AUGUST 16TH ~ NATIONAL ROLLER COASTER DAY

I saw a fun piece a couple weeks ago about roller coasters and thought I’d share the highlights with you for National Roller Coaster Day. If you want to read the entire article you can find it here.

The patent dates back to August 16, 1898, hence today being national roller coaster day, and was granted to Edwin Prescott from Massachusetts for the vertical loop. Many attribute the Coney Island Loop the Loop coaster as the first. It wasn’t the first, but it did offer a safer and more comfortable version of the loop with the elliptical shaped loop. Prescott’s loop was less successful, though the first. His loop only allowed a single car with four passengers to ride at a single time. His coaster closed after only 9 years in operation, but in honor of his pioneering spirit August 16th is celebrated as National Roller Coaster Day.

Here is a synopsis of the fun facts. Be sure to read the article above if you’re looking for more details.

1. The American roller coaster was invented to save America from Satan. In 1884 LaMarcus Anna Thompson invented a coaster on Coney Island called the Switchback Gravity Railway and you could ride for just a nickel. His goal was to create a diversion from the hedonistic appeal of saloons and brothels. He is often referred to as the “Father of the American Rollercoaster” because of the obvious connection to amusement parks. BUT, his rollercoaster was not like any rollercoaster we know today. A gravity based, slow moving coaster with cars that faced outward, not forward to enjoy constructed scenes or pretty pictures if you will, of scenes like the Swiss Alps or the Venetian canals and only traveled at less than six miles per hour.

2. One of the earliest coasters in America carried coal before it carried thrill seekers. In 1827, predating Thompson’s Satan distractor by several decades, the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway in the Lehigh valley was used to haul coal between coal mines. It was a gravity based coal carrier that could reach fifty miles per hour in the morning and a joy ride in the afternoon. Mules would bring it back up the grade when empty.

Mount Pisgah with the Mauch Chunk and Summit Hill Switchback Railroad, 1846-47. Wikipedia

3. “Russian mountains” predated roller coasters—and Catherine the Great improved them. These are actually quite interesting to me as they deal with snow, but Catherine II popularized it for the “upper class” installing one on her property that could be used year round with sleds in the winter and wheeled cars in the summer.

4. Roller coaster loops are never circular. “Sure, some roller coasters can loop-the-loop, but have you ever noticed it’s never perfectly circular? To oversimplify things, the loop isn’t a circle itself, it’s roughly the part where two circles hypothetically overlap, sort of like the middle of a Venn diagram. Secondly, some physics: Centripetal force is what holds keeps you from falling out of roller coaster while it’s upside down. Simply speaking, this means when you’re traveling on a curved path and velocity is pushing you forward, you’re also being pulled toward the curve’s central point. When roller coasters are designed, the engineers’ first job is to establish how fast they want you to go. Taking centripetal force into consideration will dictate the shape and size of the loop.”

5. Riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World could help dislodge kidney stones. There have been studies done… and the short of it is that two-thirds of the time if you have a kidney stone it will be dislodged during this ride if you are sitting in the rear of the coaster.

6. The clanking powered chain lift allows roller coasters to climb those first big anxiety inducing inclines was invented by Phillip Hinkle. Up until 1884 when he invented this lift, riders would have to climb steep stairs or hills to board the cars. Gravity would take over from that point. Coasters like the Coney Island’s Gravity Pleasure Road, also known as the Oval Coaster could be built on an elliptical path because of Hinkle’s invention.

7. As of now, Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey is the tallest roller coaster in the world. It climbs 465 feet straight up before descending rapidly from zero to 128 miles per hour in only 3.5 seconds in order to speed you up 45 stories high at a 90-degree angle. But, the rest of the ride is a 50.6 second blur.

8. The fastest roller coaster is Formula Rossa at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. This coaster goes from zero to 149 miles per hour in just 4.9 seconds. It has a maximum height of 170 feet and an adrenaline rush of 4.8Gs. It’s known for making you feel like a race car driver, though some say it just leaves you feeling sick.

9. The Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagashima Spa Land in Japan opened August 1, 2000 and is the longest coaster (1.5 miles) in the world, but when it opened it was ALSO the fastest and tallest though other coasters have stolen the fastest and tallest crowns since.

According to Coasterpedia: The chain lift hill is an initial drop of 306.8 foot and a 252 foot camelback hill. The train subsequently rises up and into the figure-eight shaped helix. The train then passes through a mid-course brake run and over six more camelback hills, passing through two tunnels along the way before reaching the final brakes.

10. You know that gorgeous guy, Fabio Lanzoni, who is on the covers of so many romance novels form the 80’s and 90’s? Fabio was allegedly struck in the face by a goose when debuting the Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Though he claims the bird struck a video camera that then struck him. Either way if you’ve ever been suspicious of boarding a roller coaster because it takes you awfully close to where birds are zooming around, your fears are not unfounded.

11. Brain chemistry is responsible for whether or not you enjoy roller coasters. Not everyone enjoys the loops, hills, turns, speed, dips, drops and spirals of today’s coasters.Higher levels of dopamine, which are neurotransmitters associated with reward-motivated behavior, are linked to many sensation seeking activities. Endorphins which lead to increased feelings of euphoria could also explain why you like the thrill so much.

12. Born to be wild are the future roller coasters that promise cars that rotate and roller coaster-water slide mashups. A few years ago the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published five patent applications from Universal for amusement park technologies.

Two patents laid out ways for coaster cars to change direction while the coaster was moving, turning sideways as well as forward while the ride is in motion. Disney similarly applied for a patent that would allow a car’s seat to move while the coaster is cruising. But spinning cars aren’t the only thing coming. Also a German rollercoaster manufacturer shared conceptual renderings for what they called the “world’s first hybrid roller coaster and waterslide”. Others are after that title also as a Canadian company opened Cheetah Chase: the world’s first launched water coaster at Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari in Indiana.

