January 18, 2012

Galette des rois, or kings cake

As far back as my memories go, I remember "drawing the kings", or sharing a "galette des rois" every year at or around Epiphany early January. Although the "kings cake" tradition also exists in many other countries, galette des rois is characteristic to northern France, and consists of a puff pastry case filled with almond paste or "frangipane". A small porcelain figurine or "fève" (literally bean, for a broad bean was originally used) is hidden inside the cake, and the person who receives the slice with the fève becomes the king or the queen of the feast.

A few years ago, I started to make galette des rois myself and was surprised to see how easy it is - well as long as you don't mind buying puff pastry from the supermarket (or better from a good pâtissier) as making your own is a rather long and tricky job.. Not only did this provide us all with the pleasure of homemade galette, but it also allowed me to pick from the pâtisserie's collection a fève I really liked - and hopefully keep it beyond the feast among my personal collection... Anxious to perpetuate the tradition when I then moved to Hong Kong, I did not have much choice but making galette des rois myself anyway, as only high-end cake shops offered some, at the price you would expect from such addresses and for such a specialized product.

As we were staying with some old friends and their two lovely boys in San Francisco just a few days ago, it seemed like the perfect occasion for me to share one of my dearest traditions and get back in the kitchen for a short while. Unable to find puff pastry at the nearby supermarket, I used pie crust instead. The light and flaky texture did the trick pretty well in the end, the main drawback being that the pastry browned rapidly on the edges and made my galette look pretty rustic. Anyway, everyone enjoyed it along with the story behind - especially the kids who devoured their slices faster than all of us in their quest for the hidden fève...

As it's definitely still time to draw the kings, here's the recipe that I have been using over the past years. Okay the galette may not look quite as refined as the one from the patisserie, but you'll see it's really quick and easy to prepare, and tastes at least just as delicious!

Ingredients for 6 to 8 people
2 round sheets of puff pastry
3 eggs
80g of caster sugar
120g of almond meal
60g of unsalted butter
2 pouches or 15g of Alsa vanilla sugar (or a few drops of vanilla extract)
1 tbsp of rum
fève (basically any small figurine made of non-toxic and non-melting material works..)

Preheat your oven to 210°C.

Using an electric whisk, beat 2 eggs and the caster sugar together. Once the mixture has whitened, incorporate the almond meal and the softened butter and beat a little longer until you get a smooth paste. Lastly, add the vanilla sugar and the rum and give it a last good whisk.

Place a baking sheet on a baking tray, and unroll one of the two puff pastry sheets on top of it. Spread the almond paste leaving a 2cm margin around the edge. Place the fève in the almond paste, quite close to the edge (this way you will be less likely to come across it when you cut slices).

Beat the remaining egg and lightly brush the edge with it. Unroll the second sheet of puff pastry and place it on top to enclose the filling, and merge the edges by pressing with a fork. (At this stage, I usually draw a small mark in front of where I placed the fève. When it's time to eat the galette, I cut the first slice around this mark, and this way avoid the disappointment that cutting on the fève would create…)

Brush the top of the pie with the remainder of the beaten egg. Pierce holes using a fork and score a wide criss-cross pattern with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut through to the filling.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, covering with a sheet of foil if the galette browns too much. Allow to cool down for a few minutes before serving.

Added on December 9, 2013:
Try and make your own puff pastry! Not as complicated as it may sound if you follow this recipe: Easy puff pastry. It will look and taste even better!

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