Louisiana

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure #5 : Making a King Cake

I was born and raised in South Louisiana in the very heart of Cajun country (though many people are surprised by this because of my lack of Cajun or otherwise southern accent). Although I haven’t lived in Louisiana for eight years or so, my roots are still there and in Louisiana this time of year is King Cake Season.

A King Cake is a traditional Mardi Gras/Pre-Lenten food that is basically a Danish or sweet-bread type dough with a filling (commonly cream cheese, cinnamon pecan, or cherry bourbon) that is baked in the shape of a braided circle and topped with a glaze and green, purple, and yellow colored sugar. Traditionally a small plastic baby, representing Baby Jesus is baked into the cake and there are various traditions for the person who gets the baby in their slice of cake. The name “King Cake” comes from the biblical three kings who followed the star to Jesus at Epiphany. Kingcake Although my family wasn’t all that enthusiastic about Mardi Gras, we always had at least one King Cake. I especially remember the smell of them and the way the scent seemed to flow out of the bakeries and into the streets themselves in February and March.

I don’t remember the last time I had King Cake in Louisiana – it’s probably been eight years or more. So for my Week 5 adventure I decided I’d try to make one.

I’m an avid baker, but I’ve never attempted a King Cake before. Here in Korea I don’t have a full-sized oven, just a large convection/toaster oven. I’ve also had a lot of trouble with yeast here – something about the dampness/dryness and temperature fluctuations seems to make it extra finicky. But I decided to give it a go. I followed this recipe as closely as possible though I think I’d try a different one in the future.

First I made the bread dough and put it near the space heater to let it rise. (We don’t have central heat so it’s hard to find a spot warm enough for the yeast to activate).

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Next I made a cream cheese filling which I admit to sampling generous amounts of before using it (I’m a sucker for anything sweet and creamy). I rolled the dough into three pieces and spread the filing over each piece.

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Then I rolled each piece up long-ways and sealed the edges. I braided the three pieces together and formed them into a circle. I let it rise a bit longer. It rose sort of unevenly and closed up the hole that was supposed to be in the middle, but oh well! I painted an egg and milk wash over the top after it was finished rising and then baked that sucker!

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In the end, it was hard to get it cooked all the way though the center without burning the edges cause my little mini oven isn’t the greatest. But I was still pretty proud of how it turned out.

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There was a lemony icing that went over the top, but I didn’t get a picture of it. I also didn’t have any colored sugar crystals so it didn’t look that impressive anyway.

Overall it was a good experiment, though kind of a lot of work. The whole process (with rising time) took about 4 hours. It wasn’t as good as a King Cake from home, but it was a decent first try. If I make it in the future I might try a different recipe for comparison. After several weeks of traveling I knew my Week 5 adventure would be low-key, but I’m proud of trying something new and finding a way to connect to my home from far away.

As we say in Louisiana, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!” – Let the good times roll!

If you have an adventure to share, add your link to the link-up by clicking the link below. You can participate in all of the adventures or you can just do a few – no pressure. If you missed last week’s adventure you can find it here. And if you are new to my Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure project you can find out more about it here.

Click Here to Add Your Link.

There’s No Place Like Home-If Only You Can Find It

I am 3 years old and Home is a duplex I share with my mom and my brother. I love because it has an upstairs and a laundry chute that goes straight from the floor of the upstairs bathroom into the laundry room below. Before this there were other homes, but I only remember them in singular, faded images. A rocking horse. A brown basket full of books. But this home I remember in its entirety. My brother’s hamster Conan, and the witches I knew lived inside the air condition vent. This is my mom’s home, but not my dad’s, which is a little confusing for me. Sometimes my brother drops me down the laundry chute for fun.

I am 5 and Home is a long brick house with an eggplant-shaped pool in the back yard. I don’t like it as much as the duplex because there are no stairs, but I do love that pool. And I like that this home has more family in it. My mom and my brother, but also my pop and the new baby. My imaginary friend, Sammy the Squirrel, lives in the backyard and my maybe-boyfriend Christopher lives next door. This is the home we board ourselves up in for my first major hurricane. I’m confused because the hurricane is named Andrew, like one of my cousins, and I can’t figure out what they have to do with each other. One night at dinner, my spaghetti is too hot, so my pop takes it outside and runs around the pool with it to cool it off. Then it’s just right. I’m sitting on the tile floor in the kitchen eating my milk and cookies (because we aren’t allowed to eat on the carpet in the living room, but from here I can still see the TV) when my mom and pop tell us that we are going to have yet another baby. “I guess the new baby will be the old baby now,” I think, and they tell us that we will move to a bigger house before the new baby comes. I am devastated to leave my true love, Christopher, but am consoled when I consider that the new house might have a window seat.

