Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mini Mardi Gras King Cakes

I didn't see much of the world during my time in the Air Force- though I did get to know the state of Mississippi fairly well.  I'm not complaining in the slightest- coming on the heels of 20 years spent living in California, the South felt pretty exotic to me at that point!

One of the perks of living in that part of the country was it's proximity to New Orleans...what an experience!  I'd like to go back one day for the food and sightseeing...my pursuits may have been a little less mature at that point in my life *coughhandgrenadescough*

With Mardi Gras coming up in a couple of weeks I decided to celebrate in my own way- with food of course :-)

Now, I've never actually had a REAL King Cake, but they're so festive looking I've wanted to try for awhile.  Not to mention the fact that they're yeast-based which ties in well with my penchant for bread-baking!
Another love of mine, which I've mentioned once or twice before, is mini-foods...and you know I can't leave a recipe well enough alone, right?

So Mini King Cakes it was!  It had to be.  Plus, it makes it easier to send the extras to work with my husband.  :-)

I started with a popular King Cake recipe from Allrecipes.com, and seriously this was the softest, most wonderful dough I've ever worked with!  I was a little nervous at first, even after I added a little extra flour it was pretty sticky.  After it was done rising, though, it was AMAZING!

The dough after being shaped, before its second rise
I did forgo the pecan filling because of nut allergies at work (and I'm totally not going to be the responsible party if someone accidentally eats a pecan...) and made cream cheese filling instead.  The original recipe can be found here and at the bottom of the page- the only differences were that I made 14 mini cakes instead of 2 large ones by making the dough into rectangles that were roughly 4"x6", used cream cheese filling rather than nut/raisin, and decreased the bake time to 15 minutes.

Aren't they pretty?  They're delicious too!  Give them a try for your Mardi Gras celebration this year- and Laissez les bons temps rouler!

1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoonsbutter
3 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
2-1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 blocks cream cheese, softened
3/4 C powdered sugar
1/4 C half and half
2 tsp cinnamon.

1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons water
Green, purple, and gold decorative sugar

1. Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 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 eggs. 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.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

To Make Filling:
1. Mix all filling ingredients until combined thoroughly.

2. Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Spread the filling evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. With scissors make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners' sugar blended with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.  Sprinkle with colored sugars immediately.  If desired a plastic baby can be added to the cooled cake by cutting a small slit in the bottom of the cake and inserting the baby.

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