Mardi Gras, which means Fat Tuesday, is the culmination of the season between Christmas and Lent. Fat Tuesday falls the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. This celebration is all about music, parades, balls, king cake parties, excitement…..it’s one huge holiday in New Orleans! Everyone wears purple, green and gold and adorns themselves with long beads caught from the colorful parade floats.
Fat Tuesday is a “last chance” party excuse before a six-week period of abstinence, and residents of New Orleans, Louisiana are famous for their Mardi Gras celebrations and food. Known for Cajun and Creole foods, it’s no wonder that those who celebrate Mardi Gras concentrate on these foods for their Fat Tuesday parties. What’s the difference between Cajun and Creole foods? People describe Cajun food as country cooking, whereas Creole food is more elegant and sophisticated, “city cooking” so to speak.
Here are TCH’s dessert food picks for a fun-filled Mardi Gras party, no matter where you decide to throw one!
No celebration is complete without King Cake, aka Twelfth Night Cake. This cake is actually sweetened yeast bread, usually baked in the shape of a ring. The cake is frosted with gold, green, and purple icing representing power, faith, and justice. Although this cake is colorful and tasty, the real fun hides within the cake. The baker of each King Cake hides a token in the cake. The tokens used are a dried red bean or a figurine of a baby, representing the Christ child. When the cake is cut and shared, the finder of the hidden treasure is said to enjoy good luck for the coming year.
For the Cake:
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 large egg yolks, plus 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing the bowl
For the Filling and Glaze:
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 dry bean or plastic King Cake baby (available at party-supply stores or mardigrasday.com)
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Purple, green and gold sanding sugar, for decorating
Make the cake:
1. Heat the milk in a saucepan until scalding; transfer to a food processor, add the yeast and pulse to combine.
2. Add 1/2 cup flour and the egg yolks; process to combine. Pour the remaining 2 cups flour evenly over the yeast mixture; do not process. Put the lid on; set aside for 90 minutes.
3. Add the 2 whole eggs, granulated sugar, lemon zest, salt and nutmeg to the food processor; process to make a slightly textured dough, about 1 minute. With the machine running, slowly add the butter to make a smooth, sticky dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place for 3 hours.
4. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead briefly; form into a ball and return to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Make the filling:
1. Plump the raisins in the bourbon in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, pecans, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest, salt and the bean or plastic baby; mix until combined and set aside.
2. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 20-by-7-inch rectangle, with the long edge facing you. Spoon the filling in an even layer over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the top and bottom. Fold the bottom and then the top edge over the filling to make a tight roll; pinch to seal.
3. Transfer the roll seam-side down to a parchment-lined baking sheet; tuck one end into the other to form a ring. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the roll doubles in size, about 2 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cake until firm and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack.
This classic Southern dessert with its flaming presentation makes a dramatic finale for any meal.
- 4 firm, ripe bananas, peeled
- 4 ounces unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup banana liqueur or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup brandy or bourbon
- 1 pint vanilla ice cream
1. Cut bananas in quarters by slicing in half lengthwise and then crosswise. Set aside. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar. As it melts, add bananas, and turn to coat in sugar.
2. Cook 5 to 7 minutes. Add liqueur, and remove skillet from heat. Add brandy, and return to heat. When warm, flame brandy by igniting with a long match; it will burn about 30 seconds. Bring to table while flaming. Serve with vanilla ice cream on the side.
New Orleans Beignets
The traditional French fritter or beignet is a puffy, deep-fried doughnut-like pastry. Mixing the dough is easy with the help of your bread machine.
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 egg
- 4 teaspoons margarine or butter
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast or bread machine yeast
- Cooking oil for deep-fat frying
- Sifted powdered sugar
1. Add all ingredients, except the cooking oil and powdered sugar, to a 2-pound bread machine according to manufacturers’ directions. Select the dough cycle. When cycle is complete, remove dough from machine. Punch down. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes.
2. Divide the dough into thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion of dough into a 9-inch square. Cut each into sixteen 2-1/4-inch squares.
3. Fry the dough squares, 2 or 3 at a time, in deep hot oil (375 degrees F) for 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Using a slotted spoon, remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Pecan pralines are a southern candy tradition. This chewy, sugary ball of goodness is a perfect treat at any party.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cups half-and-half
- 1/3 stick butter
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups whole pecans
1. Combine all ingredients except the pecans in a heavy saucepan. Over medium heat stir mixture until it comes to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-low and continue to stir.
2. Spoon mixture up on sides of pan to melt any sugar that hasn’t melted.
3. Cook until mixture reaches 238 to 241 degrees F on a candy thermometer or soft ball stage. Stir in the pecans. Remove from heat. Stir until the mixture begins to thicken and becomes creamy and cloudy.
4. Drop onto parchment paper, buttered pan or buttered marble slab, using a spoon or ice cream scoop. Let cool.
New Orleans Bread Pudding
Celebrate Mardi Gras and use up some day old bread at the same time. And don’t forget the Brandy sauce!
- 3 loaves French bread
- 1 ¾ cups of raisins
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1/2 lb. sugar
- 10 eggs
- 1/2 lb. of melted butter
- 3 tablespoons of vanilla extract
1. Cut French bread into cubes. Pour milk on French bread and let the milk soak in.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to French bread mixture. Mix with hand until blended evenly.
3. Pour mixture into ungreased pan.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
6 tablespoons of Brandy
1 lb. butter
1 cup of sugar
4 tablespoons of vanilla extract
Let butter sit at room temperature until very soft.
Add the remaining ingredients and blend with mixer until smooth.
Pour over bread pudding.