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Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Happy Mardi Gras!
I have always loved New Orleans - from the minute I stepped off the plane to take my licensing exam, into the hot and humid summer. Quite a surprise, having just come from the middle of a New Zealand winter.
One of my favorite trips there in recent times, was for the Rotary International Convention - I had a glimpse into parts of the city I had never seen before. There was incredible home cooking, as people from different Rotary clubs fed us, we were able to stroll through the Aquarium after hours, sipping a glass of wine, and we were with friends who introduced us to restaurants and bars we hadn't known about.

One of the fun bars our friends took us to
Jazz band we saw while walking back to our hotel one evening
Although it wasn't Mardi Gras at that time - we have experienced many in New Orleans as my husband rode in a parade for numerous years.
A King Cake is a tasty treat, most plentiful around Mardi Gras time, and one I remember fondly from my days in Louisiana. Although you can buy them up here in Arkansas, they tend to be a little more elusive than down South, so I thought I would attempt to make one for the very first time.
The King Cake with Cream Cheese Cinnamon Filling is a simplified version, using crescent rolls for the dough, perfect to put together for a quick breakfast, snack or dessert.
However the King Cake with Bourbon and Pecans takes a little more preparation.
I planned to start it the day before Mardi Gras, but despite having been to the supermarket twice in three days, I still hadn't picked up the bread flour required in the recipe. My daughter was in a musical at school, and once we were home from that, I finally remembered the essential missing ingredient.
A final trip to the supermarket and I was ready to begin. Unfortunately, I was feeling a little weary by this time, I didn't read the recipe through thoroughly, thoughtlessly used the blender instead of the food processor and hadn't taken into account the hour and a half initial time to let the dough rise, and then the final three hours before I could put it in the refrigerator and call it a night - at 1 AM!
Although this project seemed to be doomed from the start - my cake actually turned out light and flaky and really delicious, with a perfect ratio of filling to crust.


2 (8 ounce) cans crescent rolls (I used one, but really did need the second can)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350F.
Coat a 10 inch round pizza pan or dish with cooking spray.
Separate crescent rolls at perforations, place slices around prepared pan with points in the center. About half way down from points, press the seams together.
In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners sugar and vanilla until creamy. Spread on dough in the center where the seams have been pressed together.
In another small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and cinnamon with a fork, until crumbly.
Sprinkle over cream cheese. Fold dough points over filling, then fold bottom of triangle over points forming a circular king cake shape.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly and drizzle with icing.

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients, drizzle over baked cake.

Recipe adapted from The Morning News, February 2009


1/3 cup milk
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 large egg yolks, plus 2 eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the bowl
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup bourbon
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Heat the milk in a saucepan until scalding, transfer to a food processor, add the yeast and pulse to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour and the egg yolks, process to combine. Pour the remaining 2 cups flour evenly over the yeast mixture, do not process. Put the lid on, set aside for 90 minutes.
Add the 2 whole eggs, sugar, lemon zest, salt and nutmeg to the food processor. Process to make a slightly textured dough, about 1 minute. With the machine running, slowly add the butter to make a smooth, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 3 hours. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead briefly. Form into a ball and return to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Plump the raisins in the bourbon in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, pecans, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest and salt, mix until combined and set aside.
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 20 by 7 inch rectangle, with the long edge facing you. Spoon the filling in an even layer over the dough, leaving a 1 inch border along the top and bottom. Fold the bottom and then the top edge over the filling to make a tight roll, pinch to seal.
Transfer the roll seam side down to a parchment lined baking sheet, tuck one end into the other to form a ring. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the roll doubles in size, about 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 350F. Bake the cake until firm and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack.
Mix 3 tablespoons water with the confectioners sugar, brush 3 tablespoons of glaze over the cake, then drizzle with the remaining glaze.

Recipe adapted from Food Network Kitchens › Recipes › Baking › Cakes

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