Happy Mardi Gras! I have a special connection with Louisiana. Five years ago, I flew to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras, only to return to the Bayou State a few weeks later to help rebuild a home affected by Hurricane Rita with United Way.
I fell in love with The Big Easy. It’s such a delicately crafted and culturally rich city with amazing, warmhearted and resilient people. The food is exquisite and even in the quieter weeks following Fat Tuesday, there’s still an air of celebration cascading through the cobbled streets.
My friends and I dined on exotic treats like red fish, alligator, crawfish, muffuletta, po’ boys, beignets and chicory coffee, and, we were absolutely thrilled about the open liquor laws in the city, taking advantage of the “to go” option at bars more than a few times.
We visited the historic Garden district, went on a surprisingly entertaining ghost tour and traveled to the swamp for an authentic Cajun bayou experience. I really enjoyed dressing up in various degrees of costume throughout the week, culminating in a (absinthe) green fairy getup on our last evening there.
I may not be heading down to New Orleans or attending a masquerade ball this year, but I brought a little bit of Fat Tuesday to the Big Apple with this DIY mask and vegan kingcake.
Mardi Gras Mask
Search for “mask template”, select your favorite and print and cut out (or make your own). Take a small piece of lace and tape to template. Cut around the edges and middle until you have the desired shape. Apply eyelash glue lightly around the eye area and eyebrows and secure the mask to you face. To remove, gently peel off mask and use eye makeup remover for remaining glue.
Vegan King Cake
It’s not a true Mardi Gras celebration without a King Cake – a sugar and cinnamon cakeshaped into a circle and topped with colored sugar. The colors: purple, green and gold, represent justice, faith, and power, respectively, are instantly recognizable as the official Mardi Gras colors. Besides being tasty, this cake also contains a little game. Before baking, a plastic baby (or pecan half) is placed into the cake, and the finder must bring next year’s King Cake.
I decided to make this cake slightly healthier by using natural and vegan ingredients. The sugar content is still pretty high, but it’s a nice treat to have – especially on a day called Fat Tuesday. Bon appetite!
1 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 packages active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1/2 cup plus one tablespoon sugar, divided
2 tablespoons golden flax meal, stirred into 1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon nutmeg
5 1/2 cups flour
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 pecan (or plastic baby)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon warm water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Food coloring – purple, yellow & green
In a small pot, bring coconut milk just to a boil, immediately remove from heat and stir in coconut oil. Set aside to cool down to room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in the water with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Let stand approximately 10 minutes, until foamy. Stir in the cooled coconut milk and oil. Whisk in the flax meal and water mixture. Add the remaining half cup of sugar, salt and nutmeg. Using a rubber spatula, mix the flour into the liquid one cup at a time. When the dough has formed into a cohesive ball, place on a floured counter and knead until stretchy, about 5 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rise for 2 hours. Dough should roughly double in volume.
While pastry dough rises, make the filling. Combine light brown sugar, cinnamon, chopped pecans and flour. Melt the half cup coconut oil and stir into sugar mixture, mixing until it’s the texture of crumbly wet sand. Once 2 hours have passed and the dough has doubled, punch down the dough and divide into two.
Roll the two halves into two large rectangles, about 10 to 12 inches long. Sprinkle each half with brown sugar filling, then roll up, starting with the long side. Bring ends together to form a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Hide a pecan half (or baby) by tucking into the dough through one of the vents. (This is traditionally a small plastic baby, pushed up into the dough once baking is finished.) Prepare two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment. Let dough rise for another half an hour; preheat oven to 350 as you wait.
Place each circle on its own sheet, and set a ceramic ramekin or baking ring in the centers to help hold their shape. Bake for 25 minutes and allow to cool for 10 minutes before decorating and place plastic baby from underneath, if using. Whisk the water and vanilla extract into the powdered sugar and drizzle liberally with icing. Sprinkle alternating stripes of purple, yellow and green sugar.
Laissez le bon temps roulet!