King Cake

King CakeHave you ever been to New Orleans? I have a few times, including a three week stint of post-Hurricane Katrina relief work, but I’ve never been for Mardi Gras.

King CakeAs a college student in Texas, it occurred to me that it might be a fun thing to do once (I’m very into road trips), but then I remembered that I am a tried and true introvert and that spending a weekend in a loud, crowded city might be my idea of hell…

…so I moved to New York City instead. It never gets loud and crowded here 🙂

But back to Mardi Gras…

King CakeWhile I love the idea of a whole state with its own unique way of celebrating a holiday, my party days are well behind me and I don’t envision any circumstance in which I’ll ever find myself in Louisiana in early February. But I love King Cake. I mostly associate it with Epiphany (or Three Kings Day or Twelfth Night or January 6th, or whatever you call it), but I’m okay for breaking with personal traditions if it means I get to eat this:

King CakeIf you’ve somehow never had King Cake, you’re in for a treat. It’s a fluffy yeasted coffee cake served in Louisiana (and lots of other places) in the religious season between Christmas and Lent. To describe King Cake plainly, it’s sort of like cinnamon rolls that aren’t cut up. In fact, the dough I used here is just a variation on my favorite sweet roll recipe. It’s just a little richer and even more tender than that dough, and it’s flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. Mmhmm.

King CakeFrom what I can tell from all my research, if you have a flavor preference, there is a King Cake recipe out there for you. The traditional filling is a mixture of butter and cinnamon-sugar (again, like cinnamon rolls), but I have seen pecan praline, strawberry, and cherry-almond variations. I have become entranced by the idea of cream cheese filling, so I did a little mash-up of my own: cinnamon cream cheese, y’all!

King CakeThe filling is rolled up into the dough like it is in sweet rolls. The cylinder of dough is formed into a ring and set aside to rise for about an hour, until it doubles in size. Then it’s painted with an egg wash and baked until golden brown all over.

King CakeKing CakeKing CakeKing Cakes are traditionally decorated with a thick white icing and yellow, green, and purple sugars (representing power, faith, and justice, respectively). I had a hard time tracking down sugars in the appropriate colors, so I just stirred a few drops of food coloring into 1/3 cup increments of granulated sugar.King CakeKing Cake

King CakeKing CakeKing CakeA tiny plastic baby doll is also traditionally inserted into the cake after baking. The person who receives the slice with the baby doll is king/queen for the day and is responsible for procuring next year’s cake. I didn’t put a doll in this cake because I simply don’t have it together enough to remember to order things in time for scheduled blog posts. But anyway…

King CakeIf you love the look of the golden cake, the white icing, and the sparkling, colorful sugars, just wait ‘til you slice it up.

King CakeThat swirl y’all! And the soft, fluffy interior! And the cinnamon in the cake and the filling! And the cream cheese! It’s a win all around 🙂

King CakeOne last thing: this recipe makes two King Cakes. Before you click away, never to return, here is a list of reasons to have two King Cakes.

  • It takes just as long to make one as it does to make two. Trust me on this.
  • It’s party food, so it’s good to have extra.
  • Need I say again that it bears a lot of similarities to cinnamon rolls? Best weekend breakfast ever!
  • You can freeze the second one. Do it after it’s baked/before it’s iced.
  • Or be the best friend/neighbor ever and give it away.
  • Or even put the spare in the break room at work.
  • Or call me and I will come help you eat it.

King Cake

King Cake
makes 2 cakes

Dough:
5 1/2-6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast (I use Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Yeast)
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks, room temperature

Filling:
16 ounces (2 bricks) full-fat bricks-style cream cheese, cool room temperature
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

Icing & Garnish:
3 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4-5 tablespoons milk
2 small plastic baby dolls
yellow, green, and purple sprinkles or sugars

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 5 cups all-purpose flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, instant yeast, and salt. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat buttermilk and butter until hot to the touch, about 115F. Buttermilk may curdle—this is fine, if less than beautiful.

