25 January 2012

Mardi Gras: New Orleans Zulu King Cake


king cake 1
From Denny:  When you experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans one of the first things you want to enjoy again is the famous King Cake.

Here in Baton Rouge our grocery stores and local bakeries offer literally dozens of varieties from chocolate eclair to cream cheese and blueberry.  Those are two of my favorites.  :)

The Zulu King Cake has coconut and chocolate chips.  Cinnamon, sugar and cream cheese is another popular version.



The King Cake is a Catholic tradition usually enjoyed during the Christmas season in Europe.  But here in America, in Louisiana where there are over 100 years of Italian, Sicilian, French and Spanish immigrants, we celebrate the King Cake during carnival season that occurs right before the Easter season.

The King Cake gets its name from the biblical three kings that traveled far to visit the young Jesus Christ.  Christian tradition states that the journey to Bethlehem took five days.  The kings arrived on Epiphany Day.

The season for the King Cake starts at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Twelfth Night and Epiphany Day) all the way through to Mardi Gras day (the Tuesday "Fat Tuesday" before Lent begins).  Often the local bakeries will extend King Cake season another week just because we enjoy the cake so much.

There is hidden inside the cake a plastic baby.  Be careful when you bite down on a piece of King Cake.  In Louisiana tradition, whoever gets the plastic baby is the one who has to pay for the King Cake next time.  In New Orleans it also means you get to be the King or Queen of Mardi Gras too.

This version of King Cake needs to rest the dough in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours since this is a yeast bread.  Divide the dough into three equal pieces, rolling out into 28-inch x 4-inch rectangles.  Line the dough rectangles with the filling of your choice.  Roll the rectangles into a rope, pinching the ends, then braid the roll.  Let the braided roll sit aside and take some time to rise, then bake until golden brown.

The silky glaze for this Zulu King Cake is redolent with butter, chocolate, honey and vanilla.  Then sprinkle with a hearty amount of fresh coconut - shaved coconut if you are feeling ambitious and have the time. :)

Zulu King Cake

From:  Katie Veron

Serves:  12 - 15

Ingredients:

Cake: 

4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp. salt
2 pkgs. (or 1 tbl.) Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup salted butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup melted butter

Filling:

8 ozs. cream cheese, softened
3 tbls. butter, softened
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Glaze:

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chip
4 tbls. butter
2 tbls. honey
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Sweetened coconut flakes

Directions:

1. To make cake, in a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, ø cup sugar, salt and undissolved yeast. Heat milk, water and 1/2 cup butter to 120-130 degrees.

2. Add liquid to dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Add eggs and 1/2 cup flour. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes.

3. Stir in remaining flour in 3-4 portions. After the last addition, combine until sticky dough develops.

4. On a floured surface, knead dough for 5-10 minutes dusting surface repeatedly with flour when dough become very sticky. Stop kneading when the dough is smooth, elastic and still slightly sticky.

5. Place dough in a well-greased bowl. Put a butter wrapper on top of dough, cover with a damp, lightweight cloth, and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

6. Allow dough to sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before punching dough down. Divide into 3 equal pieces and form each into cylinders. Roll each cylinder into a 28x4-inch rectangle.

7. For filling: With electric mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, chocolate chips, coconut, and vanilla.

8. Place a line of the filling down the center of each dough rectangle. Beginning at the long end, roll up each rectangle tightly into a rope and pinch the seams to seal. Braid ropes, form braid into oval and seal by pinching ends together.

9. Place dough on ungreased baking sheet, cover, and let rise in a warm, draft-free, humid place until double in size, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

10. Brush with melted butter and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until top of braid becomes golden brown. Transfer to wire rack immediately to cool.

11. In double boiler, melt down chocolate, butter and honey for glaze. Remove from heat, add vanilla and drizzle over cake. Sprinkle with coconut flakes.


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