King Cake recipe: Emeril Lagasse hides the baby for Mardi Gras

king-cake-food-network.jpgNothing says Mardi Gras like king cake! (Okay... nothing that doesn't involve nudity and booze.) In case you're not familiar with the flavorful and often colorful dessert, it's a traditional cake served in New Orleans and throughout southern Louisiana during the Carnival season -- particularly on Fat Tuesday.

Included somewhere in the cake is a "baby" - either a bean, a pecan, or an actual plastic/ceramic trinket. The person who gets the slice with the baby is King or Queen of the day -- and has to supply the cake at the next gathering. In some circles, it implies that the person who gets the baby will be the next person to have a child.

We're quite TV-obsessed here at Zap2it, so it should come as no surprise that our favorite recipes for king cake come from Food Network chefs. Here we've included the best recipe, from Food Network fave Emeril Lagasse from his show "Emeril Live." Be warned, this isn't a quick stop in the kitchen. King cake may look like fun and games, but it requires some serious work!

Ingredients

    1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
    2 packages dry yeast
    2 teaspoons sugar
    4 to 5 cups flour
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
    1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)
    1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
    5 egg yolks
    1/2 cup finely chopped candied citron
    1 pecan half, uncooked dried bean or King Cake Baby

Glaze:

    2 cups sifted powdered sugar
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    2 tablespoons water
    Purple, green and gold sugar crystals


Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside to a warm place for about 10 minutes. Combine the 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind and add warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top.

Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with the citron and knead until the citron is evenly distributed. Shape the dough into a cylinder, about 30 inches long. Place the cylinder on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool. For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. To assemble, drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors. Cut into the cake and hope you do not get the baby.
Photo/Video credit: Food Network