Galettes des rois

gallete

 

Photo Credit: Dominique Ansel Bakery, 2018

 

Starting in late December, pastry shops in Paris start jumping the gun, and windows and showcases begin filling up with Galettes des rois, or King Cakes, in anticipation of the celebration of Epiphany, held on January 6th.

 The French have been serving up galette des rois since the 14th-century. Traditionally, the  season of the galetter des rois begins on Twelfth Night and ends on Shrove Tuesday.  The cake is served on January 6th – the 12th day of Christmas – to celebrate the Epiphany, commemorating the arrival of the Wise Men, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, who travelled  from the three continents, Asia, Africa and Europe, to the manger in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, to present their gifts.

Today, it’s eaten throughout the month of January and is simply a festive way to celebrate the new year with family and friends, regardless of religious background.

Composed of a puff pastry cake, with a small charm, the fève, hidden inside, it is usually filled with frangipane, a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar. But more gourmet versions are available for us to enjoy, with chocolate, apple or candied fruits. Every year, the leading French pâtissiers offer exclusive creations for the tradition of crowning the one who finds the fève.

The Fève

Like many Christian festivals, the date of Epiphany corresponds to what was originally a pagan festival. In the past, the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, the festival of the winter solstice, at which a king or queen was chosen for one day, by means of a  fèves : a white or black bean baked inside a loaf of bread and the person who found the bean was crowned king for the day.

The item baked into the cake is called a fève, which means “bean”, a broad bean to be exact, which was the original king selector. In the 18th century, the fève was a porcelain figurine representing the nativity, in particular, the Baby Jesus. At the end of the 19th century, the beans were replaced by porcelain figurines. Even though the trinkets in the cake are no longer beans, they are still called fèves. They might be tiny santons (nativity figures), cartoon characters, or any number of other things. There are collectors of these fèves and even a fève museum.

Galette des Rois - 3 feves
If you are lucky, you might find a fève like one of these in your slice of cake.

Today, the fèves get more and more creative as well: some boulangeries (bakeries) create special collections of fèves depicting modern themes from great works of art, to classic movie stars, or even popular cartoon characters. Naturally, if you are making your own galette, you will  need to buy your own fève, which can be bought here: http://www.fevesdumonde.com.

Nowadays there is a wide range of different fèves which are much sought-after by collectors. The family tradition is for everyone to gather together to cut the famous cake. The youngest child goes under the table and points out the guests, who are then given their portion of the cake. A cardboard crown is supplied with the cake. The one who finds the fève is crowned and chooses his or her queen or king.

The Christian church changed the solstice celebration to the Epiphany and fixed the date as the 6th of January. With the “king for a day” theme already established, it became the time to remember the kings who presented gifts to the baby Jesus. Over the years, the bean-in-the-bread turned into a bean-in-the-cake and became known as the galette des rois, “cake of the kings”.

Cake vs. Pie

In 16th century Paris, this king cake was at the center of a conflict between the boulangeries (bakeries) and the patisseries (cake shops). They each wanted the sole rights to make and sell it. The cake shops won, but the bakeries weren’t about to give up so easily. If they were forbidden to make king cakes, then they would make king pies. And this is why  there are two very  distinct versions of king cake today.

In the south of France,  you will be eating a circular  cake made of  a sweet brioche-style  dough with a hollow circle in the center. The cake is then  covered with a variety of  candied fruits.

In northern France, the galette des rois favored by most of the  French populous is  in its simple version that looks more like a pie made of a pâte feuilleté, flaky puff pastry,  filled with frangipane, a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar. The galette is then decorated  with notches incised across the top of  it and browned in the oven.

It is said that frangipane was invented as  scent to perfume the leather gloves of King Louis XIII that were  made by a Florentine nobleman, the Marquis of Frangipani. Soon after Frangipani, living in France, released his fragrance made from bitter almonds to the public and  the local patisseries created a cream made with milk, sugar, flour, eggs, butter and ground almonds. They named it frangipane. Little could 16th century Frangipani, have guessed  that the  scent  would inspire pastry chefs for centuries to follow.

