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Epiphany and the galette des rois tradition

A slice of galette des rois on eatlivetravelwrite.comIt’s January 6th, the feast of Epiphany, celebrating the arrival in Bethlehem of the Three Kings to the visit to the baby Jesus. The Kings give their name to the pastry treat that is widely eaten in France to celebrate this day – la Galette des Rois or King Cake.  I was first introduced to this lovely tradition when I was living in France – I mean, how can you resist – when it’s tradition to eat a delicious pastry and pair it with champagne just days after you’ve told yourself you’ll eat healthier this year, you’ve got licence to cheat a little on those healthier habits, right? At least for one day!

There are two different types of king cake: perhaps the most well-known is the galette des rois, a flaky pastry “cake” filled with frangipane (a mix of almond cream and crème pâtissière), baked until puffy and golden then topped off with a paper crown.  Inside the galette, a small trinket or figurine – the fève – is hidden and the person who finds that in their slice will wear the crown and be king (or queen) for the day.

Galette des rois for January 6 on eatlivetravelwrite.comIn southern parts of France, the cake (called a gâteau des rois) is a brioche ring studded with dried candied fruits and it also contains the fève.

Gateau des rois on ShutterstockGateau des rois photo from Shutterstock 

The “galette season” starts on the Twelfth Night after Christmas and ends on Shrove Tuesday. On the day of Epiphany, to make the fève-finding fair, the youngest child present at the gathering will hide under the table and tell the person cutting the galette who should receive each slice.  The fève itself can be a religious figurine (typically, traditionally it was a Nativity figure) but these days it’s more likely to be something a little more modern (last year in France, I saw Barbapapa fèves!) and indeed fèves have become sought-after as collectibles.

For my part, I haven’t had a change to make a galette des rois this year (as in other years) but I will be seeking one out later today. While they are not as common or easily-found in Toronto as they are in France, I have  a few addresses to check out (Clafouti, Nadège and Delysee)

Other posts about Galettes des Rois you might enjoy:

David Lebovitz’s galette des rois recipe
Dorie Greenspan’s galette des rois recipe
Galette des Rois on French Foodie in Dublin
Galette du Coeur 2014 on Paris Breakfast
Jennifer Perillo’s galette des rois using “light” rough puff pastry

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8 Responses to Epiphany and the galette des rois tradition

  1. Jennie January 6, 2016 at 09:52 #

    Thanks for including my recipe, Mardi! I really need to try the brioche version one of these days.
    xo-Jennie

  2. Tami January 6, 2016 at 19:03 #

    They both look rather delicious Mardi – delicious enough to introduce Epiphany to my house 🙂

    I had never heard of Epiphany until spending time in Italy with my Italian relatives (that would be after a Moroccan Christmas and New Year!!!)

    Such a fun day of celebrations (on par with Christmas – more presents) and visiting a grotto to search for La Befana, the Epiphany witch and ending the day with a feast and bonfire.

    I need to move to Europe.

    • Mardi Michels January 6, 2016 at 19:17 #

      Hey, I know a cute house in the South of France 😉

  3. Tami January 6, 2016 at 19:07 #

    Just had a quick squizz at Dorie’s recipe and had to laugh at the different cultures with the following:

    “Here in Paris we said au’revoir to the last bûches de Noël (yule logs) on New Year’s Eve and bonjour to les galettes des Rois on January 2, the day the city’s pastry shops reopened.”

    Sad but true – here in Australia on 2 January we say bonjour to Hot Cross Buns 🙁

    • Mardi Michels January 6, 2016 at 19:17 #

      Well here BEFORE New Year’s, some stores had Valentine’s stuff on display!

    • Mr. Neil January 8, 2016 at 09:38 #

      Tami, I was a bit disoriented when Mardi and I went shopping for our annual solstice party in December…and saw Hot Cross Buns. I somehow thought I’d missed a season!

      • Tami January 10, 2016 at 20:29 #

        **sigh** it’s getting beyond a joke huh 🙁

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