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TIP OF THE DAY: Create A King Cake Variation For Mardi Gras

Will you be celebrating Mardi Gras on March 6th?

If you hadn’t planned to, perhaps this fun food dessert project will appeal to you.

Your challenge: to create your own version of King Cake, the staple Mardi Gras dessert (the history of Mardi Gras).

Or bake this recipe from scratch.

Or, make your favorite bundt with tri-colored boiled icing. Or cupcakes, with colored batter and/or variously iced in green, gold and purple.

It could be any type of cake, cheesecake, a cream pie, cookies, trifle, pastry…. Apply a King Cake theme to one of your favorite desserts.
 
 
WHAT IS KING CAKE?

The King Cake (photo #1) is a Mardi Gras tradition in New Orleans, made only during this time of year. Just about every bakery sells the cake. Fans all over the country purchase the cakes by mail order.

You can make a classic King Cake with this kit from King Arthur Flour.

King cake is typically a Danish yeast ring (some are elaborately braided), brioche or cinnamon bread. It is covered by a poured white icing and sprinkled with purple, green and gold colored sugar.

What makes a King Cake fun is the hidden charm—originally a baby, representing baby Jesus and now any charm you like.

SAFETY NOTE: To avoid broken teeth on a coin, or accidentally swallowing a small charm, choose your charm wisely.

And don’t bake a plastic charm in the cake: It will melt. Inserting a plastic charm from the bottom of the baked cake is the best way to go. (Poke a hole in the underside and insert the charm.)

The person who gets the slice with the charm gets luck and prosperity for the year. In some traditions is given a gold cardboard crown (the Epiphany Cake tradition) and becomes “king” or “queen” for the day.

  • Most are covered in bright sanding sugars or icings in the Mardi Gras colors: green (faith), gold (power) and purple (justice).
  • Some are filled with candied or glazed fruits.
  • A small toy baby, representing the Infant Jesus, is typically inserted into the cake. The person who gets the slice with the baby wins a gold [cardboard] crown.
  •  
    If you’d like to understand more about it, here’s the history of King Cake.
     
     
    HOW WILL YOUR INTERPRETATION TAKE SHAPE?

    Whatever you make, use the three Mardi Gras colors (green, gold and purple). You can do this, for example, with:

  • Candied fruits
  • Candies (Sixlets, fruit sours, etc.)
  • Colored batter or dough
  • Colored dessert sauces
  • Colored fillings
  • Colored icing or whipped cream
  • Colored sauces or purées
  • Edible flowers
  • Fondant or marzipan
  • Sprinkles/sprinkle mixes, confetti, pearls and other garnishes
  • Colored white chocolate bark, fondue, etc.
  •  
    Here are some ideas.

  • Cheesecake (including individual cheesecakes) with tricolor toppings (fruits, glitter, etc.—photo #2)
  • Cookies, from iced sugar cookies to macarons (photo #5)to peanut butter (photo #4) and spritz cookies (photo #3)
  • Cream pies
  • Ice cream
  • Ice cream cake
  • Iced cupcakes, donuts, cinnamon rolls
  • Individual cakelets
  • Layer cake
  • Muffins with tricolor fruits
  • Popcorn with tricolor sprinkles
  • Pudding/mousse (colored vanilla, white chocolate)
  •  
    And, it doesn’t have to be sweet. In Spain, Roscón de Reyes (or rosca de reyes—ring of the kings) is traditionally eaten to celebrate Epiphany. You can add the Mardi Gras colors to create King Cake’s brother, King Bread.

    Consider a savory bread filled or topped with yellow, green and purple bell peppers (photo #6).
     
     
    MARDI GRAS RECIPES

  • Colored Cocktails In Gold, Green & Purple
  • Easy Gumbo
  • Gumbalaya (a cross of gumbo and jambalaya)
  •  

    King Cake
    [1] Classic King Cake: a yeast ring with boiled white icing and tri-color sprinkles (photo courtesy Hudson Chocolates).

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    [2] A deconstructed King Cake, a fun variation and a way to show your creativity. Note that the baby is standing on top of the cake (photo courtesy Restaurant Revolution | NOLA).


