This morning, I'm sitting on my balcony, listening to the locusts in the trees, gazing out over the Pacific Ocean... and enjoying a piece of king cake! Woo hoo!! For those of you non-Louisianian readers, a King Cake is like a big purple, green and gold cinnamon roll eaten during the Carnival Season leading up to Fat Tuesday. And it's got a little plastic baby Jesus hidden in it! And it's basically a little slice of heaven. I won't bore you with the wonderful historical significance, but you can read more about it here if you're interested.
With Mardi Gras weekend approaching, I've been feeling a little homesick for New Orleans. For the last 3 years, my parents have sent me a Mardi Gras care package to California. But this year, I didn't think a king cake would make the 2-week journey across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. So I was forced to take matters into my own hands, dive into uncharted bread-making territory, and attempt to make my very own king cake.
After doing a bit of research, I settled on a recipe by Judy Walker of nola.com and The Times Picayune. I won't even begin to act like I'm some kind of pastry chef and say I added my own flair. I just followed Judy's instructions (and very helpful videos).
So instead of taking you step by step through a recipe I cannot take credit for, I recommend you visit nola.com for the recipe. ;) Make sure you read the written instructions before watching the videos, just so you know what's ahead. For instance, I initially added all the flour at once, but apparently it's better if you break it up and add it through out the steps. Mine still turned out pretty well though.
Anyway, if you've got several free hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, a decent amount of patience (you may want to queue up a Bachelor episode while you wait for the dough to rise), and you're ready to make a big floury mess in the kitchen, then I highly recommend attempting to make a king cake!
I was quite apprehensive at first. I thought surely there was no way it would turn out correctly and actually taste like a king cake. Well the 3+ hours of king cake love paid off. Being in New Zealand, I did have to make a few compromises. Little plastic baby Jesuses and purple, green and gold sugar are hard to come by here. So I substituted Jesus with a pecan, and I died my icing purple, green and yellow. (I wanted Joe's first king cake experience to be as authentic as possible).
When we finally sliced into the King Cake last night at 10pm, I tasted a little bit of home. It actually tasted like a REAL New Orleans King Cake!! I felt really proud, having successfully tackled my first bread-making and king cake-making attempt.
So if you want to impress the pants off your friends at your Mardi Gras party this weekend or bring a bit of New Orleans tradition into your own home, I highly recommend making your own king cake. Beware, they're addicting. I'm on my 3rd slice today!