Nathan and I frequently have discussions that remind me of conversations between the classic cartoon characters Pinky and the Brain.
The Brain: Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering?
Pinky: Uh… yeah, Brain, but where will we get rubber pants in our size?
Nathan: Do you know what I think we should make for the blog this week?
Katryn: Absolutely, but where in DC will we be able to find a tiny plastic baby Jesus?
Why did we need to find a tiny plastic baby? Well, we had our choice of holidays to cook for the blog last week and we had to make a hard choice. While most couples did something fancy for Valentines Day, Nathan and I made Tacos and had our awesome homemade Margaritas. So instead, we made a traditional King Cake to celebrate Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday!
While the King Cake has its roots in Catholic traditions and the biblical three kings it is most closely associated with Mardi Gras here in the United States. The cake itself closely resembles a gigantic cinnamon roll in flavor and usually is topped with colored sugar in Mardi Gras’ traditional colors. A small plastic baby meant to represent baby Jesus is placed inside the cake and whoever gets the piece of cake with Jesus gets various privileges and responsibilites, such as bringing the king cake next year.
Don’t ask me how things went from celebrating the traditional Catholic Christmas season with a nice cake to placing a little plastic baby into a gigantic cinnamon roll but it’s still a fun custom! For instance, Nathan wouldn’t stop saying things like “AVE YEW FOWND JEEEEEEEEZSUUUUS?!” while we were making the cake and snickering while he was busy making little baby Jesus’ bottom stick out of the cake for the pictures.
I’ve mentioned several times that I’m not a fan of sweet wines. However, I knew that a sweet dessert wine would be the most successful and appropriate accompaniment for the King Cake. The ‘Stump Jump Sticky Chardonnay’ caught my eye for several reasons…one being that I liked the name ‘Sticky Chardonnay” and another being that the wine was $14 instead of $80 like many of the other dessert wines. The third reason is that I was intrigued by the process by which the wine is made. The grapes for this wine are infected with a virus that, if carefully managed, leech the water from the grapes leaving behind sugar, fruit acids and minerals that create a very intense and concentrated fruit flavor. And finally, the wine won gold in the 2009 Houston International Wine Show and, what can I say, I was impressed! Alone, this wine is VERY sweet and, for lack of a better word, raisin-y. However, when paired with the King Cake, it was quite balanced and smooth! Nathan and I were both impressed by how much drinking the wine with the King Cake improved the flavor and I felt that the wine deserved a favorable rating!
Because I have already paired several Abita beers with Louisiana related posts I figured I had to try and branch out for our Mardi Gras post this year. The only other New Orleans beer that I could find was Dixie Beer. Apparently, Dixie Brewery had been running since 1907 but was heavily damaged during hurricane Katrina and then looted in the aftermath.
Currently, Dixie Beer is contracted to other breweries to be made for them. This beer is much like a typical American adjunct lager like Miller Lite or Coors. Dixie Beer is super light and refreshing but has little to no flavor. What flavors that do come through are unfortunately a mild malty sweetness that don’t make for a pleasant combination with the last of any balancing hop flavors. If you want a super lite beer in the vein of Miller or Coors and its roots in New Orleans then this beer is for you, otherwise, spend your money elsewhere.
Based on this recipe.
For the Pastry:
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
⅓ cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
¼ cup white sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
For the Filling:
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
⅓ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup melted butter
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 – 2 teaspoons water
1. Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in the butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with a ½ tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the egg. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet
4. To Make Filling: Combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, flour and raisins. Pour the melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
5. Roll dough out into a large rectangle (approximately 10″ x 16″ ). Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough and roll up tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of the roll together to form an oval shaped ring. Place the ring on the prepared cookie sheet. Make cuts 1/3 of the way through the ring at 1″ intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.