    [3] Many cookies are just waiting to be decorated in green, gold and purple. Here’s the recipe for these spritz cookies from Karen’s Kitchen Stories.

    Mardi Gras Peanut Butter Cookies
    [4] You don’t have to be an expert baker to create your King Cake interpretation. These peanut butter cookies were transformed with food color (photo courtesy Jif).

    Mardi Gras Macarons
    [5] Tri-color macarons (photo courtesy Sucre | NOLA).

    Savory King Cake - King Bread
    [6] A savory bread ring with Mardi Gras colors: King Bread (photo courtesy Tres Pupusas).

     

     

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    RECIPE: Strawberry Or Mixed Berry “Tiramisu”

    Strawberry Tiramisu
    [1] Strawberry tiramisu. The recipe is below (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour).


    [2] Variations: tiramisu made in a bowl, topped with mixed berries, to be scooped instead of sliced (photo courtesy Mozzarella Company).


    [3] Classic tiramisu, made with (among other ingredients) espresso, coffee liqueur, marsala and ladyfingers, topped with cocoa powder. Here’s the recipe from Baking A Moment.

     

    Tiramisu, the very popular Italian dessert, is made with espresso and coffee liqueur (here’s the recipe, and the history of tiramisu).

    But February 27th is National Strawberry Day, so how about a strawberry tiramisu?

    Wait: Is it still tiramisu without the espresso and coffee liqueur? After all, the translation of tiramisu is “pick me up,” referring to the caffeine in the coffee ingredients (although there’s not very much caffeine in a portion).

    Our answer is yes. The formula for tiramisu has been followed, with flavor substitutions.

  • Sponge cake replaces ladyfingers, which are sponge fingers.
  • Citrus soaking syrup replaces the coffee liqueur.
  • Orange liqueur replaces coffee liqueur.
  • Citrus juice and zest replace the sherry-like flavors of sweet marsala.
  •  
     
    RECIPE: BERRY-CITRUS TIRAMISU

    This recipe, a riff on classic tiramisu, was developed by P.J. Hamel, a recipe developer and writer at King Arthur Flour.

    If your grocer carries ladyfingers, you can use them instead of the sponge cake. They’re a time saver, but not available everywhere.

    You can use a single berry variety or mixed berries. Prep time is 35 to 45 minutes, bake time is 20 to 23 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For A 9″ Cake (16 Servings)

    For The Sponge Cake

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  
    For The Citrus Soaking Syrup

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (grated peel of 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
    (substitute orange juice)
  •  
    For The Citrus Cream Filling

  • 2 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange peel (from 1 orange)
  • 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 quarts fresh berries of your choice (sliced strawberries,
    blueberries, raspberries)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and line two 9″ square pans with parchment.

    2. MAKE the cake: Combine the eggs, sugar and almond extract in a mixing bowl. Beat on high speed until the eggs thicken and lighten in color, about 5 minutes.

     
    3. WHISK together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate small bowl. Sprinkle 1/3 of the dry mixture over the beaten egg and gently stir it in. Repeat twice more, using 1/3 of the flour mixture each time. The batter will begin to look spongy and fluffy.

    4. POUR the batter into the prepared pans. Bake the cake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and place on racks to cool in the pan completely.

    5. MAKE the syrup: Combine all of the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for one minute, or until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, strain, and set aside to cool.

    6. MAKE the filling: In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone cheese and orange zest. Gradually stir in the heavy cream until the mixture is smooth and thick. Stir in the confectioners sugar. The syrup and cream can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until the cake is ready to assemble.

    7. ASSEMBLE the cake: Place one cake layer on a serving platter and brush it with the syrup. Allow the syrup to soak in, then apply more. You’ll use about half of the syrup for the first layer.

    8. SPREAD half of the sliced berries over the moist cake. Dollop on half of the cream filling, and spread in an even layer. Top with the second layer of cake, repeating the soaking process. Spread with the remaining cream filling, then top with the last of the berries. (If you prefer, individual servings can be topped with whole berries.)

    9. REFRIGERATE the cake for at least an hour or overnight, before serving. You can store any leftover cake in the refrigerator for up to 2 days; but tiramisu is best enjoyed within 24 hours of making it. Freezing is not recommended.
     
