Tuesday, February 16, 2010

And Happy Mardi Gras!


I've had discussions with several people, on totally unrelated occasions about the particular magic of the word 'cake'.  I agree. Cake is a good word. It implies so many wonderful things that when somebody says "Oh, it'll be cake" they mean it'll be too good to be true, possibly better than you deserve, and in any case, there will be lots of fun and goodness to be had.

It also means something is easy, which cake isn't, always, except for the eating part. But with the aid of modern technology, cake is really not that daunting an achievement. And damn, sometimes I do miss celebrating mardi gas.

King Cake

For the dough:

1/2 cup water
15g dry milk
10g instant yeast
about 4 1/2 cups flour- I used all purpose, but I wonder now if I should have used bread flour.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp punkin pie spice
10g salt- this is about a scant teaspoon
1 tsp vanilla
3 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
1 stick of butter

the filling:
about a cup each of lightly toasted pecans and whole dried dates, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup oatmeal. Chop everything in a food processor. The oatmeal is really just to keep the dates from turning into paste. It should be slightly chunky.

I put the dough ingredients in my bread machine. I had to add quite a bit of flour when it started kneading; I think I measured the flour wrong to begin with... But don't worry! It'll be fine. This dough should be about 25% softer than a dough you make regular bread with. You may think that it will be too sticky to work with, but there is so much butter in the recipe that it really isn't a problem.

I just let the dough machine do its thing, and when it beeped to tell me the first rising was done, (that's about an hour) I floured my counter, turned the dough out onto it, and rolled it out into a rectangle about 15x24 inches. Then I took the filling and pressed it firmly into the dough, right up to the very edges. It's ok if some falls out the sides, but you probably don't want any unadorned patches in your cake. You can eat the bits that fell out while you wait for the thing to rise.

Roll the dough up along the long axis of the rectangle. As you roll, flour it a bit so it doesn't stick back down on the counter. The middle of the roll will probably be rather thicker than the ends, so gently stretch the dough out. You need your cake roll to be at least 2 feet long. Have a greased sheet pan ready, as well as a small oven-safe dish, also oiled. Put the little dish on the sheet pan and wrap the cake roll around it. This will keep the ring shape from closing back up. Tuck the ends in and let it rise for about another hour.

The recipe this is based on said to bake it with the little dish in place to keep the ring shape, but upon reflection, I decided to take the thing out before baking. I also slashed it and gave it a bit of an egg wash, which I'm very glad I did because it made it so pretty I was literally taken aback.

Bake at 375. Mine took almost an hour. If you can make yourself refrain from flapping the oven door open the way I do, it will take less time, but you should cover the cake with a sheet of foil once it's nicely browned or it will get burnt. I'm pretty happy with how it tuned out, but I think I overcooked it. Other notes: I read a recipe for boiled frosting, which tastes good, but just slid off the cake. Just do the thing where you mix a couple tablespoons of lemon juice with an enormous quantity of powdered sugar and it'll do better. This dough seems to be a nice all-purpose brioche. I bet it would make a great french toast loaf. And the filling is not traditional. Almond paste may be what is supposed to go in it, but I liked this an awful lot. Fill it, or not, with whatever you like.

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