One of my favorite memories growing up was celebrating Epiphany with my mother’s side of the family in Paris. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you how we celebrated other than sitting around the table sharing a Galette des Rois. These cakes are sold in every bakery in France leading up to and around the first Sunday of January. Unfortunately they are close to impossible to finding here in Boston so you’ll just have to make your own.
A Galette des Rois is a cake made of flaky puff pastry layers with a dense center of frangipane. The south and north of France have slightly different versions with the south adding candied fruits, so I am sticking to what I know of from living in Paris.
Adapted from Wiki: Tradition holds that the cake is “to draw the kings” to the Epiphany. A figurine, la fève, is hidden in the cake and the person who finds the trinket in their slice becomes king for the day and will have to offer the next cake. Originally, la fève was literally a broad bean (fève), but it was replaced in 1870 by a variety of figurines out of porcelain. A paper crown is included with the cake to crown the “king” who finds the fève in their piece of cake. To ensure a random distribution of the cake shares, it is traditional for the youngest person to place themselves under the table and name the recipient of the share which is indicated by the person in charge of the service.
I chose this recipe from All Recipes and it came out very similar to as I remember. Its a lot of work (especially if you make the almond paste from scratch as I did) but well worth the efforts for the flood of memories.
1/4 cup almond paste
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1 (17.25 ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 dry kidney bean
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Place the almond paste into a food processor or blender with about half of the sugar, and process until well blended. Add the butter and remaining sugar using and process until smooth, then blend in 1 egg, vanilla extract, almond extract, flour and salt. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper, and set aside.
Roll out one sheet of the puff pastry into an 11 inch square. Keep the pastry cool, do not knead or stretch. Use a large pie plate, cake pan or frying pan to trace an 11 inch circle onto the dough using the tip of a small knife. Place the circle of pastry onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry. Refrigerate both sheets.
Mound the almond filling onto the center of the pastry that is on the baking sheet. Leave about 1 1/2 inch margin at the edges. Press the bean or feve down into the filling. Place the second sheet of pastry on top, and press down the edges to seal. Beat the remaining egg with a fork, and lightly brush onto the top of the galette. Use a knife to make a criss cross pattern in the egg wash, and then prick several small slits in the top to vent steam while baking.
Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Do not open the oven until the time is up, as the pastry will not fully puff. Remove from the oven, and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Return to the oven, and cook for an additional 12 to 15 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Lay a golden paper crown gently on top of the cake. This will be used to crown the person who finds the bean or feve. Serve warm or cold. Make sure to tell everyone about the bean or feve.
It was probably wise for my grandparents to buy numerous Galettes so that there could be numerous kings.