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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Braised Chicken with Gnocchi and Artichokes

While the Italians may have invented gnocchi, the French arguably perfected it with their love of soups and braises. This warm and comforting recipe features chicken, artichokes and gnocchi slow simmered in white wine and chicken stock. Topped with crème fraîche and fresh dill, the braising renders everything perfectly tender and mouthwatering.

After making this dish the second time around, I found that using two 6-ounce jars of DeLallo Marinated Artichoke Hearts, drained and reserved about 4 tablespoons of the marinade and added it to the braising liquid, added instant flavor to this slow-simmered dish. I also left the skin on the chicken for more flavor in the dish.Although amazing as a stand alone main course, I also serve this dish with a rustic French bread and side dish of steamed asparagus.

And as I think about it, this braised chicken dish, it reminds of the classic Southern dish, Chicken and Dumplings my Grand use to make when I was child. And while many of us are still waiting for Spring to begin and the snows to melt, this dish really hits the spot and is so filling with the lemony taste of dill.

Enjoy!

Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 chicken thighs and 2 chicken drumsticks
1 yellow onion
1/4 bunch fresh dill
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup crème fraîche
2 cups artichoke hearts
8 ounces prepared gnocchi


Directions:

Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towel. Peel onion and mince. Rinse dill and roughly chop leaves, discarding stems.

Heat butter and olive oil in a large high-sided pan over medium-high heat. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper. When oil is shimmering, add chicken and cook until bottom is browned and lifts easily from pan, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until second side is browned, 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove chicken and set aside. Discard fat from pan.

Add onion to pan from chicken over medium heat and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add white wine and chicken broth and scrape up brown bits from bottom of pan.

Return chicken to pan, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil over high heat. Then cover and reduce heat to medium low. Braise, covered, until chicken is cooked through and pulling away from bone, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove, reserving liquid in pan, cover with foil to keep warm, and set aside.

Add crème fraîche to pan with braising liquid and whisk to combine. Increase heat to medium high. Add artichoke hearts and gnocchi and cook, covered, until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Return chicken to pan and turn to coat, about 1 minute.

Divide chicken, artichokes, gnocchi, and braising liquid evenly between two pasta bowls. Garnish with dill and serve.

DSC07391

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Oxtail Bourguinonne

 

363718_oxtail-bourguinonne_1x1.jpg

Bourguignonne refers to any dish cooked in the style of Burgundy, France. This dish is similar to classic boeuf bourguignonne (French beef stew), which is beef braised with red wine and mushrooms. Although oxtail was once the tail of an ox, these days the bony cut can be beef or veal origin. Also note that mashed potatoes would make the perfect side dish. And if you desire a gluten free side dish, mashed cauliflower works just as well.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
8 slices fatty bacon, chopped
Olive oil
3 large fresh Italian parsley sprigs
3 large fresh thyme sprigs
2 large fresh bay leaves, bruised
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 to 4 1/4 pounds meaty oxtail pieces, trimmed of excess fat
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup diced carrot plus 6 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks
4 large garlic cloves, peeled; 1 minced, 3 left whole
1 3/4 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups red Burgundy wine (such as Beaujolais)
1 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
12 small shallots, blanched 1 minute, peeled

Directions:
Cook bacon in heavy large pot over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to plate. Pour drippings into small bowl. Return 6 tablespoons drippings to pot (add olive oil, if necessary, to measure 6 tablespoons total; reserve bacon for another use). Tie parsley, thyme, and bay leaves together for bouquet garni. Stir 1 tablespoon flour and butter in small bowl to smooth paste.

Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and nutmeg in medium bowl. Add oxtails, a few pieces at a time, to seasoned flour and toss to coat.

Heat bacon drippings in pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add oxtails and brown on all sides, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer oxtails to bowl after each batch.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Add chopped onions, diced carrot, and minced garlic to pot. Sauté until onions soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Return oxtails and any accumulated juices to pot. Add bouquet garni, then broth and wine. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer until meat is almost tender, adjusting heat occasionally to maintain gentle simmer, about 3 hours. Mix in mushrooms, shallots, carrot chunks, and whole garlic cloves. Increase heat and return to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover pot and simmer gently until meat and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes longer.

Tilt pot and spoon off any fat that rises to surface. Stir flour paste into stew. Simmer uncovered until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook’s Notes:
This dish can be made 1 day ahead. Allow it to cool  for 1 hour, then refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. To serve, rewarm over low heat before ladling into serving bowls.