Monday, February 10, 2014

Mardi Gras King Cake

This may be the BEST king cake I've ever had, but I didn't want to put that in the post title since those are pretty strong words. Especially to anyone who has tried some of the excellent king cakes you can get in south Louisiana. But really, this cake was awesome! Part of what made it so delicious was that I filled it both cream cheese and pecan praline fillings. But even the dough was excellent and I'm sure would be delicious with a typical cinnamon sugar filling. I made this cake for the Super Bowl party that Joe and I went to and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I did have to explain to several people what exactly a king cake was and why there was a baby hidden inside though. I will definitely be making an other one or two to bring to my office on Mardi Gras.

I know I say this all the time, but this king cake was not difficult to make. The dough and icing recipes come from New Orleans chef John Besh. He has a show on PBS and he's always cooking up something tasty looking. I found the recipe from John Besh on a blog called Fleur Delicious which is probably the 2nd best blog name after Lombardo Lagniappe :) That is also where I found the recipe for the pecan praline filling. The cream cheese filling is simply some cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. Here's the full recipe:

King Cake with Cream Cheese and Pecan Praline Filling

For the cake:
1 cup whole milk, warmed to 110-120 degrees
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 envelopes active dry yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled slightly
5 large egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

For the pecan praline filling:
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 to 1 cup pecan pieces, toasted and finely chopped (I didn't toast mine and it turned out fine)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter

For the cream cheese filling:
10 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 t. lemon zest
1 tsp, lemon

For the icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1. For the cake, mix together the warm milk, yeast, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the flour together in a large bowl. Let stand for about 8 minutes until the yeast begins to foam and gets frothy.

I just wanted to give a visual of what the yeast should look like. Below is how it looked after several minutes. 

2. Add the butter, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest and whisk to combine.
3. Add the rest of the flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. At this point, the dough will look really wet and not much like a bread dough.

4. Next, either use the dough hook on a stand mixer, or turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and pliable. If using the stand mixer, the dough should pull away from the sides.

5. Let rise until doubled in size. 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

6. While the dough is rising, make the filling. For the pecan praline filling, stir together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Then stir the melted butter in. Set that aside. For the cream cheese filling, mix all ingredients together with a mixer.
7. Once the dough is risen, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Punch down the risen dough, and let it rest for a few minutes. Then roll it out on a floured surface into a long rectangle about 10"-12" wide but a couple feet long.
8. Spread the cream cheese filling on the dough, then "sprinkle" chunks of the praline filling over that.

9. Roll up tightly and form into a ring on a baking sheet. Try and pinch the two ends together.

10. Bake for about 30 minutes until the cake is golden brown.

11. Let cool on a wire rack until completely cooled. Before icing the cake, hide the baby inside!
12. Then mix together all your icing ingredients and pour over the cake. While the icing is still wet, sprinkle on the colored sugar.


I know that's a lot of ingredients and steps, but I promise it's worth it! I'm not sure I can wait till Mardi Gras to make another one. If I were down in Louisiana I could get my king cake fix by just picking one up at the grocery store. Though they do sell king cakes at a few grocery stores in Kansas City, I can tell you they are not very good. I think they bake one batch a year and sell them for a few weeks. They're just dry and gross. Let me know if you decide to try making your own king cake this year, and if you come up with any good filling flavors!

I think that's it for tonight. Thanks for reading and if I don't get back on here before Friday, have a happy Valentine's day with the ones you love!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Valentine's Tea Cakes

Hello from our snow cave. I stayed home from work today since the forecast called for 8-10" of snow today and I'd say that's about what we got. Unfortunately it fell on top of an existing layer of ice we have on our driveway. Hopefully the icemelt that Joe put down today will help out. I did actually get some work done since I brought my work laptop home, so that was nice. It would have been a good day to bake something, but then I would have just eaten all of it, so I though it would be best not to.

However,a couple of weekends ago I did give in to my baking impulse and made these little tea cakes. I think the main reason this recipe won was that I had a few vanilla beans on my hands. Also, I had these little tart pans that Mom gave me that had never been used. Those two reasons were good enough for me! :)

This recipe is from a cook book called Sprinkle Bakes which is written by a lady who has a blog by the same name. If you're ever looking for a super delicious and creative dessert, be sure to check out her blog! Now I realize that most of you probably don't have these little tart pans and have no need for "tea cakes" but Joe and I also don't drink much tea and we still managed to eat all of these in 2 days. Also, if you do want to make them, you can always use a mini muffin pan. These little cakes aren't overly sweet and they're great for snacking :) Here's the recipe!

Heart Tea Cakes
From: Sprinkle Bakes

1/4 cup almond flour or finely ground almonds
1 stick butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites; lightly whisked
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup seedless jelly; a dark color such as raspberry or blackberry works best

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Place the almond flour spread out in an even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and toast in the oven for 6-8 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from the oven and let cool.
3. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Place 12 mini tart molds on a baking sheet or line a mini muffin tin with paper liners.
4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Line a mesh sieve with cheese cloth or a coffee filter, and place over a small bowl. Once the butter has melted, allow it to come to a boil. Swirl the pan occasionally; do not stir. As the butter boils, you will notice foam on the butter's surface.
5. Continue to cook until the butter becomes clear and the milk solids have dropped to the bottom of the pan; cook until the butter solids turn light golden brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant.
6. Remove from the heat and immediately pour through the mesh sieve into the bowl.
7. Let cool to room temperature. Measure 1/3 cup of the browned butter and reserve. Use the remaining butter to grease the mini tart molds, using a pastry brush.

8. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, powdered sugar and salt.
9. Make a small well in the center of the flour mixture, and fold in the egg whites, seeds from the vanilla bean, and reserved 1/3 cup of browned butter. I actually whisked the mixture since I could see that the egg whites weren't mixed in. That's why I added in the ingredient list that you should whisk the egg whites up a little before hand.
10. Fill each mold. I did this by pouring the batter into a ziploc bag and snipping the corner off. It made it really simple.

11. In a small bowl, heat the jelly in the microwave at full power for 30 seconds. Heat just enough to loosen it, but not so it becomes completely liquid.
12. Place the melted jelly in a ziploc bag and snip a tiny corner off. Pipe a dime size dot of jelly on top of each unbaked tea cake.

13. Gently pull a skewer or toothpick through the batter and down the center of the jelly dot, creating a heart shape in the batter.

14. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the cakes have become light brown on top and are springy to the touch.

15. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before un-molding.

I know that's a lot of steps, but I made these start to finish in probably 30 minutes. They were easy, I promise!

Hopefully tomorrow I'll return to work. Not that I really want to, but you know, it's probably for the best. Soon I'll share a recipe for what is quite possibly the most delicious king cake I've ever had. Until then I'll just be trying to stay warm. Have a good night!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Christmas and Wedding Vacation 2013

Better late than never, right?

Well we're over a month into 2014 and I figured it was about time to blog again. I know I always say this, but I really do have a lot of things to post about. And HOPEFULLY I'll get around to posting them soon. You probably didn't notice, but there were no New Year's resolutions posted this year. That's because last year's were pretty much a bust. Except for the 1/2 marathon since I pretty much had to do that. I'll just try and have a good year I guess :)  We've been pretty busy in the several weeks since I've posted so I figured I should go in chronological order or else things will be left out.

That means we're starting with Christmas! We started our Christmas "vacation" this year with a late night drive to St. Louis in order to beat an impending snow storm. We spent a few nights in St. Louis and had Christmas with Joe's immediate family. That included lots of fun playing with our favorite nephew :) We had a nice relaxing time in St. Louis, but you'll have to take my word for it since I didn't get any pictures there. On Monday, Joe and I packed up and started the drive to Wisconsin. We got there a day early in order to spend a little extra time with Joe's grandparents.

It was just a little cold in Wisconsin. When we left St. Louis it was around 25 degrees and by the time we got to Wisconsin, it was around 4. Sooooo cold! And lots of snow as well. On our drive up the trees along the interstate were covered in ice. They were really pretty and I tried to get a decent picture of them:

On Christmas Eve, the rest of Joe's family came in town, and then on Christmas day we drove to Milwaukee to visit with Joe's dad's side of the family. We had a nice brunch with them, then exchanged gifts and visited for a while. Again, you'll have to trust me that we were actually there, since I didn't get any pictures :(

Then it we headed back to spend the rest of Christmas day with Joe's Mom's family where we filled up on some more delicious food and were thoroughly entertained by these crazy kids!

Albert, Emmet and Miles. 

Miles, Albert, Emmet and Tess. Tess is clearly not amused by the crazy boys. 

I'm including Joe's Grandma & Papa because they entertained us too :)
It was really fun to watch them all play together. The littlest one slept almost the entire evening, but it I still enjoyed holding her for a while :)

The day after Christmas, Joe's Dad and Papa got up bright and early with us (though really it was dark) and drove us to the airport in Madison so we could catch our flight to Louisiana for the wedding of my sister Mary and her new husband Michael. We landed in a MUCH warmer climate than we'd left, and Joe and I both decided we preferred the warm weather haha. As soon as we got to Lake Charles, we headed to Mary and Michael's to help with last minute wedding details and do a quick Christmas gift exchange with my parents and sisters. Then that evening, several of our out of town family members came over for a fish fry. Good food and good company and guess what... no pictures! My first picture in Louisiana was when all the girls went out for lunch on the day before the wedding. It was fun to relax and chat/catch up with everyone.

Clockwise from Left: Megan, Allison, Kathy, Grace, Sara, Mary, Mom, Me (We were missing bridesmaids Karen and Lucy)

Then we went to get our nails done and before we knew it, we were heading to the rehearsal dinner. No pictures from that either, but it was basically a big group of all our friends and family and tons of amazing food. Needless to say, it was a really fun night!

Saturday started with a trip to the salon to get our hair done. I did get photographic proof of that haha! (I think I need to fix my photography priorities)

Gracie - AKA Goldilocks

The wedding wasn't until the evening, so the day really was pretty relaxing since we didn't have to run around like crazy. Of course in the end we were still rushing a bit to get out the door to the church. But that pretty much happens at all weddings, right? Here's one of the only pictures I have of Mary and Mom before the wedding.

The wedding was beautiful and reception was a blast! I did get this picture of the Bride and Groom the next day at the post wedding brunch. I'm pretty sure at this point they were just counting down the minutes until they were on the plane to Hawaii!

Congratulations again to Mary and Michael! Joe and I had a great time celebrating with you :) You throw a good party!

Well, I think that's a long enough post for now. I PROMISE there will be a couple of recipe posts coming up soon, and as usual another cake post. Until then, stay warm!