Places eggs and yolks in a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork.

Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold warm buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients, followed by eggs. Add more all-purpose flour by the 1/4 cup until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough for 7 minutes on a floured surface before forming into a ball and placing in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.

Make the filling. Use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese, dark brown sugar, and cinnamon until combined. Beat in egg and vanilla.

Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, use a large sharp chef’s knife to cut dough into two pieces. Place one half back in the oiled bowl and cover again with plastic wrap. Roll the other half into a 10×28-inch rectangle. Spoon half the filling over the dough and use a silicone spatula or offset knife to spread mixture over the surface, leaving a 1/2-inch perimeter on all sides. Starting with the long edge furthest from your body, tightly roll filled dough toward you, smoothing any seams with your thumbs. A small amount of filling may squish out—just wipe it off and move on. Carefully lift the cylinder of dough onto one of the parchment-lined pans. Shape into a circle and tuck and seal ends together (a finger dipped in water may help with this). Loosely cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm draft-free environment for 60-90 minutes, until cake has doubled in size. Repeat process with remaining dough.

Place oven racks in the second-from-top and second-from-bottom positions. Preheat oven to 375F.

Once cakes have risen, make egg wash. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water. Use a pastry brush to brush glaze all over the cakes, being careful not to tear the dough. Bake cakes for 12 minutes. Rotate pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back. Bake an additional 10-13 minutes or until cakes are golden brown all over and cooked through.

Let cakes cool completely on pans on racks.

Make icing. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together confectioners sugar and salt. Whisk in vanilla and milk. Icing should be very thick, but pourable.

Place cakes on serving dishes. Cut a small hole in the bottom of each and insert a small plastic baby doll.

Ice the cakes. Working with one cake at a time, pour half the icing onto the surface. Use an offset knife to coax icing over the top of the cake. Decorate with sprinkles or sugars as desired. Before decorating the second cake, give icing a stir—it may have thickened slightly. If necessary, add milk by the teaspoon until it returns to the desired consistency. Repeat icing and decorating process with the second cake. Icing should set after 20 minutes.

King Cakes are best the day they’re made, but will keep covered at room temperature for a day or two.

King Cake

Friday Favorites: Game Day Round-Up

The Super Bowl is coming up in just over a week and…

Well, to be honest, football just isn’t my thing. But Justin Timberlake and game day food are definitely my things. If it’s salty, crunchy, cheesy, made with Frank’s Red Hot, or is basically just a giant cookie, I. am. in.

The archives are loaded with big game-worthy recipes, but I’ve taken the liberty of rounding up a few of my favorites to give you a little Super Bowl party inspiration!

Friday Favorites: Game Day Round-UpGuacamole
I have never once brought guacamole to a party and gone home with leftovers. Not once. I make damn good guacamole, y’all. I don’t have some magical secret ingredient or any crazy methods—just buy good, ripe avocados and taste, taste, taste. Follow the recipe, adjust for salt and lime, and use sturdy chips. I promise you won’t have any leftovers.

Friday Favorites: Game Day Round-UpChorizo Cornbread {Gluten-Free}
Cornbread is pretty perfect all on its own, but I love this version. Slightly sweet and studded with salty chorizo, this cornbread makes an excellent soup side. And speaking of chorizo…

Friday Favorites: Game Day Round-UpBeef & Chorizo Chili
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Super Bowl party that didn’t have some sort of chili on the menu. This Beef & Chorizo version was a happy accident that became a favorite 🙂

Friday Favorites: Game Day Round-UpBuffalo Chicken Biscuits
Buffalo chicken is a game day classic! Instead of making traditional wings, shred it up and serve it on cream biscuits—everyone loves sliders! Don’t forget the bleu cheese and celery sticks 🙂

Friday Favorites: Game Day Round-UpCaramelized Mushroom Tostadas
Who could say no to crispy tostadas loaded with sweet & earthy caramelized mushrooms, quick-pickled red onion, a swipe of guacamole, and salty cotija cheese?! This combination of textures and flavors is guaranteed to be a hit with vegetarians and meat-eaters alike 🙂 Need them to be vegan? Just skip the cheese.

