Monday, January 23, 2012

King Cake (part deux)

I know I already posted King Cake, not quite a year ago, but my good friend Sue has just relocated from New Orleans and inspired me to revisit the King Cake with some changes. I also wanted to post a more timely recipe. Now is when you would traditionally serve this Mardi Gras treat. I'm no expert here, but according to Sue, in NOLA, they serve this on Fridays beginning on January 6th until Mardi Gras on February 21st. If you search "King Cake" on the internet there are thousands of versions, so who knows what is "authentic" or "traditional". It think it all depends on what you've grown up with or what they make at your neighborhood bakery. One thing they all do have in common is the three color decoration (Gold = Power, Green = Faith, Purple = Justice.). That's what really makes it a "King Cake". Beyond that, it's a sweet, breakfasty bread/cake, filled with any combination of flavors.

This time, again, I started with Gesine's King Cake recipe found here. I replaced the maple syrup with honey because I wanted a more neutral sweet flavor to the dough. I reduced, and slightly tweaked, the quantities (by about 25%) for a slightly smaller cake. (If you remember last time the finished cake was HUGE!). And lastly, I swapped out the bourbon/cinnamon pastry cream with lemon filling. Really, Gesine's pastry cream filling was absolutely delicious, I just wanted to try something different as well as reduce the steps and ingredients. I was pretty pleased with the results. I'd just do a few things different. The lemon pie filling worked well, but I like a really tangy lemon flavor, so I'd probably use a good quality lemon curd or make my own. I also think I slightly over baked my cake. It should be a more golden brown, mine is a bit dark. I will definitely make this again and my head is swimming with different filling ideas, cream cheese among them. I'll warn you his recipe is pretty step intensive and takes the better part of a day to finish, but it's a great opportunity to learn how to work with yeasted doughs. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Here is what you need for the cake: bread flour (King Arthur is the best!), instant yeast (I always use SAF.), salt, honey, eggs (only 2, not 3.), whole milk, a lemon for the zest, vanilla paste or extract (Try to find the paste!), butter and lemon filling (Next time I'll probably use lemon curd because I like a pretty tangy lemon filling, but the filling works too.) You need a few more things for decorating and icing but we'll get to that later.

Start by stirring together the flour, salt and yeast. Use your mixer with the dough hook.

In a separate bowl whisk together the honey, eggs, milk, lemon zest and vanilla paste. I usually start by adding the eggs to the honey and getting them well mixed then slowly whisking in the milk and adding the lemon zest and vanilla last. If you dump it all together and then try to mix it you end up with a globby lump of honey on the bottom.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just to combine. Then, with the mixer going, slowly add bits of the softened butter.

Speed the mixer up and let it go until the dough pulls from the side of the bowl and is shiny and elastic. This can take up to 10 minutes. If the dough is very sticky add a bit more flour.

Proof in a well oiled, straight sided container until double in size. This will take at least an hour if not more. It took over 3 hours for me because it was a cold day. Be patient and don't try to rush it!

Once proofed and doubled in size, punch down dough and turn it out on a well floured surface.

Roll it out, flouring as needed, to a 13 x 20 inch rectangle.

Spread evenly with the filling, leaving an inch margin along the side closest to you.

Starting at the far side, roll up into a tight roll.

Pinch the edge to seal.

Generously butter (or line with a silpat mat) a rimmed baking sheet. Generously butter an oven-proof custard cup and form the dough into a ring around it with the seam side of the roll on the bottom. Pinch the ends together to seal. Make six evenly spaced slashes in the dough going through at least the first layer of dough.

Cover loosely and proof again until doubled in size.

For decorating you'll need one egg white beaten until loose and frothy and coarse colored sugar in gold/yellow, purple and green. Optionally you can use clear sugar.

Brush the ring with the egg white and sprinkle with alternating colors of sugar. Leave the custard cup in place for baking.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, just until light golden brown. I let this go a bit too long, it's just a tad dark. Using an oven mitt, remove the custard cup from the middle and let the cake cool on the pan.

To ice the cake whisk together 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 to 2 tablespoons milk. It should be just runny enough to drizzle off a fork but not more. If you used clear sugar then divide the icing into 3 cups and color them yellow, green and purple.

Drizzle the icing over the cake using a fork. If you used clear sugar and colored icing, alternate the colors on the different sections of the cake.

Slice it up and enjoy. You could  pretty much fill this with any flavor you like. Apple, cherry, almond, cream cheese. The possibilities are endless. Give it a try!

King Cake
by Becky Elkins, adapted from Gesine Bullock-Prado

3-3/4 C. bread flour (plus extra as needed)
1 T. instant yeast
1-1/2 t. salt
1/4 C. honey
2 eggs
1-1/4 C. whole milk
zest of 1 small lemon
2-1/2 t. vanilla bean paste
3 t. unsalted butter at room temperature

12-14 oz. lemon pie filling or lemon curd

1 beaten egg white
Coarse Sugar (preferably colored yellow/gold, green and purple)

1 C. powdered sugar
1-2 T. milk
(optional food color in yellow, green and purple)

For the dough:
Place flour, yeast and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.  Stir the dry ingredients together.  Whisk together the honey, eggs, milk, lemon zest and vanilla bean paste.
With the mixer on low, add the wet ingredients.  When the wet ingredients are just combined, slowly add bits of the butter.  Mix the dough until it starts to pull from the sides of the bowl and is very shiny.  If the dough is very sticky, slowly add extra flour.  The mixing process can take quite a while, up to 10 minutes. Proof the dough in a straight sided container, sprayed with non-stick spray, until the dough doubles in size. (about 1 to 1-1/2 hours)

Generously butter a rimmed sheet pan or line with a silpat mat. Punch dough down and roll out, on a generously floured surface, into a 13x20 inch rectangle. (dough should be just under 1/4 inch thick.) Spread filling evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch margin on the long side, closest to you. Roll up, in a tight roll, starting with the long side farthest from you and rolling towards you, brushing off excess flour as you go. Pinch the seam to seal. Form roll into a ring on rimmed sheet pan. To help ring hold shape, place a generously buttered ovenproof custard cup in the center of the dough ring. Make 6 evenly spaced slashes around the ring. Cover loosely and let rise again until doubled in size. (about 1 hour) Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush lightly with one beaten egg white and sprinkle with alternating colors of sugar.  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Let cool.

For the icing:
Whisk together the sugar and milk until smooth. Use a fork to drizzle icing over cake.

Alternate decoration: If you don't have colored sugar, brush ring with egg white and sprinkle with coarse sugar. After baking, separate icing into three bowls coloring one yellow, one green and one purple. Then drizzle icing in alternating sections of the cake. (Green, yellow, purple, green, yellow. . .)

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