Let’s get one thing straight: There’s nothing on this green earth that could compel me to hide coins, plastic babies, dried beans, or any other foreign objects in an otherwise edible food product. I have far too much dental trauma to inflict that kind of chaos on others.
Right off the bat, you can probably guess that my take on King Cake, the essential Mardi Gras staple, would be far from traditional.
Enchanted by the bold contrasting colors and over-the-top presentation, I’ve long admired this New Orleans staple. Though it’s not something I encountered before going vegan, it reminded me of many things I have more experience with. Cinnamon buns, brioche, and pound cake all twisted into one flamboyant tribute to the last day of Folly, there had to be some way to bridge this culinary gap. Suddenly it hit me: This was really like Creole challah.
Sweet, tender, buttery strands of pillow-soft bread wind themselves around one another in a brilliant explosion of color. Subtle notes of cinnamon infuse each bite with a gentle warmth, while each slice is just a little bit different. Some have a stronger floral flavor from ube extract, others bring more of turmeric’s sunny glow to the fore, while others balance the natural bitterness of matcha for a satisfying contrast. Together, they create a vibrant harmony in purple, gold, and green.
One fateful Mardi Gras parade in 1892 was dubbed “The Symbolism of Colors,” which forever set and attributed deep importance to this bold palate. Purple represents justice, gold stands for power, and green is for faith. For all the pageantry and costuming, it’s hard to imagine such a celebration decked out in any other hues.
Until I can enjoy the genuine article, let the good times roll with with this kaleidoscopic loaf that blurs the line between side dish and dessert. You could just as happily serve it alongside a festive dinner, slathered with soft vegan butter, or for a final course, toasted and topped with ice cream. If you can hold off until breakfast, it also makes for the most incredible French toast you’ve ever stuck a fork into.
Hey, they don’t call it “Fat Tuesday” for nothing. Might as well make it count!
King Cake Challah
Infused with a gentle cinnamon undertone, this buttery, soft bread could easily be served for breakfast, as a side with dinner, or even dessert. Natural colors tint those gold, green, and purple stripes while adding even more brilliant flavor.
- 1 (1/4 Ounce) Packet (2 1/4 Teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
- 1 1/2 Cups Warm Water
- 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 Cup Pumpkin Puree
- 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
- 6 1/2 - 7 Cups All-Purpose Flour, Plus More as Needed
- 2 Tablespoons Vital Wheat Gluten
- 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Matcha
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Turmeric
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ube Extract
- 1/4 Cup Aquafaba
- Sprinkles or Edible Glitter (Optional)
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the yeast with the warm water and the sugar. Let stand for 5 - 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes lightly frothy. Add the pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup, stirring lightly to combine.
- Mix together 6 1/2 cups of flour with the vital wheat gluten, cinnamon, and salt. Add it to the bowl full of wet ingredients, install the dough hook, and begin mixing on low speed. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to get everything incorporated. It may take a few minutes, but be patient!
- Continue mixing with the dough hook, allowing it to knead for 6 - 8 minutes. It should become smooth an elastic, remaining a bit tacky but not downright sticky. Incorporate additional flour as needed.
- Divide the dough equally into 3 parts. It's helpful if you weigh them out using a food scale to ensure consistency. Return one of the balls to the mixing bowl and add the matcha. Knead with the dough hook for another 5 - 8 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides and hook thoroughly, until the color is evenly dispersed throughout. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap.
- Clean out the bowl and dough hook to prevent the colors from transferring. Repeat this same process for both the turmeric and ube extract. Once you have 3 separate balls, brightly colored with yellow, green, and purple, let them rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until roughly doubled in volume.
- Punch down the dough, cut each color into half, then roll each piece into long, smooth strands on a lightly floured work surface. The ube dough in particular tends to get a bit sticky, so don't be afraid to add more flour as needed. The exact length isn't as important as the fact that they match, though I like to aim for somewhere around 1 1/2 - 2 feet long.
- You can either make two smaller, 3-strand braided challahs or 1 large, 6-strand braided challah. My best advice for shaping is to consult YouTube, because I have a very hard time describing the process and I'm certainly no master of it myself!
- Once braided, gently transfer the loaf or loaves onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Brush generously with aquafaba to cover the entire exposed surface.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, allowing the bread to rise for at least 30 minutes while it comes up to temperature. Bake for about 30 - 35 minutes for two small loaves, or 35 - 40 minutes for one large loaf; until the top is gently golden all over.
- Cool on a rack until at room temperature before topping with edible glitter or sprinkles, if desired. To serve, cut into generous slices or just pull apart into chunks.
Adapted from Nava Atlas' Recipe for Vegan Challah
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 319Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 139mgCarbohydrates: 88gFiber: 7gSugar: 6gProtein: 26g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.
5 thoughts on “King Me”
Wow, those colors! Sounds delicious as well.
Because I’m such a “yankee” I only just learned about King Cake and the babies about 2 years ago! OMG! Yikes! Your photo is so colorful and festive! Very nice!
Yeah those colours and you used colours with real flavours! Ube, turmeric and matcha
So to celebrate the start of a season where for generations the celebration has included murdering Jews it’s appropriate to make a quintessential Jewish bread?
[…] in point, the queen cake donut, presented as the equal and opposite reaction to Mardi Gras’ king cake, festooned with colored sugar and stuffed with a single goji berry in lieu of a plastic baby. Soft […]