Pecan Praline Cream Cheese King Cake

Laissez le bon temps rouler, everyone.

That’s French for “Let the Good Times Roll.” It’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot at this time of year, as it’s usually the time for Mardi Gras. I have never been to a Mardi Gras celebration. Unfortunately, I’ve never even been to Louisiana. I do really like Cajun food, though. For now I guess that’s as close as I’m going to get.

Gumbo, jambalya, beignets, and pecan pralines are just a few of the things that come to mind when it comes to Mardi Gras food, or Cajun food itself. There’s also a little dessert called King Cake that gets associated with both, and will be the focus of today’s post. It may be called a ‘Cake’, but I prefer to think of King Cake as a very enriched delicious sweet bread that’s filled with delicious sweet stuff.

The fillings can range from cinnamon sugar and pecans, cream cheese, marzipan, or fruit. The most common is cinnamon sugar with pecans. The top of the cake is drizzled with a thin glaze or icing, then showered in purple, green and yellow sprinkles–the common colors of Mardi Gras. Most King Cakes are filled with a small plastic baby to signify the Baby Jesus. The person who finds the ‘Baby King’ in their piece of cake is supposed to have a lucky year.

I made my first King Cake two years ago. I kept things simple, with a twist, and filled it with chocolate. I didn’t get around to making one last year, so I knew that going into this year I was going to be sure I didn’t make that mistake again. I did want to shake things up and make it a different way than I did before. I also wanted to do more than just a cinnamon sugar-pecan filling.

I have one complaint with a lot of the cinnamon sugar fillings in bread that both I’ve seen, and tried : the cinnamon sugar often ends up getting absorbed into the dough while baking, and by the time all is done, there’s not much of it left. I wanted this King Cake to be truly decadent and full of…filling by the time it was finished baking.

I found a recipe for a King Cake that does just that on LemonBaby.co. The filling in Amanda’s recipe is made from a mix of melted butter, cream cheese and brown sugar and toasted pecans. The dairy gets simmered together with the sugar until it forms a smooth sweet sticky spread, then the nuts get mixed in just before it all is slathered on the risen dough. Most King Cakes are shaped into rings, but for this one I choose to make a loose braid that I then wound into one big mass. Feel free to do whatever you like with this one in shaping.

Huge props to Amanda for this recipe. It was EXACTLY what I was looking for. The pecan praline filling doesn’t get absorbed by the dough at all during baking, and the cream cheese gives it a nice tang of flavor to counterbalance all the other sweetness that goes on in a King Cake. It would pair perfectly in the morning with a cup of coffee.

King Cake requires some time, but the effort is definitely more than worth it.

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Pecan Praline Cream Cheese King Cake

Recipe Courtesy of LemonBaby

Ingredients

For Dough

  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

For Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans

For Icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Milk
  • Purple, green and yellow sanding sugar or sprinkles

 

Directions

Pour the warm milk into a glass measuring bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top, then sprinkle the one tablespoon of sugar on top of that. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until proofed and frothy.

Stir together the flour, cinnamon and salt in a medium size bowl and set aside.

Pour the yeast-water mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the melted butter, egg yolks, and vanilla extract and mix on medium until combined.

Switch to the dough hook and add the flour mixture gradually, in about three increments, mixing on medium speed just until the dough begins to come together around the hook. Once it has, turn off the mixer and scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface that you’ve sprinkled with flour (like a pastry mat or a smooth countertop). Use your hands to firmly knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes. You can use additional flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) if it’s still too sticky; I also prefer to rub my hands with canola, olive or vegetable oil before kneading and that helps a lot without having to add more flour.

. (The dough is ready when you can stretch one piece of it out very thin, and it’s translucent enough to see through.)

Grease the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow it to rest until doubled in size, 1 1/2 hours–2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling: in a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the cream cheese over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar with a wire whisk. When the mixture starts to bubble, immediately remove from the heat and stir in the pecans. Set aside to cool completely.

When dough is finished rising, turn out onto a clean work surface and punch down to deflate air bubbles.

Roll the risen dough into a 10 x 20 inch rectangle on top of a piece of parchment paper. Spread the filling on half of the long side of the dough. Fold the dough in half covering the filling. Pat dough down firmly so the dough will stick together. Cut dough into three long strips. Press the tops of the strips together and braid the strips. Press the ends together at the bottom. (This will probably get messy; it’s ok, just tuck in what you can of anything that falls out.)

Gently stretch the braid so that it measures 20 inches again. Shape it into a circle/oval and press the edges together. Use the edges of the parchment paper to lift and transfer the cake to a large sheet pan (preferably one without sides). Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise until puffy, about 45-50 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk the one egg together with the tablespoon of water in a small bowl and brush egg wash all over the top of the cake with a pastry brush.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown. (You may have to cover it with foil if it starts to brown too quickly.) Inner temp of the bread should be 200-205 Degrees Fahrenheit. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make icing, stir powdered sugar and a few tablespoons of milk at a time together in a bowl with a fork. Add enough of the milk until it reaches the consistency that you like. Use a fork to drizzle over the top of the King Cake. Sprinkle the purple, green and yellow sanding sugar on top in a pattern. Allow to sit for about one hour until the icing has dried.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #264, co-hosted this week by Angie and Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau.

Red Velvet Cookies

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day.

I know I’m overdue for a new post and I didn’t want to let this holiday go by without finding an excuse to bake something red and/or Red Velvet Flavored. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for me here on the blog and I like keeping up with tradition.

This year I’m keeping it’s nice and simple and bringing over a batch of cookies. Red Velvet flavored cookies.

Aren’t they pretty?

A couple weeks back I made a post where I sang the praises of moon cake molds as stamps/cutters for making the prettiest cookies you ever did see. I’ve done it before in several existing posts on the blog, and I still can’t recommend them enough. They take ordinary cookie dough and turn it into sheer, edible art.

