So Mardi Gras 2012 is upon us. Laissez les bon temps roulez!
Despite not being religious, French/Creole/Spanish (well I am a smidgen French, but not really enough to claim it) or from New Orleans, I love Mardi Gras. I love the colors, the parades, the partying, the food. Fat Tuesday (or Shrove Tuesday as my grandma & the old schoolers called it) was always one of the funnest part of being in Catholic school; pancakes & a party all day! Other than that, a lot of time in Catholic school is spent… well, being all Catholic.
However I can get down with the “Eat now, repent later” bit, for sure. As a matter of fact, I prefer “Eat now, repent never” even better. As a matter of fact… I don’t quite believe in repenting at all, unless you commit a real sin. Like throwing away good food. Or murder. You know.
The terms “Mardi Gras” ( /ˈmɑrdiɡrɑː/), “Mardi Gras season“, and “Carnival season“, in English, refer to events of the Carnival celebrations, beginning on or after Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi gras is French for Fat Tuesday, referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday; in English the day is sometimes referred to as Shrove Tuesday, from the word shrive, meaning “confess.” Related popular practices are associated with celebrations before the fasting and religious obligations associated with the penitential season of Lent. Popular practices include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, etc. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition. In English, the day is called Shrove Tuesday, associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.
In many areas, the term “Mardi Gras” has come to mean the whole period of activity related to the celebratory events, beyond just the single day. In some US cities, it is now called “Mardi Gras Day” or “Fat Tuesday”. The festival season varies from city to city, as some traditions consider Mardi Gras the entire period between Epiphany or Twelfth Night and Ash Wednesday. Others treat the final three-day period before Ash Wednesday as the Mardi Gras. In Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras-associated social events begin in November, followed by mystic society balls on Thanksgiving, then New Year’s Eve, followed by parades and balls in January and February, celebrating up to midnight before Ash Wednesday. In earlier times parades were held on New Year’s Day. Other cities famous for Mardi Gras celebrations include Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Barranquilla, Colombia, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Quebec City, Canada; Mazatlán, Sinaloa in Mexico; and New Orleans, Louisiana, United States.
Carnival is an important celebration in Anglican and Catholic European nations. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the week before Ash Wednesday is called “shrovetide“, ending on Shrove Tuesday. It has its popular celebratory aspects as well. Pancakes are a traditional food. Pancakes and related fried breads or pastries made with sugar, fat and eggs are also traditionally consumed at this time in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
So basically, you can have King’s Cakes (or cupcakes in my case), Bananas Foster (or the cupcake equivalent) or beignets. Or you can just make some pancakes, if you’re the simple type. But this year I made up some sweet rolls. Sweet, yeasty rolls with a brightly colored confectioner’s sugar glaze.
I’m going to say these are super quick & easy to make, and I hope you believe me. ‘Cause they really are. I made the dough the night before (which took about 5 minutes), let it chill overnight and then made them the next day. In what seemed like no time at all I was shoving them in my fat face.
MARDI GRAS SWEET ROLLS (adapted from a recipe by Oxmoor House)
- 1 package active dry yeast
- ¼ cup warm water (105° to 115°)
- 3 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- ⅓ cup melted unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 ¼ cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
- 3-6 tablespoons milk
- small dab each yellow, green & purple Wilton icing gel food coloring
- Dissolve yeast in warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Combine flour, ½ cup sugar, and salt in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, stirring well. Combine sour cream, butter, and eggs, stirring well. Add dissolved yeast mixture and sour cream mixture to dry ingredients. Beat at medium speed about 2 minutes or until smooth. Cover tightly, and chill 8 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350°. Divide dough in half; shape half of dough into 12 (2-inch) balls, smoothing out tops. Place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet* coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining dough. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
- Bake rolls at 350° for 20 minutes or until very lightly browned. Let cool slightly, but not completely, before frosting.
- Combine powdered sugar,and milk in a bowl; beat at medium speed of a mixer until smooth. Divide into three separate bowls, stir the food coloring into each bowl, creating three colors. Spread 2 teaspoons frosting on each roll while still warm. Best served warm.
*I used a pie plate, because it was a dark aubergine/purple color and looked pretty for the presentation. Depending on the amount of rolls you have, you can use a cookie sheet, glass baking dish or round cake pan (or two) as well.
You may notice in the directions I say to use a stand mixer. This is because I found a dough hook to be 100% necessary with this dough. I also had to sprinkle a little extra flour in to smooth it out, otherwise it was pretty sticky & didn’t get “smooth” enough. If you have a hand mixer that’s powerful & has a dough hook attachment, then that’s your decision. I personally did not try my new hand mixer out on these.
The frosting, the way I made it, is a messy, crazy, delicious Crayola color-fest. I thought it appropriate since Mardi Gras is all about the fun, the gaudyness & lots of bright color. You can tone it down if you prefer, or just use the icing without color and sprinkle colored sugar in green, purple and yellow on top of it. It’s up to you, although it also depends on the type of food coloring you use. Americolor & Wilton are very bright, but the supermarket brands sometimes require more in order to give you that oomph. So why do we use these particular colors for mardi gras?
6: What is the significance of the Mardi Gras colors, and where did they come from?
A: Rex, the King of Carnival, selected the Mardi Gras colors and assigned meaning to them in 1892. Purple stands for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.
I halved this recipe and got around 9 rolls (some larger than others because I have a terrible time eyeballing dough size!). If you like, you can add a little lemon zest to the dough, but I liked it just the way it was. Also, you can totally omit the glaze and either have them plain or just brush them with some melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven; you’ll have a delicious alternative that can be served with any meal, any time of year- not just on Fat Tuesday.
But I rather like my messy, brightly iced, irregular-shaped sweet rolls.