Sunday, July 08, 2007

Galette des Rois a traditional French cake served to celebrate Epiphany, on the 6th of January. It commemorates the wise men arriving to see baby Jesus. Of course, the cake was a much bigger deal back in the days when everyone was Catholic. Or at least, Christian.

Galettes are also tied up in the history and traditions of Twelfth Night in the UK.

It's not seasonally relevant right now, but I came across my recipe today and wanted to blog about its rich customs and beautiful traditions anyway!

Recipes vary by quite a lot. Here's three possibilities: one plain, one with apples and one with almond cream (in French). Galettes des rois can be sweet or even savoury, with or without almond meal. See a beautifully-prepared specimen here. In New Orleans and surrounding areas, it's called a king cake (because of the literal translation: cake of kings.)
Most of the time, it's filled with a frangipane (a buttery almond meal mixture).
In Southern areas of France it might be called a gateau des rois and be a sort of brioche, flavoured with orange flower water and filled with preserved fruits. Best eaten warm or at room temperature, and is excellent with strong tea or coffee.

Traditionally, the galette must be cut into slices, enough for each person at the table, and plus one more. The extra slice is for either God, the Virgin, or the first pauper to present themselves at the front door.

The youngest person present must crawl under the table and choose the order in which each person is served: this (supposedly!) makes the serving order random.

Somewhere in the galette is hidden a feve: a porcelain or plastic figure (nowadays it could be a coin, a pea, a bean, or whatever.) Whoever finds the feve is crowned king for the day. The king (or queen) then gets to choose his or her royal spouse to join them.

Feve collecting has become a popular hobby in France, as some of the old china or porcelain feves are exceptionally beautifully, detailed or handpainted.

When you buy galettes in French patisseries, the cakes come with a gold cardboard crown for the king to wear. It is also the custom that the king is the one who must provide the galette for the following year!

My recipe was provided to me by a French woman now living and teaching in Brisbane. She scribbled it down from memory on a scrap of paper, and I transcribe it for you now.

Galette des Rois

125g softened unsalted butter
Half cup caster sugar
3 beaten eggs
1 and a half tablespoons plain flour
125g almond meal
1 good tablespoon rum
2 to 3 sheets of puff pastry, thawed

Cream together the butter and sugar. Reserve a little bit of beaten egg for later, and mix in the rest of the egg. Add the flour, almond meal and rum, and stir gently.
Line a greased pie tin or a shallow dish with enough puf fpastry to cover it in a single layer, with slight overhang. Pour mixture into the centre and spread out neatly, almost to the edges. Glaze the exposed pastry edges with some of the leftover beaten egg. Insert the feve or token somewhere into the galette mixture. Top with more pastry, trimmed to fit. Press the two layers together at the edges to seal. (At this point you can decorate the top using bits of pastry if you like.)
Paint the top with beaten egg, sprinkle with caster sugar, and cut a small hole in the centre. (Without the hole, it might puff up and burst itself.)
Bake in a preheated 200C oven for about 25 minutes.


KJ said...

Yum, this looks good.

I just dropped by to let you know that I have tagged you for a meme, visit my blog for the details. I won't be upset if you don't want to do it.

KJ said...

I have always wanted to try making one of these. Thanks for sharing the recipe.