Tag Archives: mardi gras

DIY Moon Pies — Totally From Scratch

28 Feb

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Ever since I was a kid, I have associated Mardi Gras primarily with MoonPies — not beads, parades, etc — just the tasty treats with marshmallow sandwiched between two graham cookies and enrobed in chocolate. Yes, there are other flavors of MoonPies, and even more choices in recent years, but I have eyes only for one variety.

From what I have read, our area (Mobile, Alabama), seems to be more fond of the MoonPie because we throw them more at parades than New Orleans does. We even have a giant, light-up MoonPie drop over the city on New Year’s Eve.

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The MoonPie was not created as a Mardi Gras throw, however. In the early 1900s a bakery in Chattanooga, Tennessee, concocted the treat in response to requests from coal miners. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the MoonPie became the preferred throw of revelers. You can read more about the MoonPie’s history here.

I have been going through a big cooking phase lately, and one of my favorite places to get recipes has been magazines — Bon Appetit, Garden and Gun, Food and Wine, etc. When I saw this recipe for DIY MoonPies in a recent Garden and Gun, I knew I had to try it. It would satisfy my sweet tooth and let me try my hand at homemade marshmallow for the first time.

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The recipe is simple although it does involve multiple steps best conducted over a couple of days. It yields a tasty, satisfying treat reminiscent of the holiday classic but without the near stale texture that packaged MoonPies always seem to have. The graham cookie in this recipe is light and tender, the marshmallow sweet and fluffy, and the chocolate rich and silky.

Can you see my reflection in the chocolate? It was so shiny when it was first poured!

Can you see my reflection in the chocolate? It was so shiny when it was first poured!

My only modification from the printed recipe was to cut the cookies with a 2 1/4″ cutter rather than a 3″. This yielded 19 sandwich cookies. The recipe also made a ton of marshmallow so I have scaled down the recipe here for you so you won’t have a ton of leftover fluff.

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I also wanted to make mention of two fabric acquisitions recently added to my stash. The first was a gift from a very special lady who is a blog reader and mother of a sweet little patient. She is from Brazil and brought these fabrics back for me from her recent trip home. Each fabric represents different parts of Brazilian history and is made from very soft cotton. Can’t wait to use these in a project. Thanks, Bruna!

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The next two pieces of fabric were bought on the US Virgin Island, St. John, during my recent cruise. On our way back to the ship, we stopped in a little retail area for a bite to eat. Walking in, I noticed a store called the Fabric Mill. Of course I had to check it out! It was owned by a nice lady from New York City who had studied fashion design but moved to St. John (I am guessing for the weather or when she retired).  The wall behind her register was covered with bolts of beautiful rayon and cotton batiks. I picked up a few yards of my two favorite rayons. She also carried a nice selection of clothing and accessories, and I bought a cute sun hat to shade my pasty white face.

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Homemade MoonPies

Cookie Dough

6  ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
¼  cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
¼  cup cane syrup (I used Alaga)
¼  teaspoon vanilla extract
1½  cups all-purpose flour
1¼  cups graham cracker crumbs, ground fine (approximately 1 whole sleeve of crackers)
¾  teaspoon kosher salt
½  teaspoon baking powder
½  teaspoon baking soda
¼  teaspoon ground cinnamon
2  Tablespoons whole milk

Cream butter, brown sugar, syrup, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 1 minute. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix on low speed; slowly stream in the milk.

Continue mixing until the dough comes together. Press the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour (I refrigerated mine for a day and let it thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Turn out the chilled dough onto a floured surface, then roll it to ¼” thick. Stamp out cookies using a 2- or 3-inch round cookie cutter (yield will depend on size and thickness).

Place cookies 2″ apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool completely.

You can start the marshmallow while the cookies are cooling if you are making it all at one time.

 

Marshmallow

2 3/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water, ice-cold, plus ¼ cup at room temperature
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 Tablespoons honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites

Sprinkle gelatin over ice-cold water and set aside.

Combine room-temperature water, corn syrup, honey, and sugar in a small pot, insert candy thermometer, and simmer until mixture reaches 240 degrees. When the thermometer reaches 200 degrees—but not before—place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and whip on high.

Once the sugar mixture hits 240, remove it from the heat, and stir in the bloomed gelatin. Then, while egg whites are whipping, slowly drizzle the hot sugar mixture down the inside of the bowl to avoid spattering the hot syrup. I find this easiest to do using a glass measuring cup with a pour spout (like a Pyrex). Continue whipping for an additional 8-10 minutes, until the mixture stiffens. The mixer bowl will still feel warm to the touch but no longer hot.

Match up the cookies in pairs according to size. Flip over half of the cooled cookies. Lightly coat a spoon with nonstick cooking spray, and spoon approximately a quarter cup of marshmallow onto each flipped cookie (less if you used a smaller cutter). Use the remaining cookies as tops; gently push down until you can see the marshmallow come just to the edge. Chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes while making the chocolate coating.

