King Cake with cream cheese and fruit filling
There are many recipes for this Carnival/Mardi Gras staple. This one is from the late Myriam Guidroz, a longtime food columnist for The Times-Picayune (New Orleans). It's based on a brioche dough, and can be made with or without the filling. Those using a bread-making machine should follow a recipe for brioche or sweet roll dough.
Basic King Cake Dough
1 envelope dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
4 cups, approximately, unbleached flour
Mix the yeast with the warm water. Stir 1 teaspoon of the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the flour into the yeast and set aside. By the time you have measured the other ingredients, the yeast should be beginning to bubble and show signs of life.
Bring the milk to a boil and stir in the butter and the sugar. Pour into a large bowl; the mixture should be lukewarm. Beat in the egg yolks, whole eggs and the yeast.
Beat in approximately 2 cups of flour, until the dough is fairly smooth, then gradually add enough additional flour to make a soft dough that you can form into a ball. Knead it, by hand or machine, until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a bowl, turn the dough once or twice in it to grease it lightly all over, cover with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Pat the dough down and cover the bowl with a damp towel, plastic film over that and refrigerate until the next day. This recipe makes enough dough for two king cakes. Extra dough may be frozen, or make two king cakes and freeze one. Thaw frozen cake and reheat 10 minutes in a 375-degree oven.
1/2 recipe king cake (above)
1 (16-ounce) can cherry, apple or apricot pie filling
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 dried bean (to bake in the cake as per tradition)
Colored sugars or confectioner's sugar and food coloring
Remove dough from refrigerator and with well-floured hands, while it's firm and cold, shape it into a long sausage shape. Using a floured roller on a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 30-by-9-inch rectangle as thin as pie crust. Let dough rest.
If necessary, drain extra juice from pie filling. Mix the cream cheese with the sugar, flour, egg yolks and vanilla. Spoon an inch-wide strip of fruit filling the length of the dough, about 3 inches from one edge. Spoon the cream cheese mixture alongside the fruit, about 3 inches from the other edge. Brush both sides of dough with egg wash. Insert the bean.
Fold one edge of dough over the cream cheese and fruit, then fold the other edge over. Gently place one end of the filled roll onto a greased pizza pan or large cookie sheet. Ease the rest of the roll onto the pan, joining the ends to form a circle or oval. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. Brush again with egg wash and cut deep vents into the cake. Sprinkle with colored sugars if desired.
Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until cake is well risen and golden. Cool before icing with confectioner's sugar mixed with enough water to make a spreadable paste and tinted purple, green and gold. Makes one cake that serves 10 to 12 people. If using a plastic baby instead of the bean, insert it into the bottom of the cake after it is cooked.