13. Ron Toomer is an American engineer credited with pioneering steel rollercoasters, one of the most famous roller coaster designers had bad motion sickness and RARELY rode any of his rides. Just the thought of it would make him queasy. The bigger they were, they sicker he’d get. He designed the Runaway Mine Ride at Six Flags Over Texas in 1966 which was known for its “tubular track” and the “inverted helix-shaped” Corkscrew, which also sprung up at a number of parks, in 1975. He was also responsible for the first suspended coasters—where the car hangs like a swing. According to him in an interview with People magazine in 1989, he’s quoted saying, “They’ve gotten too big. And the bigger they are, the sicker I get. Just the thought of riding on one makes me queasy. I’d much rather sit at my drafting table and draw them.”.

14. If you like your coasters rickety, then Leap-The-Dips in Altoona, Pennsylvania, is the ride for you. This wooden rollercoaster was built in 1902, and, yes, 120 years later, it is still in operation. It only goes ten miles an hour and doesn’t have seatbelts, lapbars or headrests and was quite the innovation for its time. It is a side friction coaster, which means it has weight-bearing road wheels underneath the cars to guide it and side-friction wheels off to the side that employ friction to keep the cars on the track. The industry standard now is coasters with underfriction, or up-stop, wheels that keep speedy coasters from lifting off their tracks. This coaster is apparently still inspiring inventors today. Elon Musk’s HyperLoop first PROPOSED in 2013, is a theoretical form of transportation for a dream world traffic congestion solution that could be used to move vehicles (tubes) at speeds of 760 miles per hour per hour and is essentially a side friction coaster on steroids.

EVERETT STEW (formerly known as Brunswick Stew)

Brunswick Stew has a complicated history to say the very least. Brunswick, Georgia and Brunswick County Virginia have been dueling over the HOME and ORIGIN of the stew for many years. Brunswick County Virginia holds an annual “Stew Off” and Brunswick, Georgia displays not one, but two separate memorial sites of where they claim the first Brunswick Stew was cooked up. Historians state that the Virginia version predates Georgia by about 70 years and was even printed in early cookbooks. There is also a Brunswick, North Carolina, but they tend to just stay out of it altogether.

Credit: Robert Moss

Credit: Courtesy of Jim Auchmutey

From my research some of the earliest recipes called for squirrel or groundhog meat and used hominy claiming that these were Native American in ancestry and the basis for the first Brunswick stew. Basically it was a “roadkill” stew. Game meat such as deer, rabbit or even bear meat was often used along with corn or squash, basically what was on hand for early Appalachian settlers, and was simmered with butter, onions, stale bread and seasoning.

While today’s Brunswick stew typically uses beef, chicken or pork, it is still a thick tomato based stew that uses a variety of basic vegetables like corn, carrots and potatoes as well as butter beans. Okra is a common vegetable used and is a great thickening agent, but I personally don’t care for it so omit it altogether. It’s typically served during cooler weather, but in reality is good anytime. 😀

Virginia favors chicken and rabbit meat. Georgia’s version typically uses a mixture of pork and beef with hotter spices and often accompanies barbecue. North Carolina favors pulled pork and Kentucky, yes even Kentucky get in on this, but they call it Burgoo.
Virginians think that Georgia’s stew is too spicy and Georgians think that Virginia’s stew is too mushy and thick. Also Georgian Brunswick stew almost always has peas and Virginian Brunswick stew almost NEVER has peas. The meat and even the vegetables vary by location, but the one thing southern cooks ALL agree on is that the stew MUST have a thick paste like consistency.

This article in Southern Living is one of the most thorough to follow but, this article at It’s A Southern Thing is one of the simplest and easiest to follow.

So after all that, I offer you MY version of Brunswick Stew loosely based on an old recipe I found in my grandmother’s pile of cut out recipes. To stay out of the fray of the debate I decided to call mine EVERETT STEW making it regional to the area I was living in when I developed the recipe.

EVERETT STEW (formerly known as Brunswick Stew) serves 4-6
4 medium new potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 medium onions, chopped SMALL
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cups homemade chicken bone broth
2 or 3 cans crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons brown sugar
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
3-3 1/2 pound pork butt, cut in half, trimmed of excess fat**
1 can white beans
1 or 2 cans of Mexican corn niblets
Chopped green onions for garnish

  • Spray the inside of your crock with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Stir together the potatoes, onions, carrots, bone broth, tomatoes, brown sugar, salt and pepper.
  • Nestle pork pieces down into the mixture, turning to coat well.
  • Cover and cook on LOW 7-9 hours or HIGH 5-6 hours until the meat shreds easily with two forks.
  • Remove meat, shred and return to the slow cooker along with the corn and white beans. Cook another 30 minutes on LOW to heat through.
  • Top with fresh chopped green onions.
  • Serve with crusty bread or FRESH rolls.

**NOTE: This recipe can be made quicker (2 hours simmering) on the stove top if you have leftover meats to use.

HAVE A BLESSED EASTER SUNDAY

Easter is late again this year! Do you ever wonder how the date is decided? Well, let me tell you what I found with a little research.

Unlike Christmas, the date of Easter Sunday changes every year and can fall anytime between March 22nd and April 25th.  Why is this you ask?

Because Easter Sunday is decided by complex calculations based on the moon.  Early on in Christianity different churches used different methods.  This led to disagreements that still exist today in some cultures.

