Ever have one of those great ideas that just goes horribly wrong? Yep – that was my day.
I’ve been busy working on a project that is very time consuming and requires continuous attention – but no real thought whatsoever. So, tired of the monotony, I decided to watch the news while eating my lunch. I’m not that good with dates, or holidays that I don’t personally celebrate, so until I saw it on television, I really had no idea that today was indeed, Fat Tuesday – Mardi Gras.
How in the world? I live in an area that tries very hard to make Spring Break coincide with Mardi Gras – they never succeed you understand, but they try. (It just makes for a week out of school before spring has become official and it has inevitably been the coldest week of the year for the last several years.) But I digress.
No – I didn’t know it was Mardi Gras – this Sabbatical thing – has its high points, but the low ones include not keeping up with the calendar at all. So, being here at home, dragging my way through this project that was becoming less interesting with each passing moment, and hoping for something more visibly productive to frame my day, you guessed it – I decided to bake a king cake. Never mind that I’ve never attempted a king cake in my life, nor the fact that I’m not even particularly fond of them – I looked up a recipe online (a site that I normally consider a reputable source) – and plunged right in.
I love baking and do fairly well – some might even say pretty good – at it. But there is something different about a cake that calls for bread flour and LOTS of yeast. The recipe SAID I could use All purpose flour – I promise it did. And that is what I had, so that is what I used. I got the yeast going and in its five minutes of rest it had risen up over and all around the glass measuring cup. But I kept on going. All looked well. Kneading the dough was fun and stress relieving. Leaving it to rise was – I admit – poorly timed on my part. I didn’t think about the length of my youngest son’s doctor’s appointment and how that one and a half hours of rising would turn into four hours. But, hey, it is a cold day – it said I could let it rise until it doubled in size – shouldn’t that take a bit longer on a cold day?
Upon my return home, I punched the dough, divided it, rolled it, slathered it with the yummy cream cheese filling, rolled it up, shaped it into a ring, pinched closed the ends, and shoved that puppy into the oven. So far so good. It rolled out to the stated size very easily – that could have been a clue, since it got to that size and was still a full 3/4inch thick. But, no worries. The timer went off – the rings of dough were somewhat pale, but they did have a lovely sound when tapped – just like bread is supposed to sound – right? So I took the cakes out, left them on racks to cool, and proceeded to start on my supper. I will NOT go into details regarding the missteps of supper preparation – just suffice it to say that when one thing gets off – the space time continuum no longer functions in my kitchen. I had the glaze ready for the cakes (never mind I was cooking the fastest element of my meal at the beginning and I hadn’t even found a clean pot for the slowest element yet) when I realized that I hadn’t made the colored sugar.
I had a container of sanding sugar in the pantry that I hadn’t found use for in at least three years and was very excited to use it. Actually, come to think of it, I used that sanding sugar on my son’s fifth birthday cake – he just received his college acceptance letters this month. So, ok – it’s been a LOOOOONG time for that sugar. I got out the gel food coloring – almost as old as the sugar – and dropped a dollop into each bowl of sugar. I got my fingers into that sugar and mashed that food coloring until I had the softest feeling, deepest colored sugar I had ever seen on a king cake. I felt wonderful! I even made the sugar – ha ha ha! The queen of the kitchen yet again! I poured the glaze, I sprinkled the sugar, I called my son to take pictures with his phone!
And, my brilliant son, thank goodness, stuck a finger in the sugar – and said, “Mom, have you tasted this sugar? I don’t think it’s sugar.” What? Not sugar? My precious, saved all these years sanding sugar? Had it gone flat?
Oh, no – not flat. Not flat at all – just completely and totally NOT sugar – SALT. Pickling Salt. Bitter Salt. Beautifully colored the deepest shades of yellow and purple and green and covering the tops of the two king cakes I had just made.
I scraped all the sugar and icing off and started over. Supper was moving on toward midnight snack at this point, but by all means – save the cake. So after a new batch of glaze (thank goodness I had extra confectioners sugar) and new colored sugars (this time with the real sugar from the canister in the cabinet) had been added to the cakes, I proceeded to try to salvage my supper.
Fast – what was fast? My dad’s deer sausage cooked up beautifully and fast. Corn from a can – also fast. Cornbread – not as fast, but pretty quick. And thanks to Zatarain’s boxed red beans and rice mix we actually had some New Orleans flavor (sorry for all of those who are appalled at the thought of cheating on such a traditional dish, but it was FAST).
Before we even finished eating, I was slicing up that cake – ready to see if my disaster had been circumvented or merely delayed.
When a recipe says you “may also use” all purpose flour – don’t do it. Go to the store and buy the bread flour – especially if you are going to have to go to the store for your son’s prescriptions anyway and your supper preparations would allow you to have the appropriate rise time – rather than the four hours I gave it.
The sugar was fine, the glaze was great, but when you have a hard time telling the cream cheese layer from the dough layer – something somewhere is off. The flavor was a bit yeasty too. Don’t get me wrong, it was edible, it just wasn’t king cake. So – rather than a family sitting around making themselves fat on Fat Tuesday – because they keep going back for seconds, thirds, and fourths of the amazing king cake – I have a sleepy, skinny family that took off to bed to avoid helping me with the tremendous mess in the kitchen. What can I say – mess is what happens when you think salt is sugar and the space time continuum stops working in your kitchen.