The dough for these cookies is pretty straightforward. They’re flavored with melted chocolate, cocoa powder as well as LorAnn Oils Red Velvet Emulsion, another product for which I can’t recommend strongly enough. Most people think that Red Velvet flavor is really ‘just’ chocolate. I used to think that too; this emulsion proved me wrong. Red Velvet definitely has chocolate flavor, but LorAnn’s emulsion gives it that tangy aftertaste that automatically makes me think of a red velvet cake with tangy cream cheese frosting. Su-blime.

Be sure to refrigerate your cookie dough until it is thoroughly chilled. I usually let mine chill overnight in the fridge. The colder it is, the better it will hold it’s shape/design. Have extra powdered sugar on deck for you to dip your cookie stamps in, as well as for the dough itself. I try to avoid using flour to roll out cookie dough, as adding extra flour just adds more gluten, which dulls the flavor and can make them taste bland.

Enjoy!

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Red Velvet Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Springerle Joy

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tablespoons Red Velvet Emulsion (Like LorAnn Oils)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup melted chocolate chips
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon dry, powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a medium size bowl combine the flour with the baking powder, dry milk and salt. Stir together with a fork and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the egg, mixing just until combined and yellow disappears. Add the Red Velvet emulsion, vanilla extract, melted chocolate chips and cocoa powder.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, in about 3 increments, stirring just until combined.

Scrape dough out into one disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Divide dough into quarters. Keep the other 3 portions in the fridge while you work with the one.

Roll dough out on a clean and floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Dip your cookie stamps into powdered sugar, then tap to remove excess. Press firmly into the dough. Use a slightly larger round cookie cutter to cut out shape, then transfer to cookie sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the dough.

Freeze cut out cookie dough for 10-20 minutes.

Bake cookies for 7-9 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. Allow to sit on baking sheets for about 60 seconds before removing to cool completely on wire racks.

(Note: no one oven is the same, & different baking sheets bake cookies differently. Keeping this in mind, I will ALWAYS test bake one cookie before baking entire sheets of the whole batch, just to get a good idea of how long they should be in the oven and if I need to adjust the way I’ve cut, rolled them out, etc. I highly recommend that you do the same.)

Sharing these at this week’s Fiesta Friday #263.

Snickers Cookie Bars

I’m really not too much of a ‘candy’ person anymore, with one very important exception: chocolate bars.

I don’t think I will ever stop loving chocolate bars. I still remember the first one that I was ever allowed to have as a kid: a Nestle Crunch Bar. After that, I think it was a Payday. I’m also a fan of Twix, 100 Grand, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s with Almonds, Hershey’s Cookies and Cream, Krackle, and Butterfinger.

Major pass on Almond Joy, Mounds, Milky Way and Three Musketeers. Those I don’t like.

You may have noticed one glaring omission from that list. It was intentional, for reasons that you’ve probably guessed. I’ve been considering making today’s recipe for several weeks now, but I was nervous about it. Finally, I made a split second decision and just decided to go for it.

And here we are. My tribute to the best, the ULTIMATE candy bar ever made.

I think I was nervous about trying this for several reasons: first, the candybar it’s inspired from is just so perfect all on its own. Nougat, caramel, peanuts and chocolate; why mess with that kind of sheer perfection?

Second, no matter how many times I’ve done it, and done it successfully, the process of making caramel still makes me nervous every time.

Still, since I had all the ingredients I needed on hand I decided to just go for it. Couldn’t hurt to try.

There’s not a whole lot of labor required for these, but I do recommend giving yourself time to do it in stages. Unlike our favorite candy bar, the first and bottom layer of these is a very rich cookie. The dough comes together in minutes. Once it’s baked and cooled off, you can move on to the tricky part: the caramel.

Here’s the thing about caramel: as much as making it makes me nervous, the truth is that if you have a working thermometer that you pay close attention to, you’ll be just fine. This one is far from the most difficult I’ve made and because we’re making caramel and not candy, it doesn’t take very long. After the caramel peanut layer has been given time to set, things get super simple. You melt some chocolate, spread it on top and sprinkle some peanuts on top of that and you’re done. Waiting for the whole thing to set up before cutting into it is the hardest part, honestly. Because these are very sweet and rich, a little bit of one goes a long way in satisfying a sweet tooth, which means there’s more to go around.

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Snickers Cookie Bars

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

For Cookie Layer

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp and cubed
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Caramel Peanut Layer

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup, light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup salted roasted peanuts

For Topping

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • One tablespoon of softened butter, cubed.
  • A couple tablespoons of chopped peanuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish with parchment paper and spray well with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one, cream together the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until just combined.

Fold the flour in, in about 2 increments, mixing just until blended and a soft dough forms. Press the dough into a pan and use a spatula to make the top as smooth as you can.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and firm. Cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour while you make the caramel.

Melt the butter in a high-sided saucepan with at least 2 qt capacity. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, white sugar and heavy cream. Cook, stirring frequently with a wire whisk until sugar dissolves completely and liquid comes to a boil.

Cook until caramel reaches temp of 235-240 degrees Fahrenheit. (I STRONGLY recommend a candy thermometer or an instant read thermometer for this). Remove from heat.

Stir in the peanuts. Spray a spatula with cooking spray and spread the caramel over the cooled cookie layer. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes (I let mine sit overnight just to be on the safe side).

Melt the chocolate chips over low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and keep stirring until the butter dissolves completely. Spread the chocolate quickly and evenly over the caramel layer with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.

Let sit for an additional 2 hours to allow the chocolate to set and harden up before using the parchment paper to lift up out of the baking dish and cutting into squares.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #261, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com and Julianna @ Foodie on Board.