For the past two years, I have bought paczki and King Cake at West Seattle’s Bakery Nouveau. This is quite a hike for me, coming from the other side of the city. This year I’ve been on a baking binge, and I figured I’d try my hand at making King Cake. Bakery Nouveau described this year’s King Cake on their blog as “made of laminated brioche dough” then, “rolled up with pureed Tatin style apple…cinnamon and sugar, and a sprinkling of raisins.” And finally, they “finish the cake New Orleans style, with a little bit of glaze and tri-color sugar.”
I would like to state for the record that I have never made brioche (though I have made Pulla). I have never laminated anything, let alone dough, nor have I made Tatin style apples. I have made cinnamon rolls, though, so, how hard could it be?
Sit back, and ready yourself for two days worth of work, and a lot of research. That’s what this took me.
I’m not going to give you the recipe, as that this is one of those triumphs that was cobbled from so many sources, and my own brain, that I couldn’t hope to write them all down. I will, however, point you to my resources.
1. Brioche – this part is easy, as that there is a wonderful source available, and that is the invaluable book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. The brioche recipe I used came straight from this book. Other parts I used for guidance were the recipes for cinnamon rolls and such that can be made with enriched breads. This was the most carefree part of the entire endeavor, and this book is a must for anyone who likes fresh bread, but thinks it takes too long to make. I used half the recipe to make one King Cake.
2. LAMINATE. LAMINATE. LAMINATE. – What is laminated brioche? Think like croissants, but breadier. THe happy, buttery layers of bread come by means of laminating! What does this mean? You take a mixture of butter and flour and make it into a sheet, chill it, and then fold dough around it, kind of like the picture in an old ID badge, where the paper is the butter, and the dough is the plastic. I used a few resources to figure out how to do this, but the main one I used was here. Trust me, this is a part where the more research you do, the better.
3.Tatin apples? WTF? – First, thanks Mark Bittman, and How to Cook Everything. The iPhone/iPad How to Cook Everything app found the recipe for sautéed apples, which is what Bittman suggests for a crust-free tatin flavor. Basically, it’s like apple sauce made with extra sugar, and butter instead of apple cider/juice. Thanks to Bittman, something that could have been hard, was easy. I used one recipe of this, and pureed it.
4. Making the crown, and making it pretty – If I had to do it over again, I would have rolled out the length of my dough as a long rectangle on a Silpat first and then placed it in something like this Thunder Group 18 Inch x 26 Inch Full Size Aluminum Sheet Pan. I spread the puree in one layer from edge to edge, sprinkled on the raisins, and would have, had I not forgotten, added cinnamon/sugar sprinkle on top of the apple puree. Finally I rolled it up so it was a long cylinder, much like you would for cinnamon rolls. Before putting the ends together, I recommend cutting the ends off of the cylinder first, then joining them together to make the crown. Finally, I used Google to get the inspiration for making it pretty.
I baked the bread for around 35-40 minutes at 325°F on convection. If you don’t have a convection oven, you might want to try 350°F, and rotating the pan midway to get it evenly brown. I hid the baby Jesus in the cake AFTER baking, by stuffing it in one of the folds.
The cake came out looking buttery and delicious. I let it cool, and finished it off with a simple milk, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar icing drizzled over it, and an abundance of traditional colored sprinkles in purple, yellow and green.
I will be trying this again next year, without a doubt. Though I haven’t tasted this year’s cake (it went straight to my husband’s work), I heard it was delicious.