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Donna's King Cake

This is a traditional sweet bread that is served during the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It has an optional cream cheese filling and a simple colorful glaze. A tiny plastic doll is hidden in the dough and baked into the bread. It will bring good luck to whoever finds it.

2 (.25 ounces each) packages dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup fat-free milk, warmed to 110 degrees

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

5 egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract or 1 tablespoon lemon zest

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

Egg Wash

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

Filling - optional

8 ounces Neufchatel cheese (reduced fat cream cheese)

1/2 cup Splenda or powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Frosting

2 cans powdered sugar

3 - 4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon colored candy sprinkles (green, purple, and yellow)

Butter a large baking sheet. In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, sugar, and warm milk. Stir to dissolve and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. (Be sure the milk is warm but not hot. It should be about 110 degrees to allow the yeast to grow.) Add butter, egg yolks, and lemon extract. Stir to mix.

Combine flour, salt, and nutmeg. Beat flour mixture into the mixing bowl about 1 cup at a time. Continue beating until mixture pulls together and forms a ball. Add a small amount of extra flour if needed. (This recipe works best with a heavy mixer or food processor.) Place ball of dough on a floured board. Flour your hands and knead until smooth and elastic. Brush the inside of a large bowl with oil. Set dough in bowl and turn it so oil coats the entire surface. (At this point dough can be refrigerated overnight.) Cover bowl and set aside for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch dough down on lightly floured surface. Knead lightly.

Unfilled bread: Pat and shape dough into a cylinder about 14 inches long. Place on baking sheet and form into a ring. Press doll into dough so that it is hidden. Place a greased 2 pound metal coffee can in the center of the ring to maintain the shape during baking. Cover ring with a towel and place in a warm place to rise until double in size. In a small custard cup, combine egg and water. Set aside.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush the top and sides of the ring with the egg wash. Bake in middle of oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Filled bread: In a small bowl, combine Neufchatel cream cheese, Splenda, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Set aside. Turn risen dough onto a floured surface. Roll dough into a 6 x 30 inch rectangle. Spread cream cheese filling across the center of the dough. Bring the two long edges together and seal completely. Using your hands, shape dough into a long cylinder and place on baking sheet, seam-side down. Shape the dough into a ring. Press doll into dough so that it is hidden. Place a greased 2 pound metal coffee can in the center of the ring to maintain the shape during baking. Cover ring with a towel and place in a warm place to rise until double in size.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 25 - 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Frosting: In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice. Drizzle cooled cake with frosting and sprinkle with colored candy sprinkles. (It is traditional to decorate top of cake with green, yellow, and purple colored sugar or candy sprinkles.)

Serves 16

Nutritional Information per serving:

Calories 430

Fat, gm. 11

Protein, gm. 7

Carbs, gm. 48

Cholesterol, mg. 100

Fiber, gm. 0.5


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