For most folks the holidays are over, but in New Orleans, they’re JUST BEGINNING. Yep.
Friday night, January 6, is Twelfth Night! That means it’s the start of carnival season, and officially the coolest day of the year to eat king cake. But you should strive to eat a piece of king cake at least once a week every week leading up to Mardi Gras. Pick up a cake at your favorite place, take it to school/work/home, and slice it all up at once so you can see who gets the baby. If you get the baby, you bring the next cake.
Even though tradition is to purchase a king cake, I really enjoy making them. They’re a bit of a project, but it’s one of those things that looks a lot harder to make than it actually is. Also, if you make your own, you can put whatever kind of filling (or lack of) you like, like bacon. I debated this idea for a while, telling myself it was unwisely distant from tradition, but it just sounded so good. Plus, a few of you reminded me that all things are better with bacon. Thank you for that. The bacon lends a richness that’s not overwhelming. I bet if you didn’t tell anyone about the bacon, they wouldn’t know it was there.
This dough recipe is from emerils.com, and I’m including his dough and method here with my own filling. And be sure to see last year’s post on how to shape and fill a king cake–it makes the whole process soooooo much easier.
- 2 envelopes active dry yeast
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 12 Tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup warm milk (about 110 degrees)
- 5 large egg yolks, at room temperature (separate them while still cold--it's easier)
- 4½ cups bleached all-purpose flour (unbleached works too)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, for greasing bowl
- 2 Tablespoons milk, for baking
- bacon-pecan praline filling
- 3 slices cooked bacon, preferably applewood smoked and uncured
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 3 Tablespoons milk
- 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
- purple, green, and gold colored sugars
- a dried bean, pecan half, or plastic baby trinket
- Make the dough: Combine the yeast and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the melted butter and warm milk. Beat at low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the egg yolks, then beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook.
- Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, make the filling. Chop the bacon slices into small bits, then combine them with the remaining filling ingredients in a small bowl until everything is well-mixed into a thick paste. Set aside.
- Line work counter with a long sheet of parchment paper, at least 30 inches long. Mark off 30 inches in length on the paper to use as a guide.
- Turn the dough out onto the top half of the parchment paper. Using lightly floured hands, pat the dough out into a rectangle 30" long and 6" wide.
- Distribute the filling evenly over the top half of the dough, then use the paper to help flip the bottom half over the top half. Seal the edges, pinching the seams together. Shape the dough into a cylinder by gently bringing the ends around to meet you where you stand, then smooshing the ends together and pinching the seams to seal.
- Trim the sides of the parchment paper to fit your baking sheet. Slide the cake (still on the paper) onto the baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic, and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350.
- Brush the top of the risen cake with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
- Insert the pecan half, bean, or baby somewhere into the cake from underneath.
- Make the icing. Combine the 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the 3 cups confectioner's sugar in medium-size mixing bowl. Stir to blend well. With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around the cake.