Friday Favorites: Game Day Round-UpUltimate Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
If you’re into chocolate and peanut butter, this is the dessert for you! These cocoa brownies are topped with a layer of peanut butter cream and studded with miniature peanut butter cups, Reese’s Pieces, chocolate chips, and peanuts—so freaking good.

Friday Favorites: Game Day Round-UpBrown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
As Julia Child once said “A party without cake is just a meeting.” I’m not sure that a Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake is exactly what she had in mind, but it fits the bill on Super Bowl Sunday! This simple dessert is easier than making a batch of cookies and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

Friday Favorites: Game Day Round-UpWill you be serving any of these dishes next Sunday? Let me know on Instagram!

Maple Spice Stars

Maple Spice StarsY’all…are these Maple Spice Stars beautiful or what?! I love all the colors, textures, and dimensions of the finished cookies, not to mention the flavors. With their sweet, spicy crunch and maple glaze, these little stars are as delicious as they are dazzling.

Maple Spice StarsThis dough is a maple spin on my classic gingerbread recipe. The biggest changes I made are that I intensified the ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg flavors, cut the white granulated sugar and, of course, that I swapped the traditional molasses for 2/3 cup of pure maple syrup 🍁🍁🍁 These changes produce a cookie with a “cleaner” spice flavor; unlike molasses, the maple syrup accentuates the spices instead of competing with them.

Maple Spice StarsOnce the maple spice dough is made, divide it into quarters and give it a chill. This helps with spreading, allows the flavors to meld, and keeps the dough from being too sticky to roll. That last part is super important. We want this dough to roll and cut like a dream!

Maple Spice StarsRoll the dough out until it’s 1/4-inch thick and cut the stars. Depending on the size of your cookie cutter, this could be a startling number of cookies–I ended up with eleven dozen 3-inch stars (that’s 132 cookies 😮). It’s a lot, but that means this recipe is perfect for cookie trays and food gifting. I highly recommend pairing a couple dozen of these sparkly stars with a box of tea; I like Tazo Wild Sweet Orange and Yogi Egyptian Licorice.

But back to the cookie dough…

Maple Spice StarsMaple Spice StarsBake the stars for 8 minutes, until they are starting to turn golden at the edges. They’ll crisp up as they cool.

Maple Spice StarsMaple Spice StarsMaple Spice StarsNext up, whisk together a simple maple glaze and give each cookie a quick dip. Lay them on cooling racks set over wax paper to contain any excess–you just want a thin layer.

Maple Spice StarsMaple Spice StarsMaple Spice StarsAs a final touch, top the glaze with a mixture of minced candies ginger and coarse sugar. This gives the finished cookies an extra hit of ginger flavor, not to mention how beautiful it makes them look. I love how these stars sparkle ✨✨✨

Maple Spice StarsMaple Spice Stars are some of my favorite holiday cookies ever to appear on this blog, and I have made a lot (*A LOT*) of holiday cookies over the last couple of years. They’re simple, elegant, and they give a nod to a classic without being totally traditional.

Maple Spice StarsOh, and they’re stupidly delicious. And when it comes to cookies, that’s what really counts, isn’t it?!

Maple Spice StarsLooking for more cut-out cookies? Try my Iced Sugar Cookies {Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies & Quick-Dry Royal Icing}, Gingerbread Men with Chocolate Buttons, Peppermint Mocha Cookies, and Red Velvet Cut-Out Cookies.

Maple Spice Stars
makes about 11 dozen 3-inch cookies

Cookies:
4 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup pure maple syrup (I like Grade A dark amber/robust taste)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Garnish:
2/3 cup minced crystallized candied ginger
3 tablespoons coarse sugar (I like turbinado)

Glaze:
3 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
4-5 tablespoons water

Make the cookies. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in brown sugar, followed by the maple syrup. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Turn the mixer to low, and add the dry ingredients in three installments, stopping frequently to scrape the bowl.

