The king cake you're looking at was fun to make, mostly because my bread machine did all the hard work. Jazzed up with purple, green and yellow-colored granulated sugar crystals, king cake is also a surprise party waiting to happen, especially when the people who eat it learn that somewhere inside the cake is a hidden trinket, bestowing the finder with royal treatment for the day, good luck for a year and the opportunity to supply next year's cake. King cake is traditionally eaten all through Carnival, a festive time of the year beginning on the 12th day after Christmas (Epiphany) and concluding with great celebration on Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday), the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Although many Christians worldwide observe the fasting and abstinence laws of the penitential season of Lent by refraining from eating meat and other foods, there was a time when consuming milk, eggs and butter, once considered extravagant, were also forbidden. So, in an effort to use up a surplus of dairy supplies, the faithful made and ate lots of pancakes and pastries, a good reason why the Tuesday before Lent is also called Pancake Day and Paczki (Polish for donut) Day. Besides king cake and pancakes, beignets, a kind of deep-fried donut associated with the great Mardi Gras city of New Orleans, would be another great Fat Tuesday pastry choice, along with a steaming cup of coffee, preferably one made laced with chicory. If you plan to indulge, begin making plans soon. Lent is almost here and pleasures such as these, practically sinful.
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
Using a bread machine for mixing dough lessens the work involved in mastering the art of making a king cake made from scratch.
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ( 1/4 ounce) package Fleischmann's Rapid Rise Highly Active Yeast
1/3 cup warm (110 degrees) water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 1/4 cups King Arthur Flour unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons King Arthur Flour Cake Enhancer (optional)*
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup King Arthur Flour unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons water
Purple, green and yellow granulated sugar crystals
1 small plastic toy baby (for hiding in cake after it is baked)
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, cake enhancer (if using) 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.) Spread the filling mixture over the dough, and sprinkle it in an even layer over 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 help prevent the dough from fall over itself and enclosing the space in the center of the ring. 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 baby in cake. (To prevent injury, be sure to warn cake eaters that a toy is hidden in the cake. Also, if your cake includes the toy, 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.
*Kitchen Ade Note: King Arthur Flour's Cake Enhancer is a gluten-free product that makes batters, yeast bread dough softer, moister and stay fresh longer. For more information on this product, visit the company's website at www.kingarthurflour.com. I've used this product in several cakes recipes, with noticeably improved results.
Recipe courtesy "The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook," www.kingarthurflour.com, 1-800-827-6836. "These pancakes come from the Midwest and are a true celebration of what dairy products can do. They are incredibly light and tender and literally melt in your mouth." King Arthur Flour
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Flour unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) heavy cream
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) buttermilk
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cream, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry, just until combined -- it's OK if there are a few lumps. Preheat and lightly grease a heavy skillet or griddle. Scoop the batter onto the griddle with a 1/4-cup measure or a large spoon. Make sure the heat is slightly less than medium. The pancakes will puff up very high. When the first side is golden brown and the edges start to look dry, turn pancakes over to finish cooking the second side. Remove the pancakes from the griddle and keep them in a warm serving dish until you have enough to feed everyone. Makes 24 (3 1/2-inch) pancakes. Kitchen Ade Note: I found scooping the pancake batter with an ice cream scoop an efficient way to handle getting the batter from the bowl to the griddle.
Recipes courtesy "The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook," www.kingarthurflour.com, 1-800-827-6836
6 cups (2 pounds) vegetable oil, vegetable shortening (2 1/2 pounds) or lard (3 pounds), for frying
1 cup (8 ounces) milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup (2 ounces) vegetable oil or melted butter
2 cups (10 ounces) King Arthur Flour white whole wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1 ounce) confectioners' sugar, to sprinkle on beignets
1/2 cup (5 1/2 ounces) maple syrup, for dunking
Heat at least 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees in a large, deep pot. Mix the milk, egg and oil together. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and granulated sugar. Stir together with a whisk until evenly incorporated. Add the milk mixture and stir until smooth. When the oil is the correct temperature, drop the batter by large spoonfuls into the hot fat. Fry 4 or 5 beignets at a time, making sure that there's plenty of room for them to expand. Fry the beignets for 2 minutes on each side. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the oil and drain them on a paper towel.* Serve beignets hot with a sprinkling of confectioners' sugar and a pool of maple syrup.
*Kitchen Ade Note: Brown paper supermarket bags are also good for draining fried foods.
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