Carnival, a festive time of the year beginning on the 12th day after Christmas (Epiphany) concludes with the celebration of Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday), the day preceding Ash Wednesday, which is also the beginning of Lent, falling this year on March 5. While Christians around the world follow the laws of fasting and abstinence by not eating meat and other foods during Lent, the consumption of milk, eggs and butter, once considered extravagant, was strictly forbidden, as well. With that in mind, the faithful who observed Lent used up supplies of dairy by making pancakes and other similar dishes, with the last day for consuming such foods being the day before Ash Wednesday, which we celebrate as Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday and Paczki (a Polish word for “donut”) Day. Besides pancakes, Dutch Babies, also called “Bismarcks” or “Dutch puffs” – a sweet popover-like breakfast bread, derived from the German “pfannkuchen” – would also make a fine Fat Tuesday treat, as would King Cake, a recipe I’m asked for time and time again come Mardi Gras season. I use my trusty cast-iron skillet for making Dutch Babies, with the 10-inch, two-quart size the perfect vehicle for making a plentiful portion for two. And, for King Cake, my bread machine comes in handy, doing an apt job of kneading the dough, leaving me the time (and energy) to decorate the cake with sugar crystals in the traditional royal colors of purple (for justice), green (for faith) and gold (for power). For many, Fat Tuesday represents the last culinary hurrah before Lent, which will continue for several weeks, for 46 days, until Saturday, April 19. For more delicious Fat Tuesday recipes, including those for fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes, Orange Pancakes and Æbleskivers (Danish pancake balls), write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at email@example.com.
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, divided
½ cup all-purpose flour (dip measuring cup into flour, then level off with the flat end of a knife)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
½ cup milk
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Maple syrup, fresh fruit for serving
Place the flour, sugar and salt in a blender. Whirl dry ingredients to blend. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and mix it with milk and eggs in a small bowl. Pour the liquid ingredients into the blender with the dry ingredients, blending until combined and no lumps of flour remain. Let the batter rest in the blender while preheating the oven to 425 degrees. Once the oven has reached desired temperature, place butter in the skillet and place it in the oven long enough for butter to melt, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from oven and swirl melted butter around bottom of pan to coat pan evenly. Pour batter into pan (it’s OK if butter rises to the top of pan, that’s normal – do not stir the mixture); bake for 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. (The Dutch Baby should not look raw and shiny in the center, nor should the edges be burned.) Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut into wedges while still in pan, or remove entire Dutch Baby to a serving dish for serving. (If your Dutch Baby sticks to the pan, carefully ease it from the edges and bottom with a spatula.) Serve immediately. Serve with warmed maple syrup and fruit, if desired. Makes 2 to 3 generous servings.
Bread Machine King Cake with Praline Filling
For the cake
½ cup milk
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 (¼ ounce) package Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Highly Active Yeast
1/3 cup warm (110 degrees) water
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the praline filling
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ cup finely chopped pecans
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons water
Purple, green and yellow granulated sugar crystals
1 small plastic toy baby (or a dry bean) for hiding inside the cake after it is baked, optional*
In a small saucepan, scald the milk, remove from heat then stir in the butter, stirring until the butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm. Place the water, milk/butter mixture, egg, sugar, salt, nutmeg and flour into the canister of the bread machine in the order given. Make an indentation with your finger into the flour and pour in the yeast. (Do not allow yeast to come into contact with the liquid.) Select the dough cycle, and start the machine.
While the dough is forming in the machine, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Prepare the filling by mixing the ingredients in medium-size mixing bowl. When the dough cycle is finished, remove the dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface into 28 x 8-inch rectangle. (The dough will be easy to work with and very elastic.) Sprinkle the filling mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch space on each side (this will help to keep the filling from leaking out the edges of the dough). Starting with the long end, roll the dough, jellyroll style into a log. Place the log onto the baking sheet, seam side down, forming the dough into a ring. Moisten the ends of the dough and pinch to seal. (Do not worry if it does not look perfect. The seam will be covered with icing later.) Place 2 small greased ovenproof ramekins in the center of the ring, then cover the dough with a cloth and allow it to rise in a warm place, free of drafts, until it becomes puffed and doubles in size, about 30 minutes. (The ramekins are placed in the center of the dough to keep the ring open during the rising process.) Also, don’t be alarmed if your dough does not double in size.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place pan with dough in oven, leaving the ramekins in place.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned, turning pan after 15 minutes to ensure even browning. Allow cake to rest on pan for 10 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely. After cake is cool, hide toy, or bean in cake. (To prevent injury, be sure to warn cake eaters that something is hidden in the cake. Do not allow small children to eat the cake unsupervised.) After the cake is completely cool, make the icing by blending the confectioners’ sugar with water, stirring until completely smooth. Pour icing evenly over top of cake, allowing icing to drip down sides. While icing is still wet, immediately sprinkle cake with alternating bands of purple, yellow and green colored granulated sugar crystals. Makes one cake to serve 10. *Kitchen Ade note: The finder of the toy, or bean, inside a King Cake is supposed to bring the finder good luck for a year and the responsibility for providing next year’s King Cake. To prevent injury, be sure to warn cake eaters that something is hidden inside the cake, being especially mindful not to let small children eat the cake unsupervised.)