Divide dough into quarters. Wrap each quarter in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Chill for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Place oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Flour a surface and a rolling pin.

Remove one disc of dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap it, and roll it out on the floured surface. Dough may crack on the initial roll, but should become more pliable. Roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Dip the edge of a 3-inch cookie cutter in flour, then use it to cut out cookies. Re-roll scraps to get more cookies.

Bake cookies for 5 minutes. Rotate the pans top-to-bottom and back-to-front. Bake for another 3-4 minutes, until they are no longer wet-looking. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling and baking with remaining dough, making sure to let the baking sheets come back to room temperature between batches.

Make the garnish. In a small bowl, toss together minced crystallized candied ginger and coarse sugar. Set aside.

Make the glaze. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together confectioner’s sugar, salt, maple syrup, and 4 tablespoons of water until smooth. Add more water by the teaspoon, until the glaze is a drizzling consistency.

On a surface (or a few baking sheets), set cooling racks over sheets of wax paper. Dip each cookie in the glaze until it’s 1/3-1/2 dipped. Let any excess drip off and set cookie on a rack. Top with candied ginger garnish. Repeat with all remaining cookies. Allow to set at room temperature for at least two hours or until dry to the touch.

Cookies will keep very well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Maple Spice Stars

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}I don’t think I’ll ever grow bored of puff pancakes. When I rediscovered my childhood favorite breakfast a few years ago, I was shocked to learn how easy they are to make, and so I have made many. (Many many many.)

I already have the classic recipe and a Caramel Apple version in the archives. Two variations over two years may not sound like much, but just know that this could easily be an all-puff-pancake-all-the-time blog 😉

Today, I’m giving you a version of my favorite weekend breakfast worthy of any Christmas morning spread. Feast your eyes on this rumpled beauty: the Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Like all puff pancakes, this holiday version is ridiculously easy and far more than the sum of its parts. It comes together quickly and bakes in the oven (no pancake flipping!), culminating in a soft-centered, shareable pancake flavored with everyone’s favorite seasonal beverage.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Making an Eggnog Puff Pancake is as easy as putting eggnog, a few eggs, a touch of sugar, a bit of spice, and some flour in a food processor and blitzing it into a thin batter. The hardest part is waiting five minutes for some air bubbles to dissipate.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Pour the batter into a searing hot pan and bake it for fifteen minutes, until puffed and golden. Within 90 seconds of its removal from the oven, your Eggnog Puff Pancake will collapse on itself, leaving behind a rustic, fragrant holiday breakfast masterpiece.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Let your pancake cool for a minute or two before slicing it up.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}As far as toppings go, I recommend maple syrup…

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}…and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar that you’ve spiked with cinnamon and nutmeg…

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}…and a dollop of whipped cream.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}It may seem like overkill, but the combination of toppings and the custard-like, nutmeg-scented center of the pancake will have everyone at the table asking you to make this again before the New Year. And you will because it’s just that easy, and just that delicious.Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Looking for more eggnog treats? Try these sandwich cookies and this cake!

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}
makes 4-6 servings

1 cup eggnog
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar 
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

For serving:
maple syrup
confectioners sugar (with pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg)
whipped cream

Place a large ovenproof cast iron or stainless steel pan in a cold oven. Preheat oven to 400F.

In the bowl of a food processor* or high-powered blender, combine eggnog, eggs, vanilla, flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Process 15-30 seconds, or until no lumps remain. Let batter rest five minutes.

Once oven has reached 400F, remove the hot pan and add butter. Place pan back in the oven for 60-90 seconds, until butter has melted. Remove pan from the oven, and swirl the butter so it coats the pan. Pour in batter. Bake 15 minutes, until puffed and golden. Do NOT open the oven door during baking.

Let pancake cool 2-5 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately with maple syrup, confectioners sugar, and whipped cream, if desired.

Note:

If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you may mix the batter and then push it through a fine mesh sieve to remove lumps and bubbles.

Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Pecan Florentines

Pecan FlorentinesIf you’ve never seen or heard of Florentine cookies, you’re probably not alone. I rarely see these ultra-crispy, nutty, chocolaty cookies in bakeries, but on the occasion that I do, I just have to have one.

Pecan FlorentinesMy love of Florentines began when I tried an almond version at Blue Bonnet Bakery in my hometown (they must have been out of Gingerbread Men that day 😉). I was intrigued by the non-traditional appearance of the cookie (let’s be real–I was mostly in it for the chocolate). After one bite, I knew I’d found a favorite.

Pecan FlorentinesFlash forward fifteen years and I’ve finally tried my hand at making them. And you know what? I wish I had made them sooner. I’m always so intimidated by lace cookies, but they’re actually some of the simplest to make. Exhibit A: Apple Cider Snaps.

Pecan FlorentinesHere’s what you need to know about Florentines: if you start now, you can have dough ready for the oven in ten minutes. That dough will bake in all of five minutes. And the finished cookies get filled and topped with dark chocolate. So…what are you waiting for?!

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesMeasure out a cup of pecans and then pulse them in the food processor until they become a rubble. You could use almonds or walnuts if you prefer, but given a choice, I will always go for pecans. It’s a Texan thing, I suppose. I would like more things to taste like pecan pie, Florentines included. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Anyway…mix the pecan rubble with 1/2 cup of flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesNext up, bring some butter, dark brown sugar, and Lyle’s Golden Syrup to a boil. Golden syrup is an invert sugar with a slight caramel flavor; I usually find it on the baking or international aisles (it’ll be with the British foods). If you can’t find golden syrup at your grocery store, light corn syrup works just fine.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesBack to the recipe…combine the wet and dry ingredients and voilà! Cookie dough. It will be thin and a little, uh, gloppy, but it will be cookie dough.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesDrop teaspoons of dough onto lined baking sheets and flatten them into circles. Bake them for 5 1/2-6 minutes, until lacy and turning golden at the edges. Keep an eye on ‘em and make sure to rotate the pans halfway through–since these cookies are mostly sugar, butter, and nuts, they can go from perfection to charcoal in seconds. I made six batches last week and you can see that I still had a few close calls. Rotate, rotate, rotate. It’s crucial to your Pecan Florentine success.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesOnce all the cookies are baked and cooled, sandwich them together with dark chocolate. The melted chocolate may seep through some of the holes in the cookies. To mitigate this, I like to spread the chocolate onto one cookie, top it with a second cookie, and flip it over. That seems to contain any overflow.

Pecan FlorentinesAs a finishing touch, I like to drizzle a little more chocolate onto each Pecan Florentine. It’s entirely optional, but I think it’s pretty. After that, just let the chocolate set at room temperature (or if you’re impatient, throw them into the freezer for a few minutes).

(I’m impatient.)Pecan Florentines

Pecan Florentines
makes about 20 sandwich cookies

1 cup raw pecan halves
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Place racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Place pecan halves in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until they become a rubble. Transfer to a bowl and stir in flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

Combine butter, golden syrup (or corn syrup), and dark brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and pour into the bowl with the pecan mixture. Fold together with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.

Drop teaspoons of dough at least 3 inches apart on the prepared pans. Flatten the dough into circles. Bake 3 minutes. Rotate the pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back. Bake an additional 2-3 minutes (I do 2 1/2 minutes), until golden at the edges. Let cool on the pan five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Discard and replace parchment between batches.

Once all the cookies have been baked, chop the chocolate and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Let cool five minutes.

Line a surface (or two baking sheets) with parchment. Place half the cookies underside-up on the parchment. Top each with about 1/2 teaspoon of melted chocolate. Spread it into a thin layer and top with another cookie. Carefully turn sandwich cookies over. Use a fork to drizzle remaining chocolate over the tops. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until set.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Pecan Florentines