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Don't Chop Up the Baby

King cake after Mardi Gras.

· Recipes

Somewhere there's a statistic about how many people celebrate Mardi Gras, no doubt. I'd be more interested in how many people eat king cake.

I saw neither hide nor hair of Mardi Gras in rural Indiana. However, I'm familiar with it now. And I know about king cake, which is made for Mardi Gras. This yeast bread studded with dried fruit, raisins, and almonds gets rolled out at the end of the Christmas season for the festival of Twelfth Night, when the three kings finally made it to see Baby Jesus. Then it gets made until Mardi Gras (right before Lent, which leads up to Good Friday, which is before Easter). A great explanation of all this is at the blog Eater.

The point of a king's cake is to find the small figurine tucked inside, often a plastic baby (which freaks my 23-year-old daughter out). Whoever finds it gets to be "king for a day." I imagine everyone takes teeny bites until someone finds it, to avoid having the "dentist for a day" experience for a cracked tooth.

I'm not crazy for king's cake. It's not a cake if it's a yeast bread! And I'm not in love, generally speaking, with icing and sanding sugar being piled on bread.

The part I like, however, is that the spicing and added bits and sugar work perfectly as part of a bread pudding.

Here's my go-to recipe for bread pudding, with the sugar and spicing adjusted a little.

Mardi Gras Bread Pudding

8 cups king cake cut into 3/4-inch cubes (Make sure you remove the figurine/baby)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk together in a big bowl

3 cups milk

4 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt.

Add bread cubes and toss well. Spray a 2-quart casserole with vegetable oil, and pour the mixture into the casserole.

Bake until light brown and cake tester comes out clean (test halfway between rim and center): about 55-60 minutes.

The pudding will puff up as a souffle does. To present nicely, rush to table and serve. It will taste great at any point, but the middle will fall as it cools.

Serves 12, theoretically.

Adapted from Days-of-Yore Bread Pudding (Crisps, Cobblers, Custards & Creams by Jean Anderson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016).

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