"If no one came, there'd still be Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is a state of mind."
- New Orleans Mayor Ed Muniz
I think everyone is interested in Mardi Gras this year.
Last week, my article mentioned Mardi Gas and all the great foods associated with it.
I have received countless cool comments. The North is really ready for its own Mardi Gras.
Maybe it's the excitement of the YMCA Mardi Gras Dinner Dance with the Big Smoothies or maybe its just been a long winter or maybe the conservative North is ready to kick off their boots and kick up their Cajun heels.
To celebrate your own Mardi Gras, I offer you a recipe for king cake, a sticky, coffee cake-type pastry that has evolved into one of the most recognizable, and hungered for, symbols of New Orleans and Mardi Gras.
Because the pre-Lenten or carnival season started Jan. 6, the feast of the three kings or the 12th day of Christmas, the cake is called 12th cake or king's cake.
Today, the most popular variety of king's cake comes from France and is called the couronne, French for "crown."
Round like a donut and made with sweetened, egg-enriched brioche dough, it comes decorated with coarse colored sugar: green, gold and purple.
As a special symbol or bonus, each cake is prepared with a small trinket hidden within its rich layers.
The trinket originally was a shelled nut or a coin.
Today, it can be anything.
It can be a small toy baby, symbolizing the infant Jesus.
According to custom, the trinket and the reward of the receiver vary.
Most Nola's (New Orleans, Louisiana) say the person receiving the trinket must buy the next king's cake.
Others say the receiver is the queen of the masked ball and must immediately take the throne.
If a gent receives the trinket, then he must select a queen to preside.
So celebrate your Mardi Gras at home with a king's cake.
I have adjusted this recipe from a combination of several popular tastes.
It is actually easy.
It's a large cake so I make two, one for eating and one to give in case I get the baby.
Rich King's Cake
2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cup warm milk (about 110F)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
4 -5 cups bleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
A trinket or a shelled nut
3 cups confectioner's sugar
3-5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
Purple, green, and gold-food coloring or sugar sprinkles
1. Combine the yeast and granulated sugar in the bowl. I use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
2. Add the melted butter and warm milk. Mix well by hand or at low speed for 1 minute.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, then mix by hand or mix for 1 minute at medium-low speed.
4. Add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest
5. Gradually add 4 cups of flour. Mix until everything is incorporated. Add more flour as needed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball or starts to climb up the dough hook. Add only what is needed.
6. Knead the dough by mixer for five to eight minutes. If using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Knead for 10 minutes.
7. Grease another bowl. I use shortening. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to grease all sides. Cover and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about two hours.
8. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead slightly. Roll into a snake about 18 inches long. Roll back and forth until smooth. Shape the dough into a ring pinching the ends together. Insert trinket or nut anywhere into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough.
9. Cover the ring. Place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F. Brush the top of the risen cake with milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
11. Make the icing. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioner's sugar in medium-size mixing bowl. Stir to blend well. Color the icing in 3 colors and spread the icing alternating colors around the cake or use sprinkles. The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all the guests in attendance.
Yield: 20 to 22 servings.
If you still need more Mardi Gras, join the community at the YMCA March 6.
You can kick up your heels, but don't wear your heels as its in the new gym. Only $70 a person, this dinner dance should be the party of all parties.
Call the Y at 848-3447. See you there.