Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Orleans "King Cake" Cronuts with a Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Custard Filling, Toasted Pecan Sugar, Bourbon Glaze, + Festive Mardi Gras Sprinkles

As many of y'all know, my Mountain Man and I made a trip recently to New Orleans for New Years Eve. And although it was the greatest trip... you know the part where I fractured my foot about 30 minutes after leaving our hotel room. Yeah that part sucked, so did the crutches, and being cooped up in our hotel room for three days, but I still was able to explore the city for one day. And that one day drew a bunch of inspiration for future recipes. I know I want to make some beignets, a fried green tomato + shrimp remoulade po'boy, bacon pecan pralines, and a king cake. Well I took all of that food to heart and used it as inspiration for some upcoming recipes. So today we're taking a glance at King Cake, with a delightful twist. For the last year, I think the country has been enamored with the new pastry concoction that marries a croissant with a doughnut. You might know them by name, the infamous "Cronut". I've made about 5 versions at home and featured two recipes on this blog. So what do you get when a Cronut and King Cake come together? A KING CAKE CRONUT. And it's just about as good as it gets when it comes to pastry confections. I started off by making the Cronut dough, which involves making a yeast based dough that is laminated with some sticks of softened butter. I began this process about two days before because I wanted to take my time and not rush any of the components. After all that tedious folding, I used a doughnut cutter to make them into the specific doughnut shape, and then I moved onto everything else. Most King Cake recipes involve the following ingredients... the cake itself, brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans, and bourbon (if you're lucky). So, a filling of a Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Pastry Cream seemed to be a necessity. It is thick, luscious, smooth, and perfectly oozes in between the flaky layers of the croissant. After frying the Cronuts to a crisp, golden brown, I let them cool before I filled them with the pastry cream. Meanwhile, I toasted some pecans in a  pan and pulsed them with some sugar to make a Toasted Pecan Rolling Sugar. Then it was time to fill the insides of the Cronuts with the chilled pastry cream, followed by rolling the entire thing in the pecan sugar. By far the best part of this whole recipe is decorating the King Cake Cronut. I whipped up a thick bourbon-infused glaze to squeeze on top of the Cronut before finishing it with Mardi Gras-inspired purple, green, and yellow sparkling sugars. Not only do they look amazing, but they taste even better!! Just for some advice, two regular ole squeeze bottles with me needed to complete the recipe... one to inject the filling into the Cronut and one for the bourbon glaze on top. Now since I live in Georgia, I went on quite the escapade to find some miniature babies to top the King Cake Cronuts with, but to no such luck. So instead, we did tiny pigs, which seemed fitting considering that we are bacon-fanactics and we were slightly depressed that we couldn't incorporate any pork products into this pastry. Oh well, the pig is there as a stand-in, and might I add, I think they are adorable :) Now I completely understand that this project seems daunting, but every now + then I love to completely challenge myself culinarily, so I really enjoyed the whole process of it all. And hey, getting a real Cronut from NYC is harder than making them at home. Once you finish, just stand back and enjoy the creation you have completed... before eating everything single one!! Enjoy :)
some cronut frying action
the perks of frying cronuts... eating the holes right away :)
a cronut after being injected with the pastry cream
all tossed in some toasted pecan rolling sugar

hereeeeee piggy piggy pig
oink oink
oh yes those layers + pastry cream oozing
For the Cronuts:
¾C Milk, Warmed
1T Active Dry Yeast
1/3C Sugar
2 Large eggs
1t Vanilla Extract
3 ½C AP Flour (divided)
1t Kosher Salt
1 Cup of Butter (or two sticks), at least room temperature  

Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Custard Filling:
1 ½C Whole Milk
¾C Brown Sugar
¼C Cake Flour
½t Sea Salt
1T Cinnamon
4 Large Egg Yolks
1 Vanilla Bean, Split & Scraped for Seeds
2t Vanilla Extract 
½t Butter Extract
¼t Almond Extract    

