Wednesday, February 17, 2010

King Cake

Yesterday, @katieanthony42 tweeted about how badly she wished she was home in Mobile celebrating Mardi Gras. I love Katie for many reasons - not the least of which is that she is from my home state, as just about anyone I meet from Alabama these days is an instant friend, especially those that also work at GHC and also happen to be Auburn fans (ahem, Carla & Frank) - but I loved her even more yesterday for giving me the wonderful idea to make a king cake.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, 2010 is the Year of the Bread for LBDelicious. So far, my pizza crust turned out just okay and ended up better as a baked cinnamon/sugar pastry. The cinnamon rolls I made from scratch for Valentine's Day were tasty, but dry and not worthy of being shared with others. I'm not exactly on a roll with the yeast breads (I'm so punny), so you can understand my apprehension about making a king cake, which looked (and was) complicated. I have very little experience with the king cake in general - I've only eaten it once, when my friend Jennifer G. from New Orleans brought in a sample to the TA office one year. I've seen them in the bakery section of Kroger for a couple of weeks, but never given any thought to how it might be constructed or baked. So, on a whim yesterday, per Katie's tweet, I found Emeril's recipe for a king cake, and decided that I'd go home and attempt it.

I followed the directions exactly. When I removed the dough from the dough hook, I didn't expect it to be *that* sticky, but it was! A little vegetable oil on my hands would've made the "shape into a ball" part easier. After the dough rose for about 2 hours, I turned it out onto my prepared surface and tried my best to make a perfectly even 30x6 rectangle. Neither geometry nor numbers are my strong suit, so you can imagine the intense concentration this part required. I kept tearing holes in the dough and figured that, at that point, it was going to turn out disastrous. Getting the filling on the dough wasn't difficult, closing it up proved slightly challenging as the dough kept trying to break apart, but the most difficult part of the whole endeavor was forming it into a cylinder.

I had no clue how to go about morphing this flimsy, persnickety log filled with cream cheesy goodness into a cylinder. And it still had to rise again?! Sheesh. After fumbling around with the dough for a while, I finally figured out that it needed to be a *circle,* not really a cylinder. This still provided quite a challenge, as the dough was still being flimsy and filling was starting to ooze out from random patches.

To make things more nerve-wracking, I swear that the dough didn't rise AT ALL for the next 45 minutes, as Emeril said it should/would. It stayed pretty flat. Disheartened, I wedged in a pecan half (Emeril said it was an acceptable substitute for a plastic baby) somewhere in the middle, placed it in the oven at the appropriate time, and made my sugar-lemon glaze. The taste of it brought me right back to being a little girl, when my mom would make a Lemon Supreme cake in a bundt pan and top it with the exact same glaze. Being the hyperactive sugar-holic I was, I would wait until the icing ran off the sides (usually only took a few seconds) scrape off the excess with my little fingers and eat it by basically the handful. Mmmmm. Handfuls of icing. Classy. Not that I did that yesterday or anything...

I got the cake out of the oven just in time to grab sushi with Dave. With all that cake-baking going on, I was in no mood to cook dinner. Bad wife, I know. When we got back, the cake had cooled somewhat, so I topped it with the glaze and had a little too much fun decorating it with the colored sugar.

I took a quick picture:

and dug in. Surprisingly, it was really, really good!

I have a new Mardi Gras tradition. Maybe next year I'll make some in time to share with y'all.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


(subtitle: yes, I just invented a word, and somewhere in the greater Chicago area, Rick Bayless is having a heart attack, since I would have the audacity to maul the words for two different yet delicious Mexican treats.)

Before I tell you the recipe, I must say that this half marathon I've signed up for is going to be LAUGHABLE. I know I get worried about upcoming races, but seriously y'all. I'm nowhere near where I think I need to be in order to run a half. I'm sure I'll run it just fine, and I'll probably even finish somewhere just over 2 hours (which is my goal), and when I finish and am inhaling my third bagel, I'll think, "wow, that was awesome, let's do another one!" But right now, training is really tough. I ran 8 miles today, which is the longest I have ever run in my life. I am sore. I actually required a *nap* this afternoon, and I don't like naps.

But the good thing about constantly training for a half marathon or triathlon? I use it as an excuse to eat whatever the hell I want.

Tonight's carbo-loading took the form of homemade pizza. I should first say that 2010 is the "year of the bread" in Casa Dawmilam, as I am committed to learning how to cook breads of all sorts - quick breads are easy, but those involving yeast? They give me trouble. I also don't know how to make biscuits. Admitting this publicly probably embarrasses my mother and might result in the loss of my "southerner" card if I don't hurry up and learn how. Pizza dough seems easier, so that's what I did tonight. Rosalie used to make it all the time while we lived together (and it was dang tasty). But for some reason, I just don't have the hang of it yet. I think I'm not rolling it out properly.

Anticipating a potential disaster, I chopped off a little bit of my ball of dough and reserved it to "play" with. I thought that if the pizza sucked, at least I'd have a couple of breadsticks or - light bulb! - dessert breadsticks. I call them "churropillas" because they are a cross between churros and sopapillas. Dave had the genius idea to dip them in honey. They are a low-fat version of the fried sopapillas we used to get at Rosie's as dessert, and they are also a lower-fat version of churros, which I think are the same thing as these little guys, just fried.

First: make some pizza dough. And get some melted butter ready.
Then: roll it out really thinly.
Next: Slice the dough into strips. Brush with butter, and top with cinnamon and sugar.
Last: Bake it at 350 for about 15 minutes, top with honey and enjoy.