Saturday, January 1, 2011

King's Cake (Bolo Rei)

This year because of the bad weather in the U.S. and Europe during the week between Christmas and the New Year we did not receive the King's cake that my parents and in-laws usually send from Portugal every year. Since New Year Eve without King's cake is not the same, we decide to begin the adventure of making a King's cake from scratch (in Portugal everyone buys Bolo Rei from local bakeries done by professional bakers)! Here is the recipe we used...if you want to give it a try. It turned out not being as difficult as we anticipated, just a 4-5 hours commitment. Enjoy it... and share the cake!

Note: The King's cake is a traditional dessert that is mostly eaten around the Christmas and New Year holidays, but you can find it in most bakeries year around. It is heavy in dried and candied fruits. The King's cake was traditionally offered to family members and friends on King's Day (January 6th) as a way to remember the visit of the three Wise Men to Baby Jesus.

7 cups of all purpose flour
2 cups of sugar
6 eggs at room temperature
3 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 cup of warm milk
2 sticks of butter (approx. 16 table spoons)
1/3 cup of Porto wine
1/2 cup of pecans cut in pieces
1/2 cup of raisins
1 cup of dried fruit mix (we used papaya, raisins, pineapple, cranberries and apples, but any other mix will work)
2 pinches of salt
halved pecans, dried plums and apricots for decoration
fruit jelly for decoration
icing sugar for decoration

1. In a small bowl dissolve the yeast with 1/3 of the warm milk. until totally dissolved.

2. In a large bowl add 1 cup of the sift flour make a well in the center and add the yeast with the milk, a pinch of salt, Leave for 10 minutes to rise.

3. Continue with the cake: Sift the remaining 6 cups of flour and add it to the large bowl (where the yeast has been risen), along with the sugar and the remaining milk. Use an electric mixer to mix the dough slowly until get a stiff dough.

4. Add the butter into small chunks at a time, the Porto wine, another pinch of salt, and the eggs one by one. at this point our electric mixer was not strong enough to mix the dough so we use our hands. We mixed for 5-10 minutes until getting a smooth a very soft, elastic and very very stick dough.

5. When the dough starts to unattach from the sides of the bowl, sprinkle the dough with a little flour, cover with a clean fabric towel and put it in a warm and draft-free place. Allow to rise for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until doubled.

6. After letting the dough rise, add all the nuts and fruit by distributing them evenly through the dough. Again we used our hands to handle the dough very gently as we mixed the nuts and fruits.

7. Transfer the dough to a round baking tray covered with wax paper (it is better if you spread some soft butter on top of the paper, it allows for an easier removal of the paper after the cake is ready). Cover your hands with flour when handling the dough as it is very sticky.

8. Sculpt the dough as a large wheel and stick a pyrex small bowl (previously covered with butter) on the center of the wheel. This will keep the wheel shape of the cake.

9. Cover the cake with a clean towel and let it rest for 1 hour in a warm and draft-free place.

10. Decorate the cake with the halved pecans, dried plums and apricots. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F.

11. Bake for about 1.5 hours. Remove the pyrex from the center of the cake (be careful for not burn yourself) and leave it in the oven for more 10-20 minutes until golden (you can check if the cake is done by sticking a toothpick in the thicker part of the cake. If the toothpick comes out dry, the cake is ready to come out from the oven).

12. Put the cake on a cooling rack, spread the fruit jelly with a brush or small spatula while the cake is still warm. It gives the cake a shiny finish.

13. Let the cake cool completely and dust with icing sugar. Enjoy it with your friends and family! This recipe makes enough cake for everybody.