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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Pancakes with Roasted Strawberries

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If you like strawberry shortcakes, then you will love this short stack of buttermilk pancakes topped with caramelized strawberries and crunchy almonds and drizzles of butter and syrup. Add bacon or breakfast sausage links for the perfect combination of sweet and savory and serve them up for a spectacular brunch.

Makes Twelve 4-inch Pancakes

Ingredients:
For the roasted strawberries:
1 pound strawberries, hulled, halved, quartered if large
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

For the pancakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, plus more for pan and serving
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

Directions:
To Roast the strawberries:Preheat oven to 425°F. Place strawberries, sugar, and salt in a glass baking dish. Scrape in vanilla seeds, add pod, and stir to combine. Roast, stirring occasionally, until juices are bubbling, 15–18 minutes. Let cool slightly and discard pod.

To Make the pancakes:Whisk flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Beat eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and 3 Tbsp. melted butter in a medium bowl with a fork to incorporate eggs. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Batter will be slightly lumpy.

Heat a large griddle or 2 cast-iron or nonstick skillets over medium; brush with butter. Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto griddle. Cook until bubbles form on the surface and pop, and the underside is golden brown, 2 1/2–3 minutes. Flip and cook until lightly browned on the bottom, 2 1/2–3 minutes more. Transfer pancakes to plates or a platter and brush tops with butter. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing griddle with butter as needed.
Serve pancakes topped with roasted strawberries and sprinkled with almonds, if desired.

Cook’s Notes:
Roasted strawberries can be made up to 5 days ahead and leftovers can be enjoyed over biscuits, yogurt, or ice cream.

Pancakes can be kept warm on a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet in a 250°F oven.

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Jalousie aux Amandes et a l’Abricot et Pêche

 

Jalousie means “shutter” in French, and these traditional slatted puff pastry fruit pies looks just like the shutters outside the houses all over the French shutterscountryside.  Using ready made puff pastry from your local supermarket’s frozen food section  along  with almonds, apricot and peach preserves, this is a very easy and elegant dessert, will surely  impress your family and friends.

 

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons apricot preserves
3 Tablespoons peach preserves
1⁄2  pound puff pastry
Water
1 beaten egg
2 Tablespoons superfine sugar
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoons sugar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425º F.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the apricot and peach preserves; set aside.

Roll out the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch square. Cut in half to make two rectangles.

Place one half on a baking sheet that you have sprayed with water.  Brush all around the edges with beaten egg. Spread over the apricot and peach preserves.

Fold the remaining piece of dough in half lengthwise and cut eight evenly spaced diagonal slits from the center fold to about 1/2-inch of the outer edge all the way along.

Unfold the pastry and place  it on top of the preserve covered pastry on the baking sheet , matching each edge carefully to the base. Cut into fourths  and press edges together well to seal. Scallop the edges at close intervals with the back of a small knife.

Brush the slashed pastries top with water and sprinkle with  sugar and sliced almonds. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until well risen and golden brown. Remove the jalouise from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Pour the heavy whipping cream into a large bowl, and whisk in sugar for approximately 3 to 5 minutes, until the cream reaches the soft peak stage.

Serve the jalouise with the  whipped cream and café au lait,  if desired.

 

 

DSC05344- otmatk-jalouise

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All photographs and content  on this blog “On the Menu @ Tangie’s Kitchen” are copyright protected. Please do not use these photographs without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.
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