I am 7 and the new house does not have a window seat or any stairs either, but it does have a two-story wooden playhouse in the backyard and a neighborhood full of kids my age. Now we are six: my mom and my dad (because I realized nobody else has a pop and I didn’t want one either), my brother and my two little sisters. I was confused by the arrival of the second sister. I’d been certain she would be a boy to even things out demographically. I even pre-filled out the book my parents gave me about being a big sister with these details. “I have a baby brother. His  name is Gus.” I wasn’t so sure about another girl, but she grew on me. Home is the place for dress-up and fairy tales. The place where I live out a hundred storylines in my imagination and read books out loud with my dad before bed each night. It’s the place where I start growing up – where I have my first sleepovers and learn how to shave my legs and wear a training bra.

I am 11 and Home is shifting again. We are moving to a new place with lots of land. A place where we can breathe, my mom says. There’s a spiral staircase in the living room that leads to the second floor. When we first move in, my brother lives upstairs, but after a few years he moves out and the tower is mine. I spend many hours reading in my tower room, listening to the sound of rain on the tin roof, wondering what it’s like to fall in love. I am Home when 9/11 happens and we watch the towers fall over and over again on the TV in the living room. Home is the place where I chronicle my first serious crush and where I cry when my brother is deployed to Iraq.    In those volatile teenage years, Home is a place full of internal turmoil – a refuge from the daily torture of high school, but also a place where I feel I can’t do anything quite right. Where I fear I’m always in the way. In those years it is a place where I haven’t quite grown into myself. Where I am a child, but I no longer want to be.

I am 18 and my concept of Home has been ripped in two. Home is Louisiana. It’s a white house with a tin roof and oak trees all around. But it’s also a dorm room in a little town in Illinois. It’s the girls that I live with who are helping me become me. It’s a triple set of bunk beds I always have to be on the bottom of because I’m afraid of falling off. It’s the commuter train to Chicago and the little parks dotting neighborhoods full of dear old houses full of stories. It’s the college itself, alive with new ideas that challenge me and with laughter and with love. And lately it’s also becoming a red-headed boy from Indiana.

I am 22 and in the space of a few sacred moments at an altar what was Home is now “my parent’s house” and my Home is wherever this red-headed man is. But, of course, it isn’t quite as clean a break as that. It takes a while to break the habit. To stop thinking of my childhood house as Home. Our first apartment together in Illinois is small and sweet. In the winter the bedroom window leaks so badly we sleep in layers of sweatshirts covered by a pile of blankets so thick, the weight of them makes it hard to breathe. It’s here that our family grows to include two cats – animals I’d always believed I hated until those two darlings stole my heart and changed my mind. For a year we live here and we learn so much about love. But Illinois never feels like it could be a forever home to me. And after a year we know it is time to move on.

I am 24 and Home is Raleigh, North Carolina. For the first time I feel my heart is tied to a place itself instead of just the people who live there. My heart belongs to North Carolina. Its lush green hills, the trees everywhere, the lakes and the creeks and the impossibly glorious fall. The bluegrass music and the hipsters with their micro-breweries and the sweet clean air in my lungs. This is Home. This is where I learn to run. Mile after mile along the winding greenways. This is Home  – the place where I both land and quit my first real job. The place where I learn to take control – where I become strong and healthy and focused.  The place where so many people I love are close enough to visit and where my best friend lives just around the corner. This is Home. This is where I want to grow old. But I’m not ready to grow old just yet.

I am 26 and Home is a fragmented thing. Sometimes Home means an apartment in South Korea, covered in bright floral wallpapers and growing mold in spite of aggressive attempts to keep it at bay.  This Home is full of love and adventure and a willingness to try new things, to change and to grow. But in many ways it doesn’t feel like Home at all.  Home is also America. All of it. The sights and smells and tastes and people that mean comfort and joy and love and belonging. Home is each other, just the two of us, wherever we may be. But home is also the family, the friends, and the pets we’ve left behind. The places we have lived and loved. The places that have shaped us.

Sometimes Home is a dorm-room, an apartment, a house, a city, a state, an entire country. Home seems to be an ever-changing creature. But always it is a feeling. It is the place where love is given and received. It is the place where you are free to be and to become yourself.  It is the place where you are known.