The food business is seasonal.
There is a specific time when vegetables are at their peak. No matter where they are being grown— Florida, California, our your backyard— there is a certain time of the year they will reach a pinnacle in flavor and bounty.
One would think that meat isn’t seasonal, but beef prices fluctuate often. They reach their peak in summer and during the December holidays.
The menus at our restaurants are seasonal, too. In several weeks we’ll be rolling out a special crawfish menu when that particular local crustacean is at its peak in quality and affordability.
We also offer seasonal desserts. In the Fall we can’t make pumpkin cheesecake fast enough to keep up with the demand. In the summer, it’s blackberry cobbler and Key Lime pie.
All of those dishes are big hits, but none can compare to our go-to dessert during Mardi Gras season— King Cake Bread Pudding. People go nuts for this stuff, and there is a good reason, it tastes great. It’s like a Mardi Gras party on a plate (with everyone keeping their shirt on).
The Internet is full of historical accounts on how King Cakes ended up in America, their significance, and how they wound up being used during Carnival season, so, I would direct anyone interested in learning more from that angle to Google it.
For those few readers who might have grown up in Saskatchewan and have no idea what a King Cake is, it’s a braided dough (usually brioche), that has been filled (usually with cream cheese or fruit), and has colored sugar on top (usually the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold). There is a trinket inside (usually a plastic baby) that has many different meanings for the one who finds (or eats) the baby, depending on who you are talking to and where they live. I think I just broke the Guinness record for the greatest number of parenthesis in one paragraph (someone look it up).
These days, the plastic babies are usually on the outside of the cake. I suspect the King Cake companies got sued too often and decided to let the customers hide the baby in the cake themselves. Personally, I thought it was a little creepy sticking a baby in a brioche, but that’s another column for another day.
The point is King Cake Bread Pudding is good. It was created by one of my chefs and me in one of those we-need-some-inspiration-for-a-dessert-feature meetings. The synergy was bouncing all over the room, and King Cake Bread Pudding was born.
We serve it every year during Mardi Gras season, and now that I have given you the recipe, you don’t even have to go to the restaurant to purchase it.
Enjoy, eat well, bon appetite, and laissez les bons temps rouler!
KING CAKE BREAD PUDDING
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar, divided
4 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 8-10” round cream cheese filled King Cake
Place the milk, cream and half of the sugar in a small sauce pot and place over medium heat. Bring this mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent the sugar from burning. While the milk mixture is heating, place the remaining sugar, egg yolks, whole eggs, vanilla and salt into a stainless steel mixing bowl. Using a wire whisk, beat the egg mixture until it become light yellow in color. Slowly begin adding the hot milk to the beaten eggs, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.
Cut the King Cake into two inch thick slices.
Pour half of the custard into a two-quart round Pyrex baking dish (nine-inch diameter).
Submerge the King cake slices into the custard. Pour the remaining custard over the top and cover the baking dish. Cover and refrigerate over night.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Remove the covering from the refrigerated bread pudding and gently press down the King Cake so that the custard completely covers the surface. Cover the bread pudding with a piece of parchment paper, and then cover the paper with a piece of aluminum foil.
In a roasting pan large enough to hold the Pyrex dish, place two inches of hot water. Place the Pyrex dish in the water and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and parchment paper and bake for 10 additional minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow the pudding to rest for one hour before serving.
Garnish with sugar that has been colored with purple, green, and gold food coloring and serve with Brandy Crème Anglaise
Yields 8-10 servings
Brandy Crème Anglaise
1 cup cream
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup brandy
3/4 cup sugar, divided
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a stainless steel pot bring the cream, half and half, brandy, half of the sugar and to vanilla a simmer. While it is heating, combine the yolks and remaining sugar in a mixing bowl and whip until pale yellow in color.
Slowly begin adding the cream mixture into to yolks, stirring constantly until all the milk has cream mixture has been added. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pot and cook over a low-medium flame stirring constantly. Cook until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat a spoon or spatula.
Remove from the heat and cool down in an ice bath.
This sauce may be made two-three days in advance.
Yields : 8-10 servings