Posts Tagged ‘galette de rois’
I had to go into Manhattan the other day, to Broadway Panhandlers (a kitchen supply store), for some things that I needed. It was a frigidly cold day, and I had nowhere else to be (for the first time in a very long time), so I decided that afterwards, I would stop in somewhere and get a cup of coffee. Well, after I did my shopping, my bladder began warning me that if I decided to have any beverage with ties to Ethiopia, it would boldly protest. And because I hate using public restrooms, I decided to forgo the coffee. I was a little hungry, though, so I went in search of something that I could nibble on while riding home on the train.
A block away from Broadway Panhandlers, I spotted a Financiers, a French coffee/pastry shop, on Astor Place. There’s a Financiers around the corner from my school and I had stopped in there just about every week for a cup of Saturday afternoon coffee, but I had never tried one of their baked goods. So, here was my opportunity. I walked in and checked out the selection in the display case, and found it oddly sparse. I don’t know if this was normal for a Saturday afternoon or if they had gotten a huge influx of people stopping in for something warm and a bite to eat on this bitter January day, but there was not much of a selection. I almost walked out.
Then something caught my eye. Something labeled a galette de rois. With my very limited knowledge of French, I knew that this meant “king cake,” which was reinforced in my mind when I realized what time of the year it was.
King Cake is puff pastry filled with frangipane cream and is associated with the Christian festival of Epiphany. The feast of the Epiphany, traditionally falling on January 6, is the celebration of the revelation of Christ in human form. For Christians in the Western world, this more specifically celebrates the visitation of the Three Kings on the Baby Jesus, which is why the holiday also goes by the name of Three Kings Day. In the East, it revolves around the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. In the United States, the king cake is also eaten in celebration of Mardi Gras, as