For the Toasted Pecan Sugar:
1C Toasted Pecans
1C Granulated Sugar

For the Bourbon Glaze:
2C Confectioners’ Sugar
Pinch of Salt
2T Whole Milk
1T Bourbon
¼t Vanilla Extract
For the King Cake Cronuts:
Prepared Cronut Dough, Cut into Doughnut Rounds
Chilled Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Custard Filling (put into a squeeze bottle)
Prepared Toasted Pecan Rolling Sugar
Prepared Bourbon Glaze (put into a squeeze bottle)
Purple, Green, & Yellow Sparkling Sugar Sprinkles, For Decorating

1. Prepping the Cronuts: In the bowl of a standing mixer, stir together the warmed milk and yeast. Stir in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well. Add a cup of flour and the salt, and then gradually add another 2 ¼C of flour, stirring and then kneading for a few minutes, until it’s smooth, elastic, and still a little bit tacky. Transfer to a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile, beat the butter and remaining ¼C of AP Flour with an electric mixer for a couple minutes, scraping down the sides of a bowl, until smooth. When the dough has chilled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle that is about ¼inch thick. Spread the butter evenly over the dough, and then fold it as you would a letter, in thirds. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and place it into the fridge for another 30 minutes to an hour.
2. Laminating the Dough: Pull the dough back out and put it back onto the floured surface, with the open sides facing the left and right. Roll it out into another rectangle that is ¼inch thick. Fold the left third over the middle, and then the right third over the middle (this is referred to a “turn”). Chill the dough for another 30 minutes to an hour. Roll, fold, and refrigerate the dough two more times, so that is had been “turned” for a total of four times. Cover and refrigerate it for at least an hour or preferably overnight.
3. For the Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Custard Filling: In a medium saucepan, heat milk over medium-high heat until bubbles just start to form around the edges but milk is not yet boiling. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and vanilla bean seeds until well combined; slowly whisk in flour mixture until thick and pasty. Remove milk from heat and slowly add to egg mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer egg mixture to saucepan and place over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, about 3 minutes. Boil, whisking, for 10 seconds, and immediately remove from heat. Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over a small heatproof bowl; stir in vanilla extract, butter extract, and almond extract. Strain into a plastic squeeze bottle and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
4. For the Toasted Pecan Rolling Sugar: Toast 1C of Pecans in a sauté pan over medium heat. Continuously move the nuts around, so that they will not get burned. Once they have reached a nutty fragrance and slightly browned, they are done! This should only take a few minutes. Place the toasted (make sure to cool first) pecans into a food processor and pulse until small grind has been achieved. Add in the cup of sugar and continue to process until you have a finely ground pecan sugar. Pour into a bowl and set aside until you are ready to use.
5. Frying the Cronuts: Cut the dough, using a doughnut cutter, into rounds (it should make about 12 Cronuts total). In a heavy pot, heat a couple inches of oil to 350 degrees and a scrap of the dough sizzles when you dip it in. Cook the Cronuts in batches, without crowding the pot (because that can cool down the oil), flipping as necessary until they reach a golden brown color. Transfer to a baking sheet, lined with paper towels, and let them sit until excess oil is completely soaked up. Next, move them to a cooling rack.
6. For the Bourbon Glaze: Add all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk together until a smooth, cohesive glaze has been made. Pour this white glaze into a squeeze bottle and set aside until you are ready to use it.
7. Assembling the Cronuts: It is now time to start filling the fried Cronuts. I did this “Twinkie-style” by using the squeeze bottle that is filled with the brown sugar-cinnamon pastry cream. Gently poke holes into the bottom of a Cronut and fill them all the way through with cream. Repeat this process until you have about 5-6 cream filling holes in each Cronut. Scrape off any excess cream that begins to ooze out. Now that they have all been filled, roll them in the toasted pecan sugar before placing them back onto the cooling rack (make sure the poke holes are facing up) and squeeze some of the prepared bourbon glaze in a circle around the top of the Cronut.
8. Finishing the Cronuts: Garnish the top of the glazed Cronuts with the purple, green, and yellow colored sparkling sugars, making sure to alternate colors, that way you form bands. Let them cool and enjoy!!

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