Easter celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus which according to the Bible happened around the same time as Jewish Passover.  Passover typically begins the night of the first FULL moon AFTER the spring equinox (usually March 20th or 21st) EXCEPT in months when it is the SECOND full moon.  This most recently occurred in 2016.  The FULL moon can vary in each time zone so the Church calculates Easter from the 14th day of the ecclesiastic lunar month which is known as the paschal full moon.  Easter is the Sunday that follows the paschal full moon that falls on or after the equinox so can be from 1-7 days later. This year Passover and Easter fall on the same weekend with Passover coinciding with Good Friday.

In 1818 the full moon fell on the equinox, Saturday March 21, so Easter was the next day, March 22. Easter will not be this early again until the year 2285.  The earliest recent Easter was March 23 in 2008.  In 1943 a full moon fell on March 20, just before the equinox, so the paschal full moon was the next one on April 18 which was a Sunday so Easter was seven days later on April 25. It will not be this late again until 2038. The latest recent Easter was April 23 in the year 2000.

This year Good Friday was April 15th and today is Easter Sunday.  You can find a table for upcoming Easter Sundays here.

Here is a fun Easter egg recipe.

Using ordinary materials (vinegar, food coloring and whipping cream) you probably already have on hand to decorate gorgeous Easter eggs is so easy and fun too! You will want to wear gloves so as not to dye your fingers.

TIE-DYE EASTER EGGS
INGREDIENTS
Bowl of Vinegar
Whipped cream
Food coloring
Hard-boiled eggs

  • Boils eggs and cool to room temperature.
  • In a bowl large enough to hold all the eggs (or work in batches) place the eggs in the bowl and cover with vinegar for 20 minutes. The vinegar allows the dye to adhere to the egg shell better.
  • Dry the eggs and set aside.
  • In a large baking dish fill it with a thick layer (about 1 inch deep) of the whipping cream.
  • Generously dot the cream with various colors of food dye coating most of the surface fairly close together.
  • Drag a skewer or chopstick through the cream to create a tie-dye design, kind of like you’re making a marbled cake.
  • Place a layer of paper towels on a cookie sheet and set aside.
  • Put on gloves to protect your hands from the dye.
  • Gently place an egg on the surface of the whipped cream.
  • Slowly roll the egg over the surface to coat the shell.
  • Place the egg on the cookie sheet and repeat with remaining eggs. DO NOT WIPE ANYTHING OFF!
  • Let dry 20 minutes.
  • Fill a large bowl with water. The water will remove the excess cream leaving the design on the egg.
  • Gently submerge the egg and then GENTLY dry with paper toweling. DO NOT RUB HARD as you might rub off the design.
  • Store eggs in refrigerator.

NOTE: This can be done substituting shaving cream for whipped cream, but then they are for decoration only and NOT edible!!

And just for your information here is a great little color chart for other methods.

LIMONCELLO CAKE

LIMONCELLO CAKE adapted from MOM ON TIMEOUT

This is a SUPER MOIST cake full of lemony flavor that is PERFECT for everything from a breakfast treat, afternoon snack or an elegant dessert!

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup avocado oil
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons homemade limoncello or lemon vodka
1 cup FULL fat sour cream at room temperature
2 LARGE eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 drops yellow food coloring

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Spray a 9×5 loaf pan or decorative rounds with non-stick cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, granulated sugar, sour cream, limoncello, lemon zest, eggs, lemon extract, vanilla extract and food coloring, whisking together just until combined. Be careful not to over mix.

  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth top.

  • Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs. If using decorative rounds you’ll need to adjust your baking time accordingly.
  • Let the cake rest in the pan for 10 minutes before carefully removing and transferring to a cooling rack. Allow the cake to cool completely before adding the glaze.

LIMONCELLO GLAZE
1 cup powdered sugar sifted
2 to 3 tablespoons limoncello

  • Whisk the powdered sugar and limoncello together until no lumps remain. If it’s too thin add additional powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency. If it is too thick add a bit more Limoncello, a teaspoon at a time.)

  • Drizzle glaze over the top of the cooled cake. Let the glaze set up before slicing and serving.


HOMEMADE LIMONCELLO
10 LEMONS, washed
1 770 ML bottle of VODKA (brand of your choice)
3 cups water
2 cups sugar

  • Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peels from the lemons in long strips. Reserve the lemons for another use. If any of the peels still have pith on them use a sharp knife to remove and discard the pith.
  • Place peels in a 2 quart pitcher or bowl.
  • Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with saran.
  • Steep the peels for 4 days at room temperature undisturbed.
  • Add the water and sugar to a large saucepan over medium heat, whisking 5 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Cool completely.
  • Pour the syrup over the vodka mixture.
  • Recover and let stand overnight at room temperature.
  • Strain the mixture through a mesh strainer, discarding the peels.
  • Transfer the Limoncello to your bottle.
  • Seal and refrigerate until cold.
  • Keep refrigerated up to a month.

OLD FASHIONED GINGERBREAD

I remembered a target commercial from a few decades ago that featured Betty White making Gingerbread men so thought this was a good day for this recipe in honor of her would be 100th birthday. I even found a youtube of the old commercial.

I have been trying to recreate my grandmother’s gingerbread recipe for years. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have been written down anywhere and she is no longer with us so I cannot even try to coax it out of her 🙁

Her recipe was super moist, spicy with complex flavors. Each time I try a new recipe that sounds like it might come close I am sorely disappointed time after time. And then I ran across Jane’s recipe from The Heritage Cook. It didn’t sound right, but it sure looked right! So, I decided to give it a try and WHOA with a couple tweaks it’s so darn close that I’m calling it a day on my search.

It was the black pepper that didn’t sound right, but who am I to say that grams didn’t use black pepper? I know she didn’t use fresh ginger, but she may have compensated with a much larger amount of ground ginger.

