It’s January 6th! Do you know what that means? Well, apart from being “back to work day” for many of us (myself included), it’s Epiphany. Epipha-what? I hear you asking… Epiphany – January 6th – celebrates the visit to the baby Jesus by the Three Kings (the Magi), hence the name of the treat that is widely eaten to commemorate this day – la Galette des Rois or King Cake. I first became familiar with the Galette when I was living in France and have been meaning to make my own for a few years now. There are two distinct types of king cake – this one that I am sharing today which is traditionally eaten in northern France – a flaky pastry “cake” filled with frangipane (a mix of crème d’amande and crème pâtissière). The “cake” is topped with a paper crown that the finder of the fève (traditionally a dried bean but nowadays more likely to be a small figuring or a trinket) will wear, being crowned King or Queen for the day. In southern parts of France, the cake (called a gâteau des rois) is more like a crown-shaped (ring) brioche filled with dried candied fruits, also containing the fève.
When I lived in France, I enjoyed many a galette des rois – hey, when someone tells you that it’s tradition to eat a delicious pastry and pair it with champagne just days after you’ve sworn off such luxuries for at least a month, you don’t go against it. It’s tradition, after all! I had never made one until this past weekend when I returned home and was taking stock of the fridge and freezer contents making shopping lists and noticed that I had store-bought puff pastry in the freezer and all of a sudden I got to wondering would it be cheating to use store-bought pastry for a galette des rois? I am still fairly jetlagged so I figured I could at least use that as an excuse for my laziness… I did a little Google research….
When I saw that some of my favourite food writers had recipes for galette des rois using store-bought pastry (albeit in France where I am sure the quality of the store-bought pastry is far superior to what I can get here in Toronto), I felt better. After all, not everyone has time to make their own pastry all the time, right? I looked through a ton of recipes and decided to go with Clotilde Dusoulier‘s recipe for the filling – it uses a pure crème d’amande (with a touch of hazelnut meal too), forgoing the crème pâtissière that would make it into a frangipane. What’s the difference? Well according to Clotilde: “Crème d’amande (almond cream) is a simple mix of butter, sugar, ground almonds, and eggs, more or less in equal parts. Frangipane, on the other hand, is a blend of crème d’amande and crème pâtissière (pastry cream), which is made with eggs, milk, sugar, and flour or cornstarch. Most galettes sold out there are filled with frangipane rather than crème d’amande — the production cost of frangipane is a lot lower, since the almonds are the most expensive ingredient in there — but my preference goes to crème d’amande, which makes a more delicate, less eggy, more flavorful filling.” I agree with Clotilde – the crème d’amande is much more delicate.
Clotilde’s recipe is simple to make and her step-by-step pictures made the “construction” of the galette so easy too. For a first effort, I was pretty happy with my galette – I did not freeze it overnight as she suggests you can do, rather it spent a few hours in the fridge before I baked it. The top layer puffed beautifully (although it sank on one side when it cooled) but the bottom layer didn’t. I wonder if a night in the fridge or freezer might have helped?
I didn’t have a crown handy (as one really doesn’t) so I experimented with some Christmassy decorations in the pictures above but really a decent galette is beautiful in its own right, n’est-ce pas? This is headed in to either Neil’s work or my staff room so I’ll make sure to warn everyone about the bean (it’s not very big so if you aren’t expecting it it might be a bit of a surprise!). In any case, in France these days, you can get galettes des rois through the entire month of January so it’s not too late to make your own. Here’s Clotilde’s easy recipe for Galette des Rois using store-bought pastry.
Other posts about Galettes des Rois you might enjoy: