By Robert St. John
The food business is seasonal. There is a specific time when vegetables are at their peak. No matter where they are being grown – Florida, California, or your backyard – there is a certain time of the year they will reach a pinnacle in flavor and bounty.
One would think meat isn’t seasonal, but beef prices fluctuate often. They reach their peak in summer and during the December holidays.
The menus at our restaurants are seasonal, too. In several weeks we’ll be rolling out a special crawfish menu when that particular local crustacean is at its peak in quality and affordability.
We also offer seasonal desserts. In the fall we can’t make pumpkin cheesecake fast enough to keep up with the demand. In the summer, it’s blackberry cobbler and Key Lime pie.
All of those dishes are big hits, but none can compare to our go-to dessert during Mardi Gras season – King Cake Bread Pudding. People go nuts for this stuff, and there is a good reason. It tastes great. It’s like a Mardi Gras party on a plate (with everyone keeping their shirt on).
The Internet is full of historical accounts on how King Cakes ended up in America, their significance, and how they wound up being used during Carnival season, so I would direct anyone interested in learning more from that angle to Google it.
For those few readers who might have grown up in Saskatchewan and have no idea what a King Cake is, it’s a braided dough (usually brioche), that has been filled (usually with cream cheese or fruit), and has colored sugar on top (usually the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold). There is a trinket inside (usually a plastic baby) that has many different meanings for the one who finds (or eats) the baby, depending on who you are talking to and where they live. I think I just broke the Guinness record for the greatest number of parenthesis in one paragraph (someone look it up).
These days, the plastic babies are usually on the outside of the cake. I suspect the King Cake companies got sued too often and decided to let the customers hide the baby in the cake themselves. Personally, I thought it was a little creepy sticking a baby in a brioche, but that’s another column for another day.
The point is King Cake Bread Pudding is good. It was created by one of my chefs and me in one of those we-need-some-inspiration-for-a-dessert-feature meetings. The synergy was bouncing all over the room, and King Cake Bread Pudding was born.
We serve it every year during Mardi Gras season, and now that I have given you the recipe, you don’t even have to go to the restaurant to purchase it.
Enjoy, eat well, bon appetite and laissez les bons temps rouler!
Robert St. John is a restaurateur, chef and author of numerous books.