This REALLY is NOT a timid gingerbread. It is EXTREMELY bold and FULL of bold flavor. This is really NOT like most gingerbread that you remember, but is spicy, bold and flavorful. The taste will linger on your tongue and that’s a good thing. This recipe is PERFECT for the holidays, but truly wonderful year round.

OLD FASHIONED GINGERBREAD – YIELDS 10-12 MUFFINS
ADAPTED slightly FROM JANE the HERITAGE COOK
1 cup unsalted butter
½ cup water
¾ cup mild unsulphured molasses (NOT Blackstrap)
¾ cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup  or QUALITY flavorful honey or Agave Nectar (see note)
1 cup PACKED dark brown sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoon QUALITY ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 LARGE eggs, at room temperature
½ cup WHOLE milk
2 packed tablespoons FRESH peeled and grated ginger

  • Combine the butter, water, molasses, honey and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat stirring frequently until the butter is melted and the ingredients are smoothly incorporated. Remove from the heat and pour into a large aluminum bowl as an aluminum bowl will cool much quicker than those made of other materials.
  • Set aside and cool to lukewarm. If you are in a hurry you can cool down the bowl by placing it in a cool water bath.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Lightly grease a muffin tin and set aside. Bundt and loaf pans also work well with this recipe.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves.
  • When the molasses mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Add the milk and stir to combine.
  • With a wooden spoon fold in the dry ingredients gradually. Gingerbread is like brownies, you don’t want to over mix it.
  • Stir in the grated ginger.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when touched and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If making a bundt or loaf pan bake time will be 1 – 1 1/4 hours. If the top is browning too quickly, tent with a piece of foil.
  • Cool for 10-20 minutes in the pan set on a wire rack, then invert onto the wire rack and cool completely.
  • Store in the refrigerator to keep it fresh. Bring to to room temperature before serving.
  • Serve with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream if desired. A dollop of whipped cream will temper the spiciness a lot.

TIPS & HINTS

  • Lyle’s Golden Syrup has a delicate butterscotch flavor and it allows the other flavors to shine through. It is a byproduct of refining sugar cane and you can use it in place of corn syrup, maple syrup, or honey. A company that follows fair trade practices and has a low carbon footprint, Lyles has created a product to be proud of.
  • There are several types of molasses available on the market and using one over another can drastically change the flavor of your baked goods. Unsulphured molasses is the highest quality, made from sun-ripened sugar cane and is from the first boiling in sugar processing while sulphured molasses is made from unripe sugar cane, treated with sulphur fumes, and is from the second boiling. It has a darker color and stronger flavor. The strongest form is called Blackstrap and is the most bitter. Whenever a recipe calls for a specific type of molasses, the balance will be off if you use a different kind.

On a side note Betty White was a fabulous dancer and while I believe she had a stunt double for parts of the season 3 dance scene that starts around the 5 minute mark in this clip, I do remember hearing that she still danced several hours a day well into her 60’s.

EPIPHANY – KING CAKE for MARDI GRAS

Mardi Gras 2022 falls on Tuesday, March 1st this year and is also known as Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Fat Tuesday is EXACTLY what it sounds like – time to party and EAT! 
Carnival runs from Epiphany, the 12th night, January 6 through March 1, 2022 so I thought this would be a good time to re-run this recipe for Mardis Gras King Cake.  I threw in some history for you also since King Cake isn’t just for Mardi Gras though that is what it is most famous for these days.
I often make this cake without the Mardi Gras colors, but using traditional Christmas colors.

A king cake (sometimes rendered as kingcake, kings’ cake, king’s cake, or three kings cake) is a type of cake associated with the festival of Epiphany in the Christmas season in a number of countries, and in other places with Mardi Gras and Carnival.

The “king cake” takes its name from the biblical three kings. Catholic tradition states that their journey to Bethlehem took twelve days (the Twelve Days of Christmas), and that they arrived to honor the Christ Child on Epiphany. The season for king cake extends from the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Twelfth Night and Epiphany Day), through to Mardi Gras day. Some organizations or groups of friends may have “king cake parties” every week through the Carnival season.

Related culinary traditions are the tortell of Catalonia, the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in the northern half of France, and the Greek and Cypriot vasilopita. The galette des Rois is made with puff pastry and frangipane (while the gâteau des Rois is made with brioche and candied fruits). A little bean was traditionally hidden in it, a custom taken from the Saturnalia in the Roman Empire: the one who stumbled upon the bean was called “king of the feast.” In the galette des Rois, since 1870 the beans have been replaced first by porcelain and, now by plastic figurines; while the gâteau des Rois Also known as “Rosca de Reyes” in Mexico.

In the southern United States, the tradition was brought to the area by colonists from France and Spain and it is associated with Carnival, which is celebrated in the Gulf Coast region, centered on New Orleans, but ranging from the Florida Panhandle to East Texas. King cake parties in New Orleans are documented back to the eighteenth century. The king cake of the New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition comes in a number of styles. The most simple, said to be the most traditional, is a ring of twisted bread similar to that used in brioche topped with icing or sugar, usually colored purple, green, and gold (the traditional Carnival colors) with food coloring. Cajun king cakes are traditionally deep-fat-fried as a doughnut would be, and there are many variants, some with a filling, the most common being cream cheese and praline. It has become customary in the New Orleans culture that whoever finds the trinket must provide the next king cake or host the next Mardi Gras party.

Some say that French settlers brought the custom to Louisiana in the 18th century where it remained associated with the Epiphany until the 19th century when it became a more elaborate Mardi Gras custom. In New Orleans, the first cake of the season is served on January 6. A small ceramic figurine of a baby is hidden inside the cake, by tradition. However now, the tradition is giving way to the baby being supplied and the customer placing the baby were ever they wish in the cake. Whoever finds the baby is allowed to choose a mock court and host the next King Cake party the following week (weekly cake parties were held until Mardi Gras).

The classic king cake is oval-shaped, like the pattern of a racetrack. The dough is basic coffee-cake dough, sometimes laced with cinnamon, sometimes just plain. The dough is rolled out into a long tubular shape (not unlike a thin po-boy), then shaped into an oval. The ends are twisted together to complete the shape  (HINT: if you want to find the piece with the baby, look for the twist in the oval where the two ends of the dough meet. That’s where the baby is usually inserted.) The baby hidden in the cake speaks to the fact that the three Kings had a difficult time finding the Christ Child and of the fine gifts they brought.

The cake is then baked, and decorated when it comes out. The classic decoration is simple granulated sugar, colored purple, green, and gold for the colors of Carnival. King cakes have gotten more and more fancy over the years, so now bakeries offer iced versions where there’s classic white coffee cake glaze on the cake before it’s decorated, and even king cakes filled with apple, cherry, cream cheese, or other kinds of coffee-cake fillings.

King cakes are available at bakeries all over South Louisiana, but only after January 6 through Mardi Gras Day.

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which starts on Ash Wednesday. Popular practices also include wearing masks and costumes, overturning most social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades and such. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition. In English, the day is called Shrove Tuesday, associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.

This is my version of this yummy yeast bread/cake.

MARDI GRAS KING CAKE (makes 2 cakes)

PASTRY
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

FILLING
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup melted butter

FROSTING/GLAZE
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon water

  • Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the 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.
  • When yeast mixture is bubbly, 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.
  • 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.
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with SILPATS or parchment paper.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins.
  • Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
  • Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16 inches).
  • Sprinkle 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 sharp knife 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.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  • Push the doll into the bottom of the cake.
  • Decorate with beads.
  • Frost while warm with the glaze.

DADDY’S ROAST CHICKEN aka CAFETERIA CHICKEN & GRAVY

I recently purchased a few new cookbooks. When cookbooks arrive at my house, I read them like a novel, cover to cover. I use colored tabs to mark the recipes I want to try soon. I ran across a recipe called Cafeteria Chicken whose name sounded so interesting that I marked it with a tab to read in depth at a later date.

Well, that date was a few days ago. As I read I was intrigued by how similar this recipe sounded to my great grandmother’s recipe for Chicken and Noodles that my dad taught me to make when I was VERY young. It is a family favorite to this day.

I found this in Danielle Kartes’ Rustic Joyful Food: Generations cook book. She told a story of a favorite Holiday Lunch Option for her hot lunch when she was in the fourth grade and how that transpired into her chicken gravy and potatoes recipe that her mother requested when she was going through chemo years later.

My recipe, like hers is rooted in family and memories. One meal that becomes two SEPARATE meals. My dad has since passed, but his memory is alive every time I cook. 😀 The base of these meals is a really good mirepoix to begin your flavor base.

A mirepoix is a flavor base made from cooked diced vegetables cooked. They are usually sautéed with butter, oil or other fat like bacon fat for a long time on a low heat without coloring or browning. When the mirepoix is not precooked, the vegetables may be cut to a larger size, depending on the overall cooking time for the dish.

There are similar flavor bases all across cooking. The Italians call it a soffritto, the Spanish and Portuguese call it a sofito/refogado and it consists of a braised onion, garlic and tomato base. The Turkish version uses a tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes. The German as well as the Polish version include leeks and/or celery or parsley root. The Russian version includes beets or peppers and the French include mushrooms as well as shallots and herbs that have been reduced to a paste. Here in the United States we have the holy trinity Cajun/Creole version of onions, celery and bell peppers that is a favorite.

The traditional vegetable mixture is onions, carrots and celery in a 2:1:1 ratio. Mirepoix is the flavor base for a wide variety of  stocks, soups, stews and sauces. My version adds mini peppers and garlic making my ratio 2:1:1:½:½.

The leftover chicken was then picked from the bone and chopped up to add to the leftover gravy. The leftover potatoes were mashed and then the gravy with chicken pieces was served over the mashed potatoes.

DADDY’S ROAST CHICKEN aka CAFETERIA CHICKEN & GRAVY

1 LARGE onion, halved root to tip, sliced thin
3 stalks celery, diced
2 LARGE carrots, diced
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 mini peppers, seeds & ribs removed, sliced
5-6 pound WHOLE chicken
1 stick butter, melted
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
3-4 cups chicken bone broth

  • Preheat oven to 300°.
  • Alternately layer the onions, celery, carrots, peppers and garlic in the bottom of the roaster.
  • Add chicken on top of the veggie layer.
  • Coat chicken with melted butter, reserving any extra.
  • GENEROUSLY season the chicken with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Whisk the remaining melted butter into the bone broth.
  • Pour the broth mixture around the chicken over the veggies.
  • Cover the chicken with a foil tent, sealing the edges.
  • Roast 3 hours without peeking!
  • Transfer chicken to platter and tent to rest while you prepare the gravy.
  • Drain the veggies through a sieve to accumulate the cooking juices.

GRAVY
3 cups of reserved cooking juices
3 cups chicken bone broth
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup WONDRA flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
FRESH ground thyme or poultry mix herbs

  • Melt the butter in large saute pan.
  • Whisk in flour 2 minutes until golden.
  • Slowly whisk in chicken stock and reserved cooking juices.
  • Add thyme or herbs.
  • Bring to a simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or until thickened, creamy, but still pourable consistency.
  • Whisk in cream.
  • Fold in chicken pieces.
  • Serve over mashed potatoes.

CAFETERIA CHICKEN & GRAVY
Leftover roast chicken taken from the bone and diced small
Leftover gravy if there is any
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons WONDRA flour
4 green onions, sliced thin
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
3 cups homemade bone both
1 cup half and half

  • Melt butter in a stock pot over medium heat.
  • Whisk in flour until golden and smooth.
  • Add green onions and saute 30 seconds.
  • Add bone broth and stir until smooth, simmering 5-10 minutes.
  • Season with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Blend in half and half.
  • Fold in chicken pieces.
  • Adjust seasoning and simmer until creamy and desired consistency.
  • Serve over mashed potatoes.**

**NOTE: I use the remainder of the potatoes from the original meal. I dice half of them and mash the rest. Then I fold them together to make a rustic mash.

CHICKEN CORN CHOWDER

Ever wondered what the difference is between a soup, a stew and a chowder?

A soup is usually made with stock or broth and can have vegetables, meat or fish as ingredients and is generally not very thick.

A chowder may have the same ingredients as a soup or even a stew, but is more chunky, creamy and thick. It is often prepared with milk or cream and thickened with broken crackers, biscuits, or a roux. A chowder is also usually made with fish and corn.

A stew is committed by sweltering in a covered pot.

When I make bone broth I use the carcass of the rotisserie chicken and often use whatever vegetables I have around in the bin that a wilted or such. This time I used a bone broth made with end of the season tomatoes which added a GREAT flavor to the chowder.

CHICKEN CORN CHOWDER
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 pound bacon, diced
1 LARGE yellow onion
3-4 cloves garlic, FINELY minced
3 stalks celery, halved and thinly sliced
1 LARGE carrot, diced
3-5 small mini peppers, sliced thin
3 cups FRESH or frozen white corn
2-3 cup diced rotisserie chicken pieces
3 1/3 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade bone broth)
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups half and half
3 cups grated cheese of choice (I used FACE ROCK sharp cheddar)
Frank’s Original Hot Sauce, optional – see note

  • Melt butter in large stock pot.
  • Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic, sauteing 5 minutes or so until carrots are starting to soften.
  • Add bacon and continue to saute 10 minutes until bacon is browned.***
  • Add peppers, corn and 3 cups of the chicken broth, bring to a simmer10-15 minutes.
  • Season to taste with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Whisk the remaining chicken broth with the cornstarch until smooth.
  • Add roux to pot and blend in well. Simmer a few minutes more.
  • Add half and half, stirring well.
  • Add cheeses and stir to melt.
  • Fold in chicken pieces and simmer 5-10 minutes more.
  • Season to taste.
  • Serve.

***NOTE:

  • If bacon has a high fat content, trim some of the fat off to prevent your chowder from becoming too greasy.
  • A splash or two or three of Frank’s original hot sauce can really amp up this chowder.

SOUP BY ANY OTHER NAME ~ TUTORIAL

Is it a soup, a stew, a bisque or a chowder? And what is the difference between them? After a little research I realized that there are specific reasons for each name, mainly regional cultural and/or the type of cooking vessel.

So let’s check out a few “definitions” or descriptions that I wish I’d had years ago!

  • BISQUE – A French style cream base soup whose main characteristic is a smooth and velvety texture that uses seafood as the protein. This dish is simmered SLOWLY over a low heat which results in the tender meat and rich broth.
  • BOUILLABAISSE – A Mediterranean based fisherman stew.  Traditionally it is made with a mixture of garlic, tomatoes, saffron, fennel, fish and shellfish.
  • BORSCHT – A Russian style stew whose main ingredient is beets.  Traditionally it also contains tomatoes, cabbage and many times chunks of meat.
  • CASSEROLE – a kind of stew that is cooked slowly in the oven in a “casserole”, a large, deep dish. The casserole dish is typically a dish used both for cooking the food in and serving it in also. Casseroles are of global origin and use. Here, in America, the casserole typically has three components; a meat or protein component, a vegetable and a starch, usually a potato or rice and often there is a cheesy or crunchy topping.
  • CHOWDER – Chowder is French in origin and refers to “chaudiere”, a type of “cauldron” used to cook for large gatherings.  Many times chowders are made from household staples. Early settlers used ingredients like salt pork, locally caught fish, bread or biscuits. Centuries later potatoes replaced breads or biscuits and milk or cream was added to create rich flavors and thickening of the sauce.
  • ETOUFFEE – A spicy Cajun braising process to cook proteins, usually a single meat, in a small amount of liquid making a thick stew with a spicy sauce or gravy. The meats are stuffed or smothered with aromatic vegetables and herbs, covered and SLOWLY simmered until the vegetables flavor has become one with the meat. Cooking this way ensures a flavorful, moist dish that is usually an entree versus a side dish.
  • GAZPACHO – A pureed mixture of raw summer vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. Classic versions are thickened with breads and include some form of peppers. This is also served cold most often. Gazpacho is considered Spanish, but originated in Greek or Roman times and was brought to Spain the the 1500’s.
  • GUMBO – the word gumbo iteself is derived from the African congo word Quingombo for okra, one of the main ingredients used to thicken gumbo.  Ground sassafras root or file’ powder is another common thickener. variety of meats served WITH rice unlike Jambalaya that rice is IN the dish – RICE IS THE COMMON COMPONENT – it is just the way it is used in the dish is different – Rice is a VEHICLE for gumbo, but an integral COMPONENT of Jambalaya. Gumbo has a variety of meats/proteins (a fish, poultry, sausage for example) whereas Jambalaya uses a single meat, usually a fish of some sort.
  • JAMBALAYA – A pilaf style main dish with a rice like a Paella (probably its early ancestor), but with a Creole Cajun, New Orleans style flavor influence. Traditionally Jambalaya is made with a combination of pork, chicken, shrimp and a variety of herbs and spices.
  • MINESTRONE – An Italian vegetable bean soup made with combinations of pasta, cheese, pesto and primarily FRESH seasonal produce.
  • MULLIGATAWNY – An Indian soup that almost always contains a chicken stock with curried meat or seafood that is smothered in a coconut milk or cream and lentils, carrots or apples.
  • PAELLA – A Spanish dish whose name primarily refers to the style of pan used that is  broad and shallow. Traditionally this was made with rice, chicken, rabbit, beans and sometimes snails. Nowadays the “traditional” ingredients have varied to include fish, shellfish, vegetables, pork and sausage.
  • POSOLE – A hearty Latin stew that is a blend of chicken stock, chicken or pork, chile peppers, vegetables and hominy. This stew is usually served on special occasions or days of feasting. By many this is considered the gringo version of Menudo that uses a less appetizing (to gringos) cut of meat, the cow stomach.
  • POTAGE – is a French soup made with a coarse thick cream and primarily vegetables. It translates into “special of the day”, but NOT the blue plate special as it is traditionally made with the freshest of seasonal ingredients.
  • POT PIE – Pot pies have been around for centuries with quite a history from being called Sea Pies made aboard ships or from Roman times with live birds that flew out of the pies to eventually becoming a comfort food traditional in America. Pot pies to me are one of the BEST comfort foods. There is nothing better than a flaky crust filled with a mixture of chunks of chicken, peas and carrots in a rich gravy like soup. A great cousin to the pot pie is a Shepherd’s pie that has a topping of mashed potatoes or a cornbread, biscuit topping.
  • SEVICHE – A FRESH, raw seafood in a marinade made from tomatoes or lemon juice.  The acids in the tomato or lemon juice “cook” the seafood, removing the raw taste and leaving you a flavorful dish.
  • STEW – Stews are found all around the world by many names, each dealing with regional cultural ingredients. Some of those examples are Hungarian Goulash, Italian or French Ragout and American Brunswick stew from Virginia or Burgoo from Kentucky. Stews are made up of the browning of small pieces of meat in a hot fat, poultry pieces or chunks of fish that then simmers with vegetables, herbs and spices in enough liquid to cover everything in a closed vessel of some sort (dutch oven or stock pot). A stew can be simmered over low heat on the stove top or baked in the oven also at low heat and when left alone allows the flavors to blend naturally while also tenderizing tougher cuts of meat. The sauce that develops as the dish cooks may be thickened by pureeing the vegetables or by incorporating flour or egg yolks.
  • VICHYSSOISE – A classic French soup that is made with potatoes, leeks, herbs, chicken stock and a heavy cream. This is typically pureed and served chilled with a FRESH chive garnish. Shhh… don’t tell anyone, but I like it warm and hate it cold, but love the flavor mixture.