 

Chocolate Coating

1  lb. bittersweet chocolate (61%–70% cacao)
2  tbsp. vegetable oil or canola oil

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval. Once only a few unmelted chunks remain, remove from microwave and stir until chocolate is smooth. Let it cool slightly and once the chocolate is no longer hot, slowly whisk in the oil in a steady stream. Allow the chocolate to cool for about 5 minutes before proceeding with assembly. Depending on your cookie yield, you can probably get away with 12 ounces of chocolate and 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil. With my 19 two-inch cookies, I had a fair amount of chocolate left over.

 

Assembly

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or foil and place a cooling rack inside. This will allow extra chocolate to drip off the cookies while they set. The lining will make clean up easier. Submerge chilled cookies in the melted chocolate, using a fork to gently lift the sandwiches out of the bowl, scraping excess chocolate on the side of the bowl. Place on cooling rack and let set until shell hardens (several hours in my case). Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from Garden and Gun Feb/Mar 2014.

 

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King Cake Cupcakes and a Winter Weather Bulletin

29 Jan

Hi, friends! I hope you are warm and toasty wherever you are today. Here in the Deep South/Alabama Gulf Coast, we are freezing our little tushies off! It has been quite an adventure with below freezing temps for the past 2 days and various types of wintry precipitation all around (only sleet and ice at our house, sadly). The weather has been so “extreme” by our standards, that most businesses, including my office, have been closed since yesterday afternoon and will remain closed until at least tomorrow.

After this little experience, I cannot start to imagine how people survive in the far northern states where it regularly drops 20-30 degrees below zero during the winter. We Southerners wouldn’t know how to function! I have to admit, I would take 95 degrees and 100% humidity any day of the week.

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Our little house with its dusting of ice/sleet.

But don’t you worry, all this down time has given me the opportunity to sew and bake like crazy. Over the past two weeks, I have baked 4 loaves of bread, 1 batch of dinner rolls, sewn 5 (!!!) garments (more on those to come), and made these delicious King Cake Cupcakes. What else can you do when it is “Snowmageddon” outside? (As sarcastically dubbed by a local radio station in response to the media frenzy.)

Growing up near Mobile, Alabama (the home of Mardi Gras), I have eaten my fair share of King Cakes. I have had cakes shipped in from “authentic” bakeries in New Orleans, local grocery store King Cakes, and even homemade King Cakes (yes, yours, Catherine). I have always been a fan of the yeasty delight reminiscent of cinnamon rolls with cream cheese filling and sweet icing and tri-colored sugar on top. And being the baker that I am, I have never tried to make my own King Cake until now. Boy, am I glad I did! These little delights are tasty! And not that hard to pull off. I will walk you through it below but first a little more history on the King Cake (and if you want to see my other post about Mardi Gras traditions and a delicious drink recipe, click here).

King Cake, as we coastal Southerners know it, first originated in French Louisiana in the 1700s, where it was introduced by colonists from France and Spain. Many European countries still have their own versions of King Cake but it is different from ours. I am only going to highlight the Southern Coastal variety in this post but you can read more about all types of King Cakes in this Wiki article and on the blog, Joe Pastry.

First of all, you are only supposed to make King Cakes after Epiphany (January 6) and before Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). Some people might say it was a sacrilege to make them at other times of the year but many bakeries have started adapting the King Cake idea to other holidays.

The simplest King Cake is cinnamon roll-type dough with sugar glaze icing and purple, green, and yellow sprinkles. Most varieties, though, will have a filling (cream cheese — my favorite, praline, cinnamon, or strawberry). All are topped with some form of glaze and traditionally should have a plastic baby trinket inside. This little baby represents the Baby Jesus and the legend goes that whomever gets the piece of cake with the baby has to buy the next cake. When I was a child, I remember the excitement and anticipation surrounding this little toy that might be hidden in your cake (so you had to eat carefully according to your mom, as not to choke on said baby). Nowadays, though, most places will not put the baby in the cake because of the risk of choking — or should I say the risk of a lawsuit. Instead, the baby will be cradled in some excess icing in the center of the cake.

The recipe I am presenting here is a simple brioche-type dough with a brown sugar studded cream cheese filling. The simple powdered sugar glaze has a hint of citrus to balance the sweetness of the cake. While baking with yeast dough can be intimidating, it really is quite simple if you follow the directions given.

I originally found this recipe on the Garden and Gun blog. I would not recommend following the directions on their website, though, because they are not complete. After a little research, I realized their recipe was just a scaled down version of Emeril’s recipe here, but both are apparently variations of the 1983 Southern Heritage Cakes Cookbook. If you want to reference a source, please use the Food Network recipe, not the one on the Garden and Gun website.

