Or in English…”Let the good times roll!”
It is times like these that I really miss Pensacola (Florida). Today is Fat Tuesday. If you live anywhere other than Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, or Mississippi, this might mean a few beads and some masks. However, if you are a true southerner, Mardi Gras season is a lifestyle. The New Orleans’ influence spread throughout the south and it is not unusual for people to take a day or week off of work to celebrate. Beads, beer, bushwhackers, beignets, and more are found in abundance at parties, on the streets, at masquerade balls, in parades, schools, and workplaces. Mardi Gras is a time for everyone to celebrate life and happiness and for many, the preparation for Lent. Fat Tuesday is a day of serious indulgence before Ash Wednesday.
You cannot throw a Mardi Gras party without the ultimate Fat Tuesday centerpiece…the King Cake. This cake is a Danish creation rolled up jelly roll style and filled with cinnamon, raisins, and more.
The tradition is that each person takes a piece of cake hoping to find the plastic baby inside (I think my cake was cut perfectly…the baby reaching out for someone to pull it from the cake!). Whomever finds the plastic baby in their piece is crowned King or Queen for the day. They are also supposedly obligated to host the Mardi Gras party the next year and supply the King Cake.
You can order your cake from an authentic bakery in New Orleans or elsewhere in the south. They are shipped all over the nation around Mardi Gras. OR you can make your own! It really is not difficult, though it does involve yeast and rising time. I found an excellent recipe here at allrecipes.com.
Instead of doing all the proofing, rising, and kneading on my own, I stuck the ingredients in my bread machine. For most machines you start with the liquids first (I did use warm milk and softened the butter in the microwave). Then you put all the dry ingredients in and make a well in the top of the mound of flour. This is where you put the yeast (no proofing and letting it bubble in with the sugar, etc.). When using a machine you do not want to let the yeast and liquids mix (I also keep it away from the salt) until the heat is spreading through the dough.
You see though, I only have a 1.5 pound bread machine. The most dry ingredients (I think all combined) you are supposed to put in the machine is 4 cups. The recipe calls for 5.5 cups of just flour. Guess what happens when you don’t follow directions?
Oops! Hee hee, silly me! Really though, I would probably do it the same way again, even though my dough tried to escape from the machine! It was still a time saver and still rose perfectly fine.
After the first rising you roll the dough out into a rectangle and sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the rectangle. Then roll it up jellyroll style beginning on a long side, pinching the seam firmly together.
Repeat the process with the second half of dough and place on a piece of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet, forming a ring. Again, press the two ends together on each side of the ring, firmly sealing the ring. Here is the ring after cutting slits in it, and again after the second rising.
HOW DO I LET MY BREAD RAISE??? Thank you for asking! I preheat my oven to 175 degrees and then turn it off! Crack the oven door open with a wooden spoon and after it has had about 5 minutes to air out, put the dough in the oven. This should provide the perfect temperature for the next hour or so to allow your bread to rise.
After it has fully risen, bake it in the preheated oven, cut a small hole in the bottom and stick the baby inside and drizzle the topping over it. I let my cake rise for a LONG time. This caused two problems. One, I should have baked it for about 5 minutes less (possibly even shorter). The outside was SO tough. But the inside was still great and it tasted wonderful. Two, I had to quadruple, yes, quadruple the icing recipe so I would have enough to cover the cake.
Make sure everyone knows there is a baby in the cake before they start eating! These days with choking precautions, etc, a lot of people will simply put the babies on top as decorations.
Decorate it with some beads and Mardi Gras colorfulness and you are ready to party with the best of them! So here is my ode to Pensacola Mardi Gras…I’m with you even if only in spirit.