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Mardi Gras desserts fit for a king

Mardi Gras is around the corner, so why leave the parades and parties to others? Create a Mardi Gras celebration of your own with king cakes, beignets and other classic New Orleans desserts. Chef David Guas, a New Orleans native and executive pastry chef at the Washington, D.C., restaurants DC Coast and Ceiba, was invited on "Today" to share his favorite treats. Here are the recipes.Baby Buttermil
/ Source: TODAY

Mardi Gras is around the corner, so why leave the parades and parties to others? Create a Mardi Gras celebration of your own with king cakes, beignets and other classic New Orleans desserts. Chef David Guas, a New Orleans native and executive pastry chef at the Washington, D.C., restaurants DC Coast and Ceiba, was invited on "Today" to share his favorite treats. Here are the recipes.



Baby Buttermilk BeignetsDavid Guas

Makes approximately 24 beignets

In a heavy saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until small bubbles form.  Remove from heat and temper in buttermilk.  Add yeast and granulated sugar.  Pour mixture into mixing bowl. 

Add all dry ingredients and mix on low with dough hook until combined.  Place dough in greased plastic container, covered, in a warm, dry place for 30 minutes.  Turn dough onto a floured surface and form a ball.  Roll out dough on a floured surface, and then cut into 1-1/2 inch squares.  Place beignets on sheet pan lined with greased parchment paper.  Wrap with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator until ready to cook. 

On the stove, bring oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Fry beignets until puffed and golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

9123416604912693560699milk0.33cup1/3 cup whole milkbuttermilk1.5cup1-1/2 cups buttermilkyeast0.75ounce3/4 ounce fresh compressed yeast (or .375 ounce dry yeast)granulated sugar0.75teaspoon3/4 teaspoon granulated sugarbread flour5.5cup5-1/2 cups bread flourbaking soda0.5teaspoon1/2 teaspoon baking sodasalt0.75teaspoon3/4 teaspoon saltpeanut oilPeanut oil for frying (or Canola oil)Powdered sugarPowdered sugar for garnish



New Orleans Nectar Soda FloatDavid Guas

Makes one float

In a bowl or a blender, mix 1 ounce syrup with 5 ounces cold seltzer water or club soda.  Place ice cream into a float or pilsner glass.  Pour soda mixture over ice cream.  Garnish with a splash of whipped cream to give it the soda pop look.

91234166049126935nectar soda syrup1ounce1 ounce Nectar Soda Syrupseltzer water5ounce5 ounces seltzer water (club soda)vanilla ice cream2 scoops vanilla ice cream (or vanilla frozen yogurt)whipped creamWhipped cream for garnish



The recipe is scaled for Mardi Gras celebrations at parties and offices, but could be cut in half.



King CakeDavid Guas

Makes 4 cakes, each serving 8 to 10 people

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in the bowl of a mixer.  With mixer on low speed, add the honey and 8 ounces bread flour.  Mix until soft and smooth.  Cover and let rise until it has doubled in volume.

When above has doubled in volume, add the salt, granulated sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and almond extracts, and 8 eggs.  Mix in the cake flour and all but a handful of the remaining bread flour.  Gradually mix in the butter, adding it in small pieces.

Knead with the dough hook until the dough forms a ball.  The dough should not stick to the sides of the bowl and should have a slightly shiny appearance.  Adjust the consistency by adding the reserved bread flour if needed.

Place the dough in a greased bowl.  Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm, dry place for about an hour, during which the dough should double in size.  If you are not going to shape the dough within a few hours after it has risen, freeze it to prevent souring.

Turn the dough out onto a floured cutting board.  Punch down the dough and divide into four equal pieces.  Set three pieces aside.

Take one segment and, on the floured cutting board, roll into an oblong shape, rolling the dough as thin as possible and maximizing the length.  Take the wide side of the dough and roll into a long, tight roll, similar in look to a baguette.  When the dough is rolled, crimp the edge to the rest of the dough.

Lay the dough down on the floured board.  Holding one end, roll the dough with your hands to elongate the dough into a thin rope of consistent diameter (approximately 1 to 1-1/2 inches).  Pull the two ends of the dough together to form a circle or oval, tucking the ends into one another.

Put dough onto sheet pan lined with greased parchment paper.  Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm, dry place for about an hour.  Repeat for each of the other segments of dough.

Variation: You can also make a braided cake with the remaining three segments of dough.  For each of the three segments, repeat the steps above, making an oblong shape, rolling the dough tight, and then elongating the dough into a thin rope (diameter approximately 1 inch).  Take each of the three segments and pinch together at one end.  Hold the pinched end in one hand and braid the three segments, repeating until done.  When all of the dough has been braided, join together the two ends to form a circle.  Put dough onto sheet pan lined with greased parchment paper.  Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm, dry place for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk for the egg wash.  Uncover the dough and brush the tops and sides of the formed dough with egg wash.  Bake in 375-degree oven until brown and cooked through, about 25 to 35 minutes.

When each cake comes out of the oven, immediately make a small slit with a paring knife and insert a baby figurine.  Cool thoroughly on racks, at least one hour.

While cakes are cooling, make icing.  Add 1/2 cup egg whites and sifted powdered sugar into electric mixer with paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed.  Once the sugar has been absorbed completely, add corn syrup, water, and vanilla extract.  Continue mixing until smooth.  Remove from mixer and cover the bowl with a damp cloth until you are ready to glaze the cakes.

To make colored sugars to decorate the cakes, place two cups of granulated sugar into each of three plastic bags with zipper tops.  Into one bag, put four drops of green food coloring; put four drops of gold or yellow into another bag, and four drops of purple food coloring into the last bag.  (If you don’t have purple food coloring, put two drops of red food coloring and two drops of blue food coloring onto a spoon and mix with a swizzle stick or straw.  Put into the last bag.)  Close each bag securely and shake to mix in the food coloring.

Drizzle icing on the cooled cakes.  Cover with colored sugar, alternating in 2-1/2 inch sections with purple, then green, then gold or yellow, repeating until the cake is covered.

91234166049126935yeast2ounce2 ounces fresh compressed yeastmilk1cup1 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)honey0.25cup1/4 cup honeybread flour8ounce8 ounces bread floursalt4teaspoon4 teaspoons saltgranulated sugar4ounce4 ounces granulated sugarcinnamon1teaspoon1 teaspoon ground cinnamonvanilla extract2teaspoon2 teaspoons vanilla extractalmond extract1teaspoon1 teaspoon almond extracteggs88 eggscake flour1pound1 pound cake flourbread flour1.25pound1-1/4 pounds bread floursoft unsalted butter8ounce8 ounces soft unsalted butterbaby figurines44 baby figurines (to hide in each cake)egg11 large eggmilk1tablespoon1 tablespoon milkegg whites0.5cup1/2 cup egg whitespowdered sugar1.5pound1-1/2 pounds powdered sugar, siftedcorn syrup0.25cup1/4 cup light corn syrupwarm water2tablespoon2 tablespoons warm watervanilla extract0.5teaspoon1/2 teaspoon vanilla extractgranulated sugar6cup6 cups granulated sugar (divided into 3 2-cup portions)liquid food coloring Liquid food coloring (green, gold/yellow, and purple, see below)