     
    Variations & Tips

  • Baking pans. If you don’t have two 9″ square pans, you can bake the sponge in two 9″ round pans. The layers will be slightly thicker, and will take a few extra minutes to bake.
  • Gluten-free version. Use your favorite gluten-free sponge or yellow cake, baked and sliced in thin layers.
  • Make ahead. The syrup and cream can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until the cake is ready to assemble.
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    RECIPE: White Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

    February 26th is National Pistachio Day.

    Long, long ago, if we had been a good girl, Mom would take us to Howard Johnson’s for a pistachio hot fudge sundae.

    Howard Johnson’s is long gone, and it isn’t easy to find pistachio ice cream. But here’s an easy recipe for pistachio fudge.
     
     
    PISTACHIOS FROM CALIFORNIA

    California’s Santa Barbara County is an oasis of rolling hills, ancient oak trees and cattle ranches. It boasts more than 60 wineries and 21,000 acres of vines under cultivation.

    With such neighbors, the lovely family-farmed pistachio orchards that make Santa Barbara County America’s pistachio capital, might feel like so much chopped liver…if the nuts weren’t equally as noteworthy (nutworthy?). The area grows the best pistachios in the world.

    Pistachios are a nut bargain:

  • At 160 calories/ounce, they tie with cashews for the lowest calories.
  • At 6g protein/ounce, they tie with almonds for the most protein and the most fiber (3g/ounce).
  • At 13g fat/ounce, they tie with cashews for the lowest fat.
  • They also have the most beta-carotene, B6, lutein, phosphorus, phytosterols (which lower your absorption of dietary cholesterol from other foods), potassium, thiamin and zeaxanthin.
  • A heart-healthy nut, studies have shown that adding pistachios to the diet result in significant decreases in total cholesterol and LDL (bad fat) and increases in HDL (good fat), potentially leading to a reduced risk of heart disease.
  •  
    We’re not going to tell you that the pistachio fudge recipe below is health food, but the fudge is delicious.

  • Here’s more about why you should trade macadamias, peanuts and certain other nuts for pistachios.
  • Pistachios used to come from Iran. Here’s how pistachios became a California crop.
  •  
     
    RECIPE: WHITE CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO FUDGE WITH
    CRANBERRIES

    This recipe is addepted from Just A Pinch.

    If you like a sweet-and-salty profile, use salted pistachios.

    Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 20 ounces/about 3 cups white chocolate chips
    (or better, chopped quality white chocolate)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces shelled natural pistachios
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (substitute dried cherries)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COAT a 9″ square cake pan with cooking spray and set aside. Melt the chocolate chips with the sweetened condensed milk in a heavy-bottomed pot over low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture is smooth; then immediately remove from the heat.

    2. STIR in the cranberries, pistachios and vanilla. Spread into the pan and smooth the top. Let cool to room temperature (or chill), then cut into squares.
     
     
    MORE PISTACHIO RECIPES

  • Fennel Pistachio Cookies
  • Flourless Persian Pistachio Cake
  • Kale, Bacon & Pistachio Pasta
  • Pistachio Biscochitos
  • Pistachio Muffins
  • Pistachio Orange Relish
  • Strawberry Pistachio Nougat
  • Vanilla Cardamom Whoopie Pies With Pistachios
  •  

    White Chocolate Pistachio Fudge
    [1] White chocolate pistachio fudge (photo via Seduction Meals).

    White Chocolate Pistachio Fudge
    [2] Add some Baileys Irish Cream. Here’s the recipe from Eat Good 4 Life.

    White Chocolate Fudge With Pistachios and Cranberries
    [3] Add some cranberries. Here’s the recipe from Taste And Tell Blog.

    Pistachio Nuts
    [4] Premium pistachios from Murray’s Cheese.

     

     

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Hummus Salad

    Hummus Salad
    [1] For lunch, top hummus with a Greek salad (photo courtesy DeLallo Foods).

    Hummus Salad
    [2] Another way to plate. You can create variety with chopping techniques: dicing, julienning, shaving, spiralizing, etc. (photo courtesy DeLallo Foods).