To make the King Cake Cupcakes, you start by mixing up an enriched yeast dough.

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After it has doubled in size, you punch it down then roll it out into a rectangle.

 

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Next, you spread the dough with the softened cream cheese mixture, then roll it up into a log.

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Slice the log into 15 even pieces and place in paper-lined cupcake pans.

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Let the cakes rise one more time,

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Then bake them at 325 for 15-20 minutes.

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Once they are cooled, drizzle the glaze on top and sprinkle with purple, green, and yellow sanding sugar.

 

King Cake Cupcakes

Yield: 15 cupcakes

Dough:

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon, plus ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¼ cup warm milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 ounces (or 6 Tablespoons) melted butter

Filling:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Icing:

  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Decorations:

  • Green, purple, and yellow sprinkles or sanding sugar
  • Small baby trinket

Whisk together yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar until the dry ingredients are completely dissolved, then let rest until the yeast is foamy, bubbly, and active, about 5 to 10 minutes. Combine flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar, nutmeg, and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric stand mixer (or you can also mix by hand). Fit mixer with dough hook attachment, turn on low speed, and add milk, egg yolks, and melted butter, a little at a time, until all ingredients are combined; continue mixing on low about 10 minutes (or knead by hand).

At this time, if the dough has not formed a sticky ball in the bowl, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, no more than ½ cup total.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer and let mix again for another 10 minutes. Turn onto an oiled surface and knead by hand into a tidy little ball, 5 minutes or so.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until it doubles in size, about 1 to 2 hours. Stretch and roll your dough into a long rectangle, approximately 12″ x 18″.

Combine the filling ingredients and the spread mixture onto the surface of the rectangle. Roll the dough up starting on a short end, and slice into 15 equal medallions.  Place medallions flat side down in lined cupcake tins. Cover, set aside, and let rise again until double, about 30-40 minutes. Bake at 325 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Cool completely.

Combine icing ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix until it achieves the desired consistency (adjust with more liquid or more powdered sugar if necessary). You can do this easily with a whisk.

Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cupcakes, hiding a baby trinket or charm inside one of the cupcakes before icing, if desired.  Decorate with Mardi Gras beads or yellow, purple, and green sprinkles.

Happy Mardi Gras! — Cat 4 Hurricane Cocktail

20 Feb

I had hoped to get this post to you yesterday but I was just too busy trying to finish up my current sewing project.  I hope you don’t mind 🙂

Yesterday was Joe Cain Day and I thought this would have been just what the doctor ordered.  At least I still got it to you before Fat Tuesday so you can mix up a batch to enjoy during the festivities tomorrow.

 

And now for the Mardi Gras trivia I promised earlier:

1.  Mardi Gras was started right here in Mobile, Alabama, in 1830 by a bunch of revelers called the Cowbellion de Rakin Society.  They plundered local stores for various implements (rakes, hoes, cowbells), and took to the streets on New Years Eve.  The Cowbellion de Rakin Society traveled to New Orleans in 1857 to establish the the traditon there.  You’re welcome, New Orleans 😉

2.  Joe Cain is the man responsible for reviving the Mardi Gras tradition after the Civil War.  He donned Chicasaw Indian clothing and rode around in a decorated coal wagon pulled by a mule.

3.  Joe Cain Day is celebrated the Sunday before Mardi Gras.

4.  The Polka Dots were the first women’s society in Mobile, first parading in 1949.

5.  Finallly, which two of the Mardi Gras colors originated in Mobile?  Purple and yellow.  Green was added in New Orleans.

Fun trivia facts from:  http://www.funtrivia.com/en/subtopics/Mardi-Gras-29719.html

 

Category 4 Hurricane Cocktails

I made these last month for our supper club and wanted to find a recipe that was similar to Pat O’Brien’s without using a mix.  These were tasty, simple to whip up, and packed a powerful punch!

I scaled the recipe up to make 1 gallon of punch for our supper club but I have given you the original recipe for 1 serving below.  If you are having a hard time finding passion fruit juice, I found mine by the refrigerated orange juice.  It is actually passion fruit cocktail so I don’t think it is the same color as pure passion fruit juice.  I added some extra grenadine to get a nicer red color.  You may find pure passion fruit juice in the ethnic aisle or at the health food store.

If you want to go all out and take these babies to the category 5 level of all-out destruction, add a splash of 151 rum 🙂

  • 2 oz light rum
  • 2 oz dark rum
  • 2 oz passion fruit juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • juice of a half a lime
  • 1 Tbsp simple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp grenadine
  • orange slice and cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients except garnish in shaker full of ice and shake well.  Strain into hurricane glass filled with ice.  Garnish with fruit and serve immediately.

 

Adapted from about.com.