King Cake for Our Queen(s)
Tallulah the Catahoula came to us by way of Louisiana. We had not planned on adopting another fur baby. We'd recently lost our beloved April the Boston Terrier. We were busy smothering our remaining pups with love. It seemed callous to bring a new pawed soul into our home so soon after the little one's passing.
But as these things happen, a grey pip squeak managed to squirrel her way into Ray's heart when he happened upon her during his travels in Louisiana. He had only meant to leave the Bayou State with an LSU t-shirt and a tailgate hangover. Instead, he brought home a puppy.
I thank him every day for his foresight and curse him that I love her so that I let her sprawl in the bed next to me, stealing the covers and leaving my toes exposed. In fact, we loved her so much we brought Ruthie the Catahoula into the family.
Catahoulas are a Louisiana native. Their proper name is Catahoula Leopard Cur and they boast a grand lineage, descending from the Spanish Conquistador war dogs who were left behind with the American natives, who then bred them with the local wolf population. Apparently, they also taught them to like cake and snuggles.
So it's with the pelican state in my heart and Tallulah and Ruthie begging at my feet for some of their hometown cooking that I make the King Cake...and of course I let them choose the first piece.
Laissez les bon temps roulez, y'all.
My recipe is a lush sweet roll, intertwined with bourbon-cinnamon laced pastry cream. It's great any time of the year, not just Epiphany & Mardi Gras. Instead of a plastic baby hidden in the cake, as is the custom, I bury a pecan inside the cake to keep anyone from choking first thing in the New Year.
for the dough
5 cups/600 grams King Arthur all-purpose flour (plus 1 cup/120 grams more just in case the dough is too sticky...) 1 packet/7grams INSTANT yeast, I use Red Star Platinum Instant Yeast 2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup/66 grams granulated sugar 2 eggs 1 3/4 cups/395 grams whole milk, room temperature zest of 1 lemon 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste 4 tablespoons/56 grams very soft unsalted butter
2 egg whites, set aside in a small bowl
Preheat oven to 350º
-Place flour, yeast and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, whisk together the 2 eggs, milk, lemon zest, and vanilla bean paste. Add the dry ingredients. Mix on low until barely combined and then add the butter, a small piece at a time.
-Continue mixing 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 more flour from the extra cup a few tablespoons at a time. But be aware, this dough should be soft. When you touch it, it shouldn't feel wet but should be slightly tacky. The mixing process can take quite a while, up to 15 minutes. Be patient.
-Bulk ferment/proof the dough in a large bowl, spray with non-stick spray and cover with plastic wrap, until the dough doubles in size.
-Punch down the dough and roll out into a rough rectangle, approximately 24" long and 10" to 12" wide.
TIP! To make the roll out and the rolling up easier, at the tail end of the bulk fermentation, transfer the dough to a sheet pan lined with parchment and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Press the dough into a rough rectangle, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for about 15 minutes to stiffen the dough a bit (but DO NOT FREEZE completely).
for the filling (pastry cream)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
5 egg yolks
generous pinch salt
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
-In a large saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt to combine. Add the milk, cream, and yolks and whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise and just starts to bubble (the bubbles are more like burps because the cream's so thick). Immediately take from the heat and whisk in bourbon, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon. Continue whisking until the butter is completely incorporated. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl or spread on a parchment lined half sheet pan for a super fast cool down, and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the pastry cream to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool, about an hour.
for the glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, divided among three bowls.
1 - 2 tablespoons of milk per individual bowl
1 drop dye each of green, yellow and purple in each bowl.
Mix until smooth.
for the baby
-Mix the bourbon, vanilla, and cinnamon into the pastry cream, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Spread the pastry cream over the rectangle of dough.
-Roll the dough, starting with the long edge closest to you, into a jelly roll.
-Form the jelly roll into a circle, pinching the cut ends together gently.
Slice it up. -Every few inches, make a cut into the top of the cake and brush the entirety with egg white.
Let it rise again! -Allow to rise until doubled in size. Brush again with egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar. -Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
-Allow to cool completely. Hide a pecan in the cake by sticking it gently in one of the cut openings.
-Paint glaze stripes willy nilly.