    [3] A “rainbow salad” topped with flavored hummus (photo courtesy Bush’s Beans).

     

    Most Americans enjoy hummus as a dip. That’s how we served it last night for Oscar fare, with crudités and pita chips.

    But we also like hummus as a luncheon dish, with a variety of salad toppings. You can also set it up as a DIY buffet.

    Today’s tip: Add hummus to Greek salad ingredients. Here’s what you need for your dish.
     
    RECIPE: HUMMUS SALAD

    Ingredients

  • Hummus (consider two or three flavors of hummus instead of one)
  • Feta
  • Kalamata olives
  • Red bell peppers, raw or roasted (pimento)
  • Pepperoncini
  • Tomato (depending on the season, cherry tomatoes may be best)
  • Cucumber
  • Red onion or scallion
  • Stuffed grape leaves
  • Garnish: fresh chopped basil, dill, oregano, parsley
  • Optional dressing: extra virgin olive oil, red wine or balsamic vinegar
  •  
    Whatever Else You Like

  • Anchovies, sardines, tuna
  • Baby potatoes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Chickpeas
  • Falafel (get them frozen at Trader Joe’s)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Marinated eggplant
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Radishes
  • Roasted vegetables (substitute for the fresh ones)
  • Romaine
  •  
    For A Layered Salad

    Instead of all hummus, divide the bottom layer into:

  • Hummus
  • Babaganoush
  • Tabbouleh
  • Tzatziki or Greek yogurt*
  •  
    Serve with a side of pita, or turn pita chips into croutons for the salad.
     
     
    MORE WAYS TO USE HUMMUS

    THE HISTORY OF HUMMUS

    ________________

    *For more flavor, mixed chopped dill and/or scallions or chives into the yogurt. If you have it, add a bit of lemon zest.

     

      

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    HOLIDAY: National Pie Day

    If you have free time today, bake a pie. It can be sweet or savory (pot pie, shepherd’s pie, vegetable pie, etc.)

    February 23rd is National Pie Day, an annual celebration of pies launched in the mid-1970s by Charlie Papazian, a nuclear engineer, brewer and teacher from Boulder, Colorado.

    He also founded the Association of Brewers and the Great American Beer Festival, and wrote The Complete Joy of Home Brewing.

    He must have been a major pie enthusiast as well, since he declared his birthday, January 23rd, to be National Pie Day.

    Papazian is currently 70 years old, and we hope he enjoys slices of his favorite pies today.

    News of the “holiday” spread (in those pre-social media days). Since 1986, National Pie Day has been sponsored by the American Pie Council, which holds its National Pie Championships every spring. The competition is open to amateur, professional and commercial bakers.

    The American Pie Council is an organization committed to “preserving America’s pie heritage and promoting America’s love affair with pies.” Membership in America’s only purely pie-focused national organization is open to all.
     
     
    WHAT ABOUT PI DAY?

    Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th, a date that corresponds to the first numbers of the mathematical constant, pi.

    If you’ve forgotten high school math, pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. The number is constant, no matter what the size of the circle.

    The first 10 digits of pi are 3.1415926535. Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point.

    For March 14th, bakers and mathematicians alike have fun baking pi-themed pies (photo #3).
     
     
    TREAT YOURSELF TO A VIEW OF PIE AS ART

    For a dazzling view of the most impressive pie art, take a look at the work of Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin, also known as The Pieous.

    Check out her website, Pies Are Awesome (photos #1 and #2).
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF PIE

    Who created the first pies? Here’s the scoop.
     
     
    FIND ALL THE TYPES OF PIES IN OUR PIE GLOSSARY.
     
    THE HISTORY OF PIE

    AMERICA’S FAVORITE PIES

    HAVE FUN DECORATING PIES

     

    Eiffel Tower Pie
    [1] The Eiffel Tower pie.

    Betty White Pie
    [2] A pie portrait of Betty White (both photos by The Pieous | Pies Are Awesome).

    Pie For Pi Day
    [3] For Pi Day, March 14th, bakers have fun riffing on the pi symbol (center of pie). The first 10 digits of pi are 3.1415926535. Here’s the recipe from The Instructables.

     

     

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