holidays & recipes: mardi gras king cake recipe photography tips with a point and shoot
We find the origins of holidays exceedingly interesting. We enjoy learning how so many holidays have their origins in pagan tradition. Mardi Gras, which is literally translated “Fat Tuesday” and celebrated this Tuesday, February 21, 2012, in New Orleans, began in Europe.
The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, celebrated in mid-February was a circus like festival not unlike Carnival or Mardi Gras. When Ancient Rome accepted Christianity as its state religion the leaders of the church felt it was better to include the customs of pagan religions rather than try to eradicate them. Carnival was the solution for the Christian church. Preceding the penance of Lent, Carnival allows Christians to, shall we say, let their hair down and party.
Mardi Gras was brought to America by The Catholic French in the late 17th Century. Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and his brother Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville were sent by King Louis XIV to defend France’s claim to the Louisiane territory, which is, today, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Mardi Gras is celebrated throughout the world. Called Mardi Gras in some countries, Carnival in others there are many traditions that are a part of the festivities. One of those traditions is the baking and eating of “king cake”. The “king cake” takes its name from the biblical three kings.
The Epiphany, which is commemorated on January 6th, acknowledges the visit of the Magi (three kings) to the baby Jesus. January 5th, the eve of the Epiphany, is the twelfth day of Christmas. King cakes may be eaten until Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday when Lent begins.
The purple, green and gold seen everywhere during Mardi Gras is also a traditional element of the king cake. The colors became a tradition after a visit by Russian royalty, Rex; a Mardi Gras krewe was inspired by the Russians and used the colors as their official ones. The colors very quickly became synonymous with Mardi Gras and are an essential element of the king cake.
A king cake is an oval shaped yeasted coffee cake, covered with icing and purple, green and gold sugar. Traditionally a plastic baby (to represent Jesus) was baked within the cake, but many avoid the practice and place the baby underneath baked cake in order to avoid choking. Bakeries in Louisiana produce thousands of king cakes each Mardi Gras season and often ship them around the world.
Photography Tips if you are using a Point and Shoot:
1. These were taken with a point and shoot, but shot in raw format. By shooting in raw format, this allows us to tweak the images during post processing. Processed in Adobe Lightroom 3 using an Antique preset.
2. A Soft Box Was used, inexpensive from Cowboy Studio
3. Camera Used SONY DSC-H50
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1/3 cup margarine
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) melted butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water (add more by drips if needed)
Purple, green and gold colored sugar
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, margarine, sugar, salt, egg and 2 cups flour. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
Mix filling ingredients in a bowl, set aside.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Split dough into two pieces. Roll each into two large rectangles. Spread the filling over each rectangle, leaving a 1 inch border along the edges. Roll up each one jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch to seal.
Place seam side down on a lined baking sheet. Form each roll into an individual circle and pinch ends together to seal the rings.
Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Combine the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough water to achieve desired consistency. Spread over cooled cakes. Sprinkle with colored sugars.