Friday, January 20, 2012

Praline and Cream Cheese Filled King Cake

The "king cake" gets its name from the three kings in the bible who traveled to visit baby Jesus. King cakes are traditionally eaten between the Ephinany (the feast day celebrating the visit of the three wise to baby Jesus which symbolizes the presentation of Jesus to the wider world) through Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday- the day before Ask Wednesday and the beginning of lent).
Each king cake usually has a small plastic baby, nut, or bean symbolizing baby Jesus. Depending on where you live, the person who gets the piece of cake with the "baby" has to have the next party, supply the next cake, is declared king or queen for a day, is going to have a baby, or has to prepare tamales for the Candlemass feast. The cake is decorated in traditional Mardi Gras colors: green (faith), gold (power), and purple (justice).

My favorite king cakes are the filled cakes. When I lived in New Orleans, I never thought to make a king cake because it was so easy to buy one. Like everyone else in New Orleans, I had my favorite bakery and I ate lots of king cake. Now I have two options for king cake, I can have one shipped or make my own. I decided to make my own that way I can fill my king cake with cream cheese and pralines. Yum! These cakes are not difficult at all to make. The dough is so easy to work with. I would like to tell you that these take no time at all. That would be a lie. It took me most of a day to make this cake. While a lot of that time was the cake rising, you should plan on four plus hours from start to finish.

King Cake
2 1/4 Tsp (One Packet) of Yeast
1/2 Cup (120 ml) of Milk
6 Tbsp of Butter, Softened
2 Tbsp of Sugar
1/4 Tsp of Salt
1 Egg, at Room Temperature
1/2 Tsp of Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp of Ground Nutmeg
2 1/2- 3 Cups (300g to 360g) of Flour

In a small saucepan heat the milk to 100-110F/38-43C. Pour the milk into your mixing bowl and add the yeast and the sugar. Let the yeast mixture sit for 10 minutes or until foamy. (If the yeast does not react throw out the yeast mixture and start again).

In a small bowl, beat the egg and add to the yeast mixture. In another small bowl combine the flour, spices, and salt. Add the butter to the egg/milk mixture, turn on the mixer and gradually add the dry ingredients. I add 2 1/2 cups (300 g) of flour and once it is combined, I switch to a dough hook and mix the dough until a soft ball forms. Up to 1/2 cup (60 g) of flour may need to be added (a small amount at a time) for the soft ball to form.
The dough has formed a soft ball and is ready to knead
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough is soft and smooth. This process will not take long. It takes me less than a minute.
Kneaded dough ready to rise
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and roll the dough in the bowl so the dough ball is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, place in a warm area (free of drafts), and allow the dough to rise for about an hour or until the dough had doubled in size. Sometime this can take up to an hour and a half.

While the dough is rising, make the fillings and sugar (see recipes below).

Once the dough is ready, punch the dough. Place on a lightly floured surface. I like to use parchment paper so then I can transfer the dough on the parchment paper to a cooking sheet without messing up the dough. Roll the dough out into a rectangle. Place gobs of the cream cheese and praline mixture on one half of the rectangle (do not use all of the fillings). Keep the filling away from the edges of the cake otherwise you will have filling oozing out while it bakes.
Rolled out dough with gobs of filling
Fold the rectangle in half and crimp the edges.
Folded dough
Place more gobs of the fillings on half of the rectangle and fold and crimp the edges.

Folded dough with gobs of filling
(I prefer gobs to thinly spreading the fillings over the entire surface because I like pockets of filling in the cake not a thin layer throughout).
Folded dough ready to form into an oval
Shape the rectangle into a round or oval shape. Place a greased coffee can in the center of the king cake.
Rising king cake
Cover with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
Ready for the oven
Preheat your oven to 375F/190C/Gas Mark 5. Remove the coffee cans and bake for 15-20 minutes or until slightly brown. Place plastic baby or almond in the cake by placing a small split in the bottom of the cake and inserting the plastic baby or almond.
Iced king cake
Make the icing. Ice the cake and while the icing is still wet, pour the sugar on top.

Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz (227 g) of Cream Cheese
1/4 Cup (50 g) Sugar
1 Tsp of Vanilla

Combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla and beat until creamy.

Praline Filling

1 Cup (128 g) of Pecans
1/4 Cup (56 g) of Butter, Melted
1/2 Cup (120 g) of Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 Tsp of Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp of Nutmeg

Mix all of the ingredients together.
Mmmmmm praline filling

1 Tablespoon of Butter, Melted
2 Cups (230 g) of Powdered Sugar
2-4 Tablespoons of Half and Half or Cream
1/2 Tsp of Flavoring, Optional


1-2 Drops of Food Coloring

Place the sugar in a plastic bag and add one drop of food coloring and rub the sugar and the food coloring together. Add one drop of food coloring at a time until desired color is reached.
Gold sugar
The bottom line: will I make this again. Yes, I have one more to make this season and then I am done until next year. These are time intensive cakes with lots of steps. Of course, if I was happy with a regular king cake it wouldn't take so much time. Are they worth the time, yes. Having made two, am I glad I only have one more to make? Yes, yes I am.

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