TUESDAY 4 TO CLOSE THE YEAR

Happy New Year and welcome to Tuesday 4 where we continue to remember and honor the memory of  Toni Taddeo who began Tuesday 4.

Masses of people began celebrating in Times Square in 1904, but the New Year’s Ball didn’t drop until December 31, 1907. The ball is 12 feet in diameter, weighs 11,875 pounds and is covered with 2,688 Waterford crystals.  
Click here to see the HISTORY OF THE NEW YEAR’S EVE BALL it’s really quite interesting.

  • Despite the weirdness of this past year, was it still a good year for you anyway or not? While it was a strange year with the pandemic, it wasn’t bad per se, just inconvenient.  I thank God that I’m healthy and those I do know of that contracted COVID had relatively mild cases and have recovered.  We ate out less, traveled less, saw fewer people, shopped less, but are healthy.
  • How will you spend New Years Eve? Quietly at home with the love of my life and a good meal. We usually watch the festivities of TV, but not sure what those will be like this year.
  • What do you do on New Year’s Day? Is football part of the agenda? On New Year’s Day I usually make brunch and we de-decorate as we watch the parade and football.
  • It’s a Scottish tradition to kiss at midnight according to the person who wrote this question, but my research from TIME.com lends the origins to German traditions, at least here in the United States.  See The Mysterious Origins of Kissing at Midnight on New Year’s Eve. Do you keep that tradition? Does everyone get a kiss if you do? We do keep the tradition, but hubby is the only one I kiss even before COVID 😀

I pray your new year is a bright and Blessed one, free from the trials and tribulations that 2020 brought us. All the very best to you and your family.

INDEPENDENCE DAY – 4TH OF JULY!

Independence Day or 4th of July as we call it has only been a federal holiday since 1941, but of course the tradition dates back to 1776 when the Continental Congress voted on July 2nd in favor of Independence. Two days later delegates from all thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, and celebrated their independence and the birth of a nation on July 4th.

Since July 4th falls in mid summer, the celebrations major focus usually includes leisure activities, parades, concerts, backyard barbecues, games, bonfires and family gatherings culminating in fireworks later at night. Except maybe this year 🙁

When the Revolutionary War broke out back in 1775, a few colonists wanted complete independence from Great Britain. These colonists were considered to be the radicals of their time.

However, more and more colonists came to believe in favor of independence. Many because of Thomas Paine’s famous writing “Common Sense” which he published in early 1776.

In June 1776, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion that called for the colonies’ independence. A heated debate followed and Congress postponed the vote to his resolution. At that time they appointed a committee of five men, Thomas Jefferson (Virginia), John Adams (Massachusetts), Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), Roger Sherman Connecticut) and Robert R, Livingston (New York) to draft a formal statement justifying the break from Great Britain.

On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Independence in a near unanimous vote. New York abstained, but later voted yes.

John Adams wrote to his wife that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” He believed that the American Independence celebration should occur on July 2nd since that was the day of the vote to secure it and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest.

Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dies on the 4th of July, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Before the Revolutionary war, colonists would hold celebrations in honor of the king’s birthday. These celebrations included the ringing of bells, bonfires, parades and speeches. After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence these same colonists celebrated the birth of their independence by holding mock funerals for King George III as a symbol of the end of the British hold on America and a triumph to their new found liberty.

Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777. Festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence.

The war was still going on and George Washington issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778, and in 1781, several months before the key American victory at Yorktown, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.

After the Revolutionary War and to this day, Americans continue to commemorate Independence Day every year, in celebrations that allow the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity. The tradition of patriotic celebration became even more widespread after the War of 1812. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday. Over the years, the political importance of the holiday has declined somewhat, but The most common symbol of the holiday is the American flag, and a common musical accompaniment is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States.

And did you know New York City has the biggest fireworks display in the United States and that three U.S. presidents died on July 4?

KING CAKE FOR MARDI GRAS since I missed posting it for the EPIPHANY

Mardi Gras 2020 falls on Tuesday, February 25, this year and is also known as Fat Tuesday, the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Fat Tuesday is EXACTLY what it sounds like – time to party and EAT!  I thought this would be a good time to re-run this recipe for Mardis Gras King Cake.  I threw in some history for you also since King Cake isn’t just for Mardi Gras though that is what it is most famous for these days.  I do have to admit I made this cake a few years back when we were living in Texas during Mardi Gras season though since then I have made it for Epiphany without the Mardi Gras colors and using traditional Christmas colors.

A king cake (sometimes rendered as kingcake, kings’ cake, king’s cake, or three kings cake) is a type of cake associated with the festival of Epiphany in the Christmas season in a number of countries, and in other places with Mardi Gras and Carnival.

The “king cake” takes its name from the biblical three kings. Catholic tradition states that their journey to Bethlehem took twelve days (the Twelve Days of Christmas), and that they arrived to honor the Christ Child on Epiphany. The season for king cake extends from the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Twelfth Night and Epiphany Day), through to Mardi Gras day. Some organizations or groups of friends may have “king cake parties” every week through the Carnival season.

Related culinary traditions are the tortell of Catalonia, the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in the northern half of France, and the Greek and Cypriot vasilopita. The galette des Rois is made with puff pastry and frangipane (while the gâteau des Rois is made with brioche and candied fruits). A little bean was traditionally hidden in it, a custom taken from the Saturnalia in the Roman Empire: the one who stumbled upon the bean was called “king of the feast.” In the galette des Rois, since 1870 the beans have been replaced first by porcelain and, now by plastic figurines; while the gâteau des Rois Also known as “Rosca de Reyes” in Mexico.

In the southern United States, the tradition was brought to the area by colonists from France and Spain and it is associated with Carnival, which is celebrated in the Gulf Coast region, centered on New Orleans, but ranging from the Florida Panhandle to East Texas. King cake parties in New Orleans are documented back to the eighteenth century. The king cake of the New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition comes in a number of styles. The most simple, said to be the most traditional, is a ring of twisted bread similar to that used in brioche topped with icing or sugar, usually colored purple, green, and gold (the traditional Carnival colors) with food coloring. Cajun king cakes are traditionally deep-fat-fried as a doughnut would be, and there are many variants, some with a filling, the most common being cream cheese and praline. It has become customary in the New Orleans culture that whoever finds the trinket must provide the next king cake or host the next Mardi Gras party.

Some say that French settlers brought the custom to Louisiana in the 18th century where it remained associated with the Epiphany until the 19th century when it became a more elaborate Mardi Gras custom. In New Orleans, the first cake of the season is served on January 6. A small ceramic figurine of a baby is hidden inside the cake, by tradition. However now, the tradition is giving way to the baby being supplied and the customer placing the baby were ever they wish in the cake. Whoever finds the baby is allowed to choose a mock court and host the next King Cake party the following week (weekly cake parties were held until Mardi Gras).

The classic king cake is oval-shaped, like the pattern of a racetrack. The dough is basic coffee-cake dough, sometimes laced with cinnamon, sometimes just plain. The dough is rolled out into a long tubular shape (not unlike a thin po-boy), then shaped into an oval. The ends are twisted together to complete the shape  (HINT: if you want to find the piece with the baby, look for the twist in the oval where the two ends of the dough meet. That’s where the baby is usually inserted.) The baby hidden in the cake speaks to the fact that the three Kings had a difficult time finding the Christ Child and of the fine gifts they brought.

The cake is then baked, and decorated when it comes out. The classic decoration is simple granulated sugar, colored purple, green, and gold for the colors of Carnival. King cakes have gotten more and more fancy over the years, so now bakeries offer iced versions where there’s classic white coffee cake glaze on the cake before it’s decorated, and even king cakes filled with apple, cherry, cream cheese, or other kinds of coffee-cake fillings.

King cakes are available at bakeries all over South Louisiana, but only after January 6 through Mardi Gras Day.

Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday” referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which starts on Ash Wednesday. Popular practices also include wearing masks and costumes, overturning most social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades and such. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition. In English, the day is called Shrove Tuesday, associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.

This is my version of this yummy yeast bread/cake.

MARDI GRAS KING CAKE (makes 2 cakes)

PASTRY
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

FILLING
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup melted butter

FROSTING/GLAZE
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon water

  • Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the 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.
  • When yeast mixture is bubbly, 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.
  • 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.
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Grease 2 cookie sheets or line with SILPATS or parchment paper.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the brown sugar, ground cinnamon, chopped pecans, 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup raisins.
  • Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the cinnamon mixture and mix until crumbly.
  • Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10×16 inches).
  • Sprinkle 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 sharp knife 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.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  • Push the doll into the bottom of the cake.
  • Decorate with beads.
  • Frost while warm with the glaze.