We Had an Epiphany!

As if the Christmas and New Year holiday parties didn’t stuff us full enough of buttery and sugar filled deliciousness, now there’s more.  In France we continue the excuse for imbibing in scrumptious goodies into the New Year when we celebrate Epiphany on January 6th.   Epiphany is the day when the Three Kings visited the Baby Jesus and is also the close of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The traditional Galette des rois, Gâteau des rois otherwise known as the French King cake is a cake/tart celebrating this wonderful holiday and is traditionally sold and consumed a few days before and after the 6th of January. As part of French custom, a bean or small china feve (favor) is hidden in the cake. The person who finds the feve in his or her slice becomes king or queen for the day.

There is a hitch though.  There is one person that doesn’t get to partake in “draw the kings” on Epiphany because of etiquette – the President of France.  It would be improper to crown a king inside the Elysée Palace, so President Nicolas Sarkozy and his beautiful First Lady Carla will have to have their traditional galette without the figurine or feve.

For the rest of us, here’s how to partake in the ritual of the Galette des rois:

  • Gather friends and family around the kitchen table.
  • Nominate one person (typically the youngest child and also the most nimble) to crawl under the table and act as “la main innocente“.
  • Nominate someone else (typically the oldest, or at least the most honest) to act as the “distributeur des parts“.
  • Serve the galette, in French we say “tirer les rois”. The distributeur cuts the galette into slices that are held up one by one and served to the person named by the child under the table. This elaborate process ensures a random distribution of the feve so that no one cheats.
  • Proceed to lovingly devour the galette, perhaps with a glass of cider or a nice medium red dessert wine.
  • 99 times out of 100, someone will suddenly announce that they have found the feve and they are the one that gets crowned the king or queen for the day.  Hopefully they don’t find it by breaking a tooth.
  • Crown the finder king or queen with a paper crown you’ve had the kids make to keep them busy while you were preparing the galette.

We thought it might you might enjoy making your own Galette des rois to crown your royalty for the day, so we’ve included a recipe for you here.

Galette des Rois

Yield: Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup pure almond paste (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 (17 1/4-oz) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1 dried bean such as a lima bean (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Purée almond paste, granulated sugar, butter, and a pinch of salt in a food processor until smooth. Add 1 egg, vanilla, and almond extract and purée until incorporated. Add flour and pulse until incorporated.

Roll out 1 puff pastry sheet into an 11 1/2-inch square on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, then brush off excess flour from both sides. Cut out an 11-inch round by tracing around an inverted plate with tip of a paring knife. Transfer round to a buttered large baking sheet (not dark metal, or pastry may brown too much), discarding trimmings, and chill. Repeat procedure with second pastry sheet, leaving round on floured surface.

Beat remaining egg with a fork and brush some over top of second round. Score round decoratively all over using tip of knife, then make several small slits all the way through pastry, at about 2-inch intervals, to create steam vents.

Brush some of egg in a 1-inch-wide border around edge of chilled pastry round (on baking sheet). Mound almond cream in center of chilled round, spreading slightly, and bury bean in cream. Immediately cover with decorated round and press edges together lightly. Holding a small spoon with side at an angle, press around edge to seal galette decoratively.

Bake galette in lower third of oven until puffed and pale golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Dust galette with confectioners’ sugar and bake in upper third of oven until edge is deep golden brown and shiny, 12 to 15 minutes more. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Have some fun introducing family and friends to a new custom that is celebrated worldwide, but as usual we French have turned into a gastronomical tour de force….Bon Appetite!!!

Now where’s the gym?

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