yeast and 2 teaspoons of the granulated sugar over it. Let the yeast and sugar rest for 2 to 3 minutes, then stir to mix the ingredients well. Set in a warm, draft-free place (such as an unlighted oven) for about 10 minutes, or until the yeast bubbles up and the mixture almost doubles in volume.
- Combine 3 ½ cups of flour, the remaining ½ cup of granulated sugar, the nutmeg and the salt, and sift them into a deep missing bowl. Stir in the lemon peel, then make a well in the center and into it pour the yeast mixture and the milk.
- Add the egg yolks and, with a large wooden spoon, gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the liquid ones. When the mixture is smooth, beat in the 8 tablespoons of butter bits, a tablespoonful at a time. Continue to beat for about 2 minutes longer, or until the dough can be gathered into a medium-soft ball.
- Place the ball on a lightly floured surface and knead, pushing the dough down with the heels of your hands, pressing it forward and folding it back on itself. As you knead, incorporate up to 1 cup more flour, sprinkling it over the ball by the tablespoonful. When the dough is no longer sticky, knead it for about 10 minutes longer, or until it is smooth, shiny and elastic.
- With a pastry brush, spread 1 tablespoon of softened butter evenly over the inside of a large bowl. Set the dough in the bowl and turn it about to butter the entire surface. Drape the bowl with a kitchen towel and put it in a draft-free place for 1 ½ hours, or until the dough doubles in volume.
- Brush a large baking sheet with the remaining tablespoon of softened butter. Punch the dough down with a blow of your fist and place it on a lightly floured surface. Scatter the citron over the top, knead the dough until the citron is well distributed, then pat and shape it into a cylinder about 14 inches long. Loop the cylinder onto the buttered baking sheet and pinch the ends together to form a ring.
- Press the pecan half or dried bean gently into the ring so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Drape the dough with the towel again and set it in the draft-free place to rise for about 45 minutes, or until the ring doubles in volume.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (If you have used the oven to let the dough rise, transfer the ring to another warm place to rest while the oven heats). Brush the top and sides of the ring with the egg and milk mixture and bake the Kings’ cake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it is golden brown.
- Slide the cake onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
- Green, purple and yellow food coloring pastes
- 12 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Meanwhile, prepare the colored sugars. Squeeze a dot of green coloring paste onto the center of the palm of one hand. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar over the paste and rub your palms together briskly until the sugar is evenly green. Add more paste if the color is too light and rub the sugar a few minutes longer. Place the green sugar on a saucer or piece of wax paper and repeat the entire procedure again to color 2 more tablespoons of the sugar.
- Wash your hands, squeeze a blob of purple food coloring paste on one palm and in a similar fashion color 4 tablespoons of the granulated sugar purple. Wash your hands again and, using the yellow food coloring paste tint the remaining 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar yellow. Set the green, purple and yellow sugars aside.
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- ¼ cup strained fresh lemon juice
- 3 to 6 tablespoons water
- 2 candied cherries cut lengthwise into halves
- When the cake has cooled, prepare the icing. Combine the confections’ sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the water in a deep bowl and stir until the icing mixture is smooth. If the icing is too stiff to spread easily, beat in up to 3 tablespoons more.