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Recipe for family meals :

Mardi Gras King Cake
 

This recipe is from the SodaMail Recipes in Time! newsletter which is written by Chele who also has her own website, Chele's Treasures <click here>

Chele is a single mother of three young boys who manages to find the time to run her own desktop publishing and personalisation service from her home and also writes the popular SodaMail newsletter Recipes in Time! three days a week.

The newsletter is really interesting as not only do you get the recipe but you also learn about the food itself as in this sample recipe. This is one of the internet's better newsletters and if you are interested in your food you should subscribe. To subscribe to Recipes in Time! <click here>

A Little King Cake History

For most Americans, the advent of the new year is a time to make resolutions. In New Orleans, however, the first week of January begins King Cake season, a traditional prelude to Mardi Gras celebrations. Between January 6 (Three King's Day) and Mardi Gras, New Orleans bakers produce thousands of King cakes, decorated in the Mardi Gras color purple, green and gold. Purple representing Justice, Green representing Faith and Gold representing Power. Hidden in each oblong of braided coffee-cake dough is a bean or plastic baby. Custom dictates that whoever finds it must give the next King cake party. One Mardi Gras organization even uses a King cake tradition to choose the queen of its annual ball.

The New Orleans tradition of celebrating the feast of the three Magi with a special cake is rooted in several European cultures. As far back as the first half of the Sixteenth century, France commemorated King's Day, which falls twelve days after Christmas, with a Twelfth Night cake . In the story of the Epiphany, as related in the gospel of Matthew, "three wise men from the east" visited the baby Jesus in Bethlehem on the twelfth day following his birth. "An epiphany is a manifestation," notes Henisch, "and January 6 became the day appointed by the Church to celebrate the revelation of Christ's divinity to mankind."

Ingredients

1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
31/2 41/2 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup warm milk
5 egg yolks
1 stick butter cut in slices and softened, plus 2 tablespoons more
1 egg slightly beaten with a tablespoon of milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tiny plastic doll (not more than 1")

Icing:
Icing (2 parts)
Colored sugar
Green, purple and yellow coloring paste (sold with cake decorating
supplies)
12 tablespoons sugar

Poured icing:
3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
36 tablespoons of water

Method
  • Pour the warm water into a small shallow bowl and sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar into it. Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for three minutes, then mix thoroughly. Set bowl in a warm place for 10 minutes until yeast bubbles up.
  • Combine 3 1/2 cups of flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg and salt and sift into a large mixing bowl.
  • Stir in lemon zest.
  • Separate center of mixture to form a hole and pour in yeast mixture and milk.
  • Add egg yolks and using a wooden spoon, combine dry ingredients into the yeast / milk mixture.
  • When mixture is smooth, beat in 8 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time and continue to beat 2 minutes or until dough can be formed into a medium soft ball.
  • Place ball of dough on floured surface and knead, gradually adding up to 1 cup more of flour.
  • When dough is no longer sticky, knead 10 minutes more until shiny and elastic.
  • Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl evenly with one tablespoon softened butter.
  • Place dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire surface is buttered.
  • Cover bowl with a heavier kitchen towel and allow dough to rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours or until it doubles in volume.
  • Coat a large baking sheet with one tablespoon of butter and set aside.
  • After the first rising, place the dough on a floured surface and punch it down with a heavy blow.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon, then pat and shape the dough into a long 'snake' or 'cylinder'. Form a twist by folding the long cylinder in half, end to end, and pinching the ends together. Then twist the dough. Form a ring with the completed twist pinch the ends together.
  • Place the completed ring on the buttered baking sheet, cover it with a towel and allow it to rise for 45 minutes or until it doubles in volume.
  • After the second rising, brush the top and sides of the cake with the egg and milk wash.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 375° for 25 - 35 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cool on a wire rack and hide the plastic baby in the cake.

Icing:

  • Divide sugar into three portions (for green, yellow and purple). Add a tiny amount of the coloring paste to each sugar portion. Try mixing the sugar and colored pasted between your palms for best results.
  • Set aside.

Poured icing:

  • Combine ingredients until smooth, adding more water if it's too thick.
  • Spoon icing over top of cake.
  • Immediately sprinkle on colored sugars, alternating between the three colors.
  • Serve in two to three inch pieces.

 
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