MARDI GRAS that is! Parades, beads, revelry and “Laissez les bon temp rouler!! (Let the good times roll!) But to many folks in Louisiana it means it is time for the appearance of the King Cake!
There is NOTHING more seductive than the aroma of a yeast dough baking in the oven, unless it is one filled with cinnamon and sugar!
January means the arrival of King Cake season in New Orleans and South Louisiana. And I love it when I get to teach others how to make one of their own. They are amazed at how easy it is but more importantly, how delicious they come out!
In a recent class I taught the students a rich, sweet, no-knead dough that we used to make 5 different items. With a double recipe of the dough we made King Cakes, Cinnamon Rolls, Caramel Pecan Rolls, A Nutella Twist, and finally some fabulous Parker House Rolls.
Chiqui’s Basic Sweet Dough
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 t. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. warm water (105*-115*)
5 c. sifted all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. shortening, melted & cooled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
Combine yeast, t sugar and warm water in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup; stir and let stand 5 minutes. Combine 4 c. sifted flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir in yeast mixture and shortening. Add eggs and remaining 1 c. of flour. Stir vigorously until well blended. (Dough will be soft and sticky). Brush or lightly rub dough with a small amount of vegetable oil. Place in an oiled bowl. Cover loosely, let rise in a warm place (85) free from drafts, 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
Divide dough in half. Heavily dust a cool surface with ¼ of the extra flour. Place dough on the surface and divide the remaining flour into four equal parts and set aside. Sift ¼ of the remaining flour over the dough. Lightly roll out the dough to a ½” thick rectangle. Flavor or fill dough to within 1 inch from all four edges according to your recipe. Shape according to your recipe. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet or cake pan. Repeat with second half of dough.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour in a draft free, warm place. Bake according to recipe directions.
Roll out dough into a rectangle. Using a floured pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut dough into 3×2” rectangles. Brush the cut dough with the melted butter. Have a baking sheet lined with parchment paper ready. Gently stretch each buttered rectangle, lengthwise to elongate the dough an extra inch. Fold dough in half onto the buttered surface. Place on the lined pan. Continue until all rolls are shaped like little pockets. Brush the shaped rolls with melted butter, cover with plastic wrap (loosely) and allow to rise in a warm place for about 1-1 ½ hours.
Bake in a preheated 350* oven until beautifully golden brown.
Roll risen dough into a large rectangle approx. ½” thick. Gently brush the rectangle with softened butter (NOT MARGARINE), about 1 stick. Starting 1 inch from the edge of the dough, generously sprinkle the buttered dough with good ground cinnamon (I prefer Saigon Cinnamon..Sam’s or Costco).
Then evenly sprinkle 1 ½ cups light or dark brown sugar over the cinnamon layer. Starting at the long side of the rectangle, start rolling the dough into a large roll, ending with the seam side down. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough into 1” slices. Place the rolls, cut side down in a well buttered 13×9” baking pan with a little space between rolls. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft free place for 1 hour.
Place rolls on the center rack of your preheated, 350* oven and bake 25-30 minutes until beautifully browned.
While rolls are still warm from the oven, drizzle with vanilla glace or cream cheese icing below.
Caramel Pecan Rolls
Prepare dough the same as for Cinnamon Rolls filling them and rolling and cutting them the same way. Prepare a baking pan (either 1- 13×9” or 2 – 9”round pans) by heavily buttering the sides and bottom of pans with softened butter. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan generously with light brown sugar. Drizzle with light Karo Syrup: 6 Tabsp. for the large pan, or 3 tabsp. each for the 2 round pans. Next, sprinkle with 1 ½-2 cups coarsely chopped pecans.
Place rolls, cut side down over the filled pans, leaving a little space between rolls to allow for rising. Cover pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Bake in a 350* preheated oven approx. 25 minutes until golden brown. As soon as you remove the pans from the oven, carefully place a serving plate or tray on top of the hot rolls and invert. BE VERY CAREFULL AS THE CARAMEL TOPPING WILL BE DRIPPING OUT OF THE PAN AND IT IS EXTREMELY HOT!!
Roll out risen dough onto a heavily floured surface until it is about ¼” thick rectangle. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, divide the dough into three long rectangles. Spread each rectangle with desired filling in a thin layer and roll up into three long ropes.
Braid the three ropes and for it into an oval ring on a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a very sharp paring knife, make slits about halfway through the tops of the smooth braids to lightly expose the filling. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size. Approx 1-1 ½ hours. Lightly brush the risen cake with an eggwash before baking. (One whole egg beaten with 1 tabsp. cold water.)
Bake King Cake on the center rack of a preheated 350* oven for 25-35 minutes until it is a deep, golden brown. Cool completely and insert a plastic baby from the underside of the cake if desired. Decorate the cake first by spreading the desired amount of cream cheese icing you desire, then continue decorating with colored sugars or assorted sprinkles as desired.
Vanilla Drizzle: Combine 2 cups confectioner’s sugar with a tablespoon or two of light cream or milk and a drop or two of vanilla extract; stir well to dissolve sugar. For a thicker drizzle use only 1 tablespoon milk.
Cream Cheese Icing: In a large mixing bowl, beat two 8OZ. Philly Cream Cheese with ½ cup confectioner’s sugar and beat until real smooth. Slowly beat in some half and half or milk, one tablespoon at a time until you reach your preferred spreading consistency. Add a few drops of vanilla extract and a tiny pinch of table salt. Beat well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap until ready to use at room temperature.
Cream Cheese Filling for King Cake: Place 2- 8oz. room temperature Cream Cheese in a large bowl. Beat until nice and smooth. Add 3 heaping tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar, a teasp. Vanilla extract, 3 tablespoons milk and one beaten egg into the cream cheese. Beat well until fully combined. Use this for a filling ONLY because it contains raw egg. Use this to fill your King Cake and bake as directed.
Nutella Twist: Roll out dough as above. Spread generously with Nutella to within 1/2″ of the edges. Roll up tightly to form a long rope. Using a sharp knife, cut the log in half wo within 1 1/2″ of one end. Twist the dough onto itself, and attach ends. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise about 40 minutes. Remove plastic, brush with eggwash and bake in a 350* preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.
ENJOY!!!! until next time…..Bon Appetit…….Chiqui