Other variations of the galette can be found as well, from shortbread-style, popular in Western France, to those that have alternate fillings, such as chocolat-poire (chocolate-pear) or raspberry. Abroad, the famous galette des rois has a lot of fans, notably at Belgian and Dutch tables. There are customs of eating king cakes  in a number of countries with the festival of Epiphany at the end of the Christmas season; in other places, such as New York, London and Berlin In New Orleans, Louisiana,   king cakes are  associated with the pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras and Carnival.

Modern Traditions

The cake with the fève is a long-standing tradition which is still very popular today. At January gatherings, when it is time to serve the cake, the youngest child gets under the table. Tradition also dictates that when serving galette des rois, the host or hostess cuts the entire cake  such that each guest receives a slice, plus an extra, symbolic slice for any unexpected visitor, or poor person, that should pass by. In this way, everyone has the opportunity to “tirer les rois,” – or “draw the kings” – from the cake. The  child is then asked by the host or hostess, “Who is this piece for?” The child calls out a name and the cake is distributed according to his instructions. This way there can be no cheating, as the child cannot see the fève and play favorites. Everyone chews their piece of cake very slowly, to avoid cracking a tooth, until the fève is found.

Whoever finds the fève becomes the king (or queen) for the day. They get to wear a paper crown which is supplied with the cake, if bought from a French bakery. The king’s  or queen’s responsibility is to bring another king cake to the next gathering – and that probably means the following week because the French eat these cakes during the entire month of January. This way everyone gets a chance to find the fève, wear the crown, and be king or queen of the party.

The Christian church changed the solstice celebration to the Epiphany and fixed the date as the 6th of January. With the “king for a day” theme already established, it became the time to remember the kings who presented gifts to the baby Jesus. Over the years, the bean-in-the-bread turned into a bean-in-the-cake and became known as the galette des rois, “cake of the kings”.

The pleasure brought by a galette des rois isn’t merely due to its delicious taste – it’s also the anticipation of wondering whether you will be the lucky one to discover la fève, a tiny charm, buried inside one of the slices. The good thing about making your  galette own is that you can customize the  almond filling, to your taste. So who will become king or queen for the day at your house? Bake a galette and have a little fun with the family. Make a foil or paper crown to place atop the cake before eating it (if you buy it at a bakery in France, they will provide the crown).

If you are lucky enough to find the fève, you’re “king for a day” and take your place in a 700-year old French tradition.

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:
For the Almond filling:
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill® Almond Flour
½ cup granulated sugar
zest of 1/2 orange
⅛ teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons Finlandia® Butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons Courvoisier® Cognac (or rum)
teaspoon almond extract
teaspoon vanilla extract
2 sheets puff pastry
2-3 tablespoons apricot jam
1 whole almond, or small dried apricot fruit if desired (the fève)
Water, for sealing

For the Egg Wash:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon light cream

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, sugar, flour, orange zest and salt. Cut in the butter until incorporated. Stir in the egg, cognac almond extract, vanilla extract. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the two pastry sheets to 10-inch squares. Using a pie plate or other round object, cut 2 10-inch circles.

Place one circle on your lined baking sheet. Spread the apricot jam in the center, leaving a 2 inch edge. Top with the chilled almond filling. Place the almond in the filling, if desired.

Brush water over the edge of the bottom circle. Top with the second pastry circle and pinch along the edge to seal.

To crimp, use your thumb and pointer finger together, pressing the back of a paring knife into the edge to create the crease. Continue around the entire tart.

Galette des Rois

Whisk together the egg yolk and cream. Brush over the entire tart. Decorate the tart by scoring the tart with a pairing knife to leave indentations.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before cutting.

King cakes of the type locally called “French style” on display at the chain bakery/restaurant “La Madeline” branch in Carrollton, New Orleans. Note they come with cardboard “crowns” to be worn by whoever gets the slice with the token and becomes monarch of the event.

 

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Chocolate Beet Cake

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beetroot_apple_cake1.jpg

This cake is chocolate heaven, even  for those who are  self-proclaimed beet-haters! A marvelous cake that is so  moist and delicious, who would have ever known that the secret ingredient just happened to be red beets! It’s a great recipe to sneak in a few veggies for children who will ask for a second piece, because it’s just that good.

 

Serves 16 to 20, depending on how thick the slice

Ingredients:
3 or 4 medium  red beets
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 ¾ cups packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

For the icing:
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
4  1/2 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softemed
3 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
beet juice (left over from above)
4 ounces dark chocolate – melted

 

Directions:
Cook the beets: in a saucepan, cover beets with water and boil 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the skin, quarter the beets and puree them in food processor with a little bit of the water they cooked in. You should end up with 2 cups of pureed cooked beets. Reserve  the beet juice of for the icing.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a 10-cup Bundt pan or tube pan with oil and dust with flour.

Combine the chocolate and oil in a Pyrex liquid measuring cup. Microwave on the defrost setting just until the chocolate melts. Note: Using a double boiler is the traditional way to melt chocolate is a microwave is not handy.

Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly beat in the oil and chocolate mixture, beets, and vanilla.

Whisk the flours and stir in the baking soda and salt. Gently stir the flour mixture into the egg and chocolate mixture just until the flour is mixed in. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes.

Carefully remove the cake from the pan and let cool on the rack.

While the cake is cooling, make the icing. In a medium bowl, add the Neufchâtel cheese and sugar and stir in the milk and the vanilla.Divide the icing in half and place the reserved icing in a second bowl. With the other half of the icing, add 1 to 2 tablespoons a beet juice to the icing. Note: the icing may be thickened with confectioners’ sugar or thinned with milk or the beet juice. Drizzle the white icing onto the cake and allow it to set, followed by the beet icing. Drizzle with the melted dark chocolate. Slice and serve individually on dessert plates.

 

Cook’s Notes:
If you want to forego without the dramatic icing and chocolate drizzles, just simply dust the cake with confectioners’  sugar.

beet cake

 

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor


A Traditional Mardi Gras King Cake

 BY GIL MARKS

 

Prep Time: 3 Hours 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes

Servings: 1 medium ring, 8-12 servings
(For a crowd, double the recipe to make a large cake or two medium cakes)

DOUGH INGREDIENTS:
1 package active dry yeast (¼-ounce/7 grams/2¼ teaspoons); 1 cake fresh yeast (0.6-ounce/18 grams); or 2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115°F for dry yeast; 80 to 85°F for fresh yeast)
1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115°F for dry yeast; 80 to 85°F for fresh yeast) or sour cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar (1.75 ounces/50 grams)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (½ stick/2 ounces/57 grams)
2 large egg yolks or 1 large egg
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
2 teaspoon grated orange zest or orange blossom water (optional)
2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour (9.5 ounces/275 grams)
1/4 -1/2 cup chopped candied citron, ½ cup chopped mixed candied fruit, or ½ cup golden raisins (5 ounces/140 grams)
Egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon milk or water)

CINNAMON FILLING INGREDIENTS (OPTIONAL):
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (3.75 ounces/105 grams)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (1.25 ounces/35 grams)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt
2/3 cup chopped slightly toasted pecans (2.5 ounces/70 grams), or 1/3 cup pecans (1.25 ounces/35 grams) and ¼ cup raisins (1.25 ounces/35 grams)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (½ stick/2 ounces/57 grams)
1 pecan half, large bean, or other token (optional)

ICING INGREDIENTS:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar (4 ounces/115 grams)
2 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened (¼ stick/1 ounce/28 grams), or ¼ cup cream cheese, softened (2 ounces/57 grams) (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or ¼ teaspoon almond extract
about 1 tbsp milk, buttermilk, fresh lemon juice, or water
a few drops gold food coloring or 2 to 4 tablespoons yellow colored sugar (optional)
a few drops green food coloring or 2 to 4 tablespoons green colored sugar (optional)
a few drops purple food coloring or 2 to 4 tablespoons purple colored sugar (optional)

YOU WILL ALSO NEED:
Mixing bowls, flat surface for kneading and rolling, rolling pin, pastry brush, baking sheet, cooling rack

 

DIRECTIONS:
To make the dough: In a small bowl or measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks, salt, and, for a flavored dough (but omit this if you are using a filling), the spice or zest.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenBlend in 1½ cups flour.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenGradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft workable dough.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

On a lightly floured surface or in a mixer with a dough hook, knead the dough until smooth and springy, about 5 minutes.

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenKnead in the citron, mixed candied fruit or golden raisins.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

Place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a kitchen towel or loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, or in the refrigerator overnight.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

TO MAKE THE OPTIONAL FILLING: In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the pecans. Drizzle the butter over top and mix until crumbly.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenPunch down the dough and knead briefly.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake8-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenIF USING THE FILLING: Roll the dough into a 16- by 10-inch rectangle, spread evenly with the filling, leaving 1 inch uncovered on all sides. If using a token, place it on the rectangle – be sure to warn your guests.

 

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenBeginning from a long end, roll up jelly roll style.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

Then bring the ends together to form an oval. THK NOTE- ours ended up looking more like a circle. For an oval shape, you may wish to make a longer, thinner rectangle.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

Place on a parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheet, seam side down. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap spritzed with cooking spray and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenPosition a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush the dough with the egg wash.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake24-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenBake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

IF NOT FILLING THE CAKE: Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a 24-inch-long rope. Braid the 2 ropes together, and bring the ends together to form an oval, pinching the ends to seal.

OR TO MAKE A 3 STRAND BRAID: Divide the dough in thirds and roll each piece into a 16-inch rope. THK NOTE: We made a 3 rope version, which comes out slightly more like a circle than an oval if your strands are 16 inches. If you prefer an oval shape, the strands should be closer to 20 inches.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake9-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenBraid by first connecting the ends of the ropes at one end.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake10-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenAs you braid, be sure that you are are pulling the strands gently taut to make a neat and even braid, otherwise your cake may bulge in some areas.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake11-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenWhen you are ready to connect the ends, unbraid a few inches at each end, then braid them together by connecting the corresponding pieces. For example, center rope to center rope.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

Place on a parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheet, seam side down. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap spritzed with cooking spray and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

 

image: http://toriavey.com/images/2014/02/KingCake29-640×480.jpg

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenPosition a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush the dough with the egg wash.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

TO MAKE THE ICING: In a medium bowl, stir the confectioners’ sugar, optional butter or cream cheese, vanilla, and enough milk until smooth and of a pouring consistency.

 

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen

If desired, divide the icing into thirds and tint each third with one of the food colorings. Or you can drizzle or spread the icing over the warm cake.

 

A traditional recipe for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenWhile the icing is still wet, sprinkle with the colored sugar.

NOTE: Decorating a King Cake neatly can be tricky, it is quite a messy process! We found the easiest way to do this neatly is to use a pastry brush to apply icing to each section, then sprinkle with sugar, let dry, and move on to the next section. For the braided cake, follow the braid pattern around the cake, using one color at a time and applying to each icing section directly after applying while still wet (the icing dries fast!). Then allow the icing to dry and gently tap off the excess sugar before starting the next color.

 

A traditional recipe and history for King Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History KitchenServe warm or at room temperature. After cooling, the cake can be wrapped well in plastic, then foil and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Do not cover with the icing before freezing.

 

VARIATIONS

  • Cream Cheese-Filled King Cake: Beat 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese at room temperature with 1 cup (4 ounces/115 grams) confectioners’ sugar, ½ egg yolk (use the rest for the egg wash), and ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract. This can be used with or without the cinnamon filling.
  • HINT – To make colored sugar, in a jar shake ¼ cup granulated sugar with 4 drops yellow, green, or purple food coloring

 

Gil MarksGil Marks wrote about the history of American Cakes for ToriAvey.com, revealing the history and culture of the United States through its classic treat. An author, historian, chef, and social worker, Gil Marks was a leading authority on the history and culture of culinary subjects. Among his published books are James Beard Award finalist Encyclopedia of Jewish Food (Wiley: 2010), James Beard Award-winning Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World (Wiley 2004), and James Beard Award finalist The World of Jewish Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 1996). He was also among the international team of contributors to the prestigious Meals in Science and Practice (Woodhead Publishing, 2009) and Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival (Ruder Finn Press, 2011). In January 2012, Saveur Magazine included Encyclopedia of Jewish Food in its “100 New Classics” as “an indispensable resource.” Gil also wrote articles for numerous magazines; served as a guest lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America, Hazon, the New York Public Library, and the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference; acted as consultant for various companies and organizations; and given presentations throughout the world. Gil passed away in 2014; Tori shared a tribute to his life and work here. Read Gil’s posts here.

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