Sunday, February 19, 2012
King Cake - Gateau de Rois
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...One of the most pervasive symbols of Mardi Gras is the King Cake or Gateau de Rois. It is a donut-shaped cake that is decorated in almost psychedelic shades of purple, green and gold. The colors of Carnival were chosen years ago and they represent the virtues of justice, faith and power. The cakes can be plain or fancy, but to qualify as a gateau de rois it must contain a tiny plastic or porcelain baby. The person who finds the token then becomes responsible for the purchase of the next King Cake. The King Cake ritual has changed over time, but it's believed that the tradition originated with pre-Christian societies of Western Europe. These groups placed trinkets in special cakes, and it is believed those who found them were rewarded with a crown. Their reigns, however, were of short duration because come harvest season they were sacrificed to appease the gods and sanctify the harvest. It is a big jump from human sacrifice to current King Cake practices in New Orleans, but the tradition appears to have started in the late 1800's when cakes containing beans were used to choose the kings and queens of the weekly Twelfth Night balls. Time has morphed that tradition and the buried bean has become a plastic baby, and the ball is now the carnival we call Mardi Gras.
While I've made dozens of Three Kings Cake for the Christmas holidays, I've never made a King Cake for Mardi Gras. I decided to remedy that today. I selected a recipe developed by John Besh because it sounded other-worldly good. I'm happy to report it made a cake that was both rich and delicious, but, that being said, I must also tell you that the dough used to make it is really difficult to work with. This is not a recipe for beginning bakers. The dough is amoeba soft and needs a final flour adjustment to be workable. It takes a practiced eye to judge just how much should be added. I've made bread for over 40 years now and I'm still not sure I got it right. I also had to play with the liquid needed to make the glaze for the cake. The coup de grâce, however, came when the Silver Fox walked into the kitchen, took one look at the finished cake and innocently asked if that was the way it was supposed to look. I stopped him before the word garish could pass his lips. There will be no fighting over blankets tonight and that pagan ritual I told you about may yet be revived."Laissez les bons temps rouler."
King Cake - Gateau de Rois...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite Courtesy of John Besh
1 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons, dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
3-3/4 cup flour
3 teaspoon cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 sticks butter melted
5 egg yolks
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons condensed milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Purple, green and gold decorative sugars
1 feve (broad bean) or plastic baby to insert after baking
1) In a large mixing bowl combine warm milk, with yeast, sugar and a tablespoon of flour. Mix with a whisk until both sugar and yeast are dissolved. Allow to sit until mixture begins to froth or foam.
2) Whisk in butter, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest. Add remaining flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and fold into wet ingredients.
3) After dough comes together and pulls away from sides of bowl, shape it into a large ball and turn onto a floured surface. Knead for 15 minutes, or until smooth andelastic.ow. Sha f sides of bowl as a large ball knead the dough on a clean but floured surface for 15 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
4) Place dough back into bowl, cover with plastic wrap and move to a draft free place and allow to rise until double in volume, about 1-1/2 hours.
5) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
6) Punch dough down. Divide dough into three equal pieces and form into long rolls that you may either braid or twist around each. Form braid or twist into a circle. and place on a nonstick cookie sheet. Allow to rise for another 30 minutes, or until again double in size.
7) Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove cake to a wire rack to cool.
8) Meanwhile mix powdered sugar with condensed milk and lemon juice, adding more liquid as needed to make a spreadable icing.
9) Spread icing over top of cake and sprinkle with colored sugar while it is still wet. If you wish insert a feve or plastic baby into underside of the cake and transfer to a platter and serve. Yield: 10 to 12 servings.
One Year Ago Today: Penne with Sausage Ragu and Sicilian Meatballs
Two Years Ago Today: Pasta Puttanesca