King Cake – A Year Later

Same recipe as last year… but I used sanding sugar from a party supply store instead of attempting to make the colors myself. We have a gas oven this year and it seems that the even distribution of heat prevented the yeast from turning the cake into a huge donut. It looks far more authentic and tastes so good!

The recipe.

Homemade King Cake 2

Homemade King Cake

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King Cake

It’s that time again. Today is the eve of King’s Day/Feast of the Epiphany/Twelfth Night/Little Christmas AKA the last day of Christmas. Tomorrow is when we take the Christmas trees and lights down and put up the Mardi Gras decorations. This year Mardi Gras is somewhat early (February 20th) so Carnival season is short and there’s less time to eat King cake. The following recipe is for a traditional King cake which is more like a sweet brioche than cake. I am no fan of the modern King cake which is at best treated like a glorified coffee cake. A few years back, we bought a king cake without knowing it was filled with cherry. Normally, I would have liked cherry coffee cake, but it was a bit like taking a drink of soda thinking it’s coke only to find out it’s root beer. I like root beer, but not when I want coke. When I was growing up, we always had the McKenzie’s or Schweggman’s King Cake which were made in the traditional style; I guess my mind is stuck on those cakes.

Traditionally the cake was baked on Epiphany Eve and served the following afternoon to family and friends. Nowadays the cake is made throughout Carnival season and served until Mardi Gras. By the Middle Ages, veneration of the three wise men had spread throughout Europe and Epiphany became known as The Feast of the Three Holy Kings. The cake was baked in honor of the Magi. According to Wikipedia, related culinary traditions are the tortell of Catalonia, the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in the northern half of France. Latin Americans, like New Orleanians, place a figure representing the Christ child inside the cake. In other cultures, the king cake might contain a coin, bean, pecan or pea. In New Orleans, the person who receives the piece of cake containing a “baby” must provide the king cake for the next gathering of the season.

King Cake

King Cake

1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
4 to 5 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup finely chopped candied citron
1 pecan half, uncooked dried bean or King Cake Baby

Glaze:
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
Purple, green and gold sugar crystals

Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside to a warm place for about 10 minutes.

Combine the 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind and add warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours).

Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with the citron and knead until the citron is evenly distributed. Shape the dough into a log, about 30 inches long. Place the dough on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool. For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. To assemble, drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors.

Warn your friends that there is a potential baby/bean inside so there are no broken teeth.

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Creole Hot Water Cornbread

I had never heard of hot water cornbread in all my years, but when G. and I went to Louisiana Fried Chicken a few weekends ago, it was one of the options for a bread. It reminded me of a large, flattened hush puppy and was pretty tasty. I don’t recall where I found this recipe, but if you recognize it as yours (or your mama’s) please tell me and I will credit that person. I tweaked it a little as the original recipe called for lard for frying (which I don’t like, it has too heavy a taste for me) but feel free to use lard instead if you so choose.

Creole Hot Water Cornbread

1 2/3 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 3/4 teaspoons white sugar
3/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning
5 teaspoons shortening
1 1/4 cups boiling water
peanut oil for frying

Combine the cornmeal, Creole seasoning, onion, and sugar in a medium bowl. Pour in boiling water and shortening; stir until the shortening melts. Place peanut oil to a depth of 1/2 inch in a large skillet; bring to a temperature of 375 degrees over medium-high heat. Shape heaping tablespoons of the dough into flattened balls (thickness is a personal preference). Fry in hot oil, turning once, until crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels or better yet, a brown paper (like paper bags).

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French Bread

If you’re like me, you have a difficult (if not impossible) time finding good French bread, outside of New Orleans, that isn’t tough or hard. This recipe from the folks at NOPSI (now Entergy) have an excellent recipe for French bread good enough for Cochon de lait po’boys.

French Bread
1 package yeast
1 tablespoon shortening
11/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal

Dissolve yeast in water. Add salt, shortening and sugar. Stir in flour. Knead on lightly floured board until smooth. Place in greased bowl; brush lightly with shortening. Cover, let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes. Punch down and divide into 2 equal portions Roll each half into an oblong 15 x 10 inches; roll up tightly from the wide side. Seal ends by pinching together. Roll dough back and forth to taper ends. Place shaped loaves, fold down, on greased baking sheets. Sprinkle loaves with cornmeal. Brush with Cornstarch Glaze (see below for recipe). Make 1/4-inch slashes in dough at 2inch intervals. Place large pan of boding water on lower rack of oven. Place bread on rack above and bake in 400-degree F. oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and brush again with Cornstarch Glaze; continue baking 20 to 30 minutes or until brown. Yield: 2 loaves.

Cornstarch Glaze: Combine 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1 teaspoon cold water; gradually add 1/2 cup boiling water. Cook until smooth. Cool slightly.

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Banana Peanut Butter Bread

OMG, so good. This is a VERY sticky batter because of the peanut butter and sticks to itself, the spoon, the bowl, anything and everything it touches. Still, so good.

Banana Peanut Butter Bread

Recipe Summary
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 70 minutes
Yield: 15 servings

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 bananas, mashed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a 5×9 inch loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs; beat well. Stir in peanut butter, bananas, flour and baking soda until blended. Fold in walnuts. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees F for 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool.