Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Random Thoughts and a King Cake Recipe

King Cake

On Winter . . .

January gives me such trouble. I spent 28 years of my life in the same place, a place where there isn't a real winter. In January the sun still shone brightly more often than not, there were even still days sprinkled in on which one could wear short sleeves, the birds didn't leave for winter, there was evergreen everywhere so grass was dead but green was around, life was around. Now I live in a place with definite winters. And I enjoy having four real seasons, and the snow is absolutely mesmerizing and gorgeous. And fun to play in. But the world around me is dead. There is no green; trees are all bare. The sun has gone. Sure, it makes an appearance but its rare. There is no warmth. There is no life - the birds have flown away for the winter, there are no sounds of frogs or bugs or any nature at all. Its so dark that I open my blinds in the mornings and it doesn't even make much of a difference. 

I don't notice it so much in December due to the anticipation and excitement of Christmas. But as the Christmas season comes to a close in January, it all sinks in. And I have to catch my breath and remember that life goes on, even in the darkness. I remind myself that Jesus is here, the light of the world, and though I can't see it around me, I must close my eyes and feel His light and warmth in my heart. 

At midnight mass on Christmas, our priest turned off the lights in the church (after lighting the candle) and reminded us that though our world is dark with sin and pain, we wouldn't notice the Light at all if it weren't. When the church lights were on, the candlelight just blended in, no one gave it much attention at all. But in the darkness, it becomes the focal point and shines so brightly. It becomes light and hope to us all. 

He also tied it in to the Easter vigil, where the church is completely dark and each attendee is given a small candle to hold. The priest lights one with the Easter candle and the light gets passed on, one person to another, and the church gets brighter and brighter as we share His light with each other. It starts with Him, and before long the darkness is gone and the room is bright with the light of Christ. 

On Seafood . . . 

My parents are taking a trip to Louisiana this weekend. After reading conflicting reports about the current safety of the seafood, I asked my dad what he thought about it and whether he was going to eat seafood while they were down there. His response?

"Heck yeah, I'm going to eat the seafood. As much as I can possible fit in my face."

There ya have it folks, a true New Orleanian.

On Epiphany . . .

Photo: Stock Xchng/ Zacchaeus

Two more days until epiphany. I have one previous post about it here. A common tradition is the blessing of the home and I found a beautiful one that I really like at Perpetual Priest.

We always have a king cake on epiphany (click here if you don't know what that is!). So today I will try yet another recipe. There are a million king cake recipes out there, and they all produce very different results. Those who are regulars with regards to king cakes usually have a specific way they like it. See, some are moist and some are very dry. Some have frosting and some just have sugar sprinkles. Some have filling and some are just very cinnamony. I am going for a specific kind that I have always had and that I like best. So it is difficult to come upon. The past few years I have had okay results with homemade king cake, but I'm definitely not satisfied. 

My mother just gave me one of her recipes, so I shall try it today and let you know how it turns out. Here is the recipe:


Makes 2 cakes (about 18 servings each [don't believe it!])
PREP:  30 Min; COOK, 10 min; STAND, 5 min; RISE, 1 hr., 30 min.; BAKE: 16 minutes.

This recipe uses bread flour, which makes for a light, airy cake.  You still get tasty results with all-purpose flour - the cake will just be more dense.

1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour (or all-purpose)
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Creamy Glaze
Purple-, green- and gold-tinted sparkling sugar sprinkles

COOK first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts.  Set aside, and cool mixture to 100 to 110 degrees.
STIR together yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
BEAT sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth.  Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour (4 to 4 1/2 cups) until a soft dough forms.
TURN dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).  Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.
COVER and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.
PUNCH down dough, and divide in half.  Roll each portion into a 22 x 12" rectangle.  Spread 1/3 cup softened butter evenly on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border.  Stir together 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over butter on each rectangle.
ROLL up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side.  Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bring ends of roll together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal.  Repeat with second dough roll.
COVER and let rise in a warm place (85), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
BAKE at 375 for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden.  Slightly cool cakes on pans on wire racks (about 10 minutes).  Drizzle Cream Glaze evenly over warm cakes; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors and forming bands.  Let cool completely.

Makes 1 1/2 ups
Prep:  5 min.

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons milk

STIR together first 4 ingredients.  Stir in 2 tablespoons milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency.

Prepare each 22 x 12 " dough rectangle as directed.  Omit 1/3 cup softened butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.  Increase 1/2 cup sugar to 3/4 cup sugar.  Beat 3/4 cup sugar; 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened; 1 large egg; and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on each dough rectangle, leaving 1-inch borders.  Proceed with recipe as directed.

In Closing . . .

Thanks for reading this blog. It has been fun to create, and I am looking forward to all kinds of interesting posts this month now that it is a new year. This is my 99th post! Wow! Quite the exciting feat for me because I am such a scattered person. I have to think of a way to celebrate the 100th post. Any suggestions?

God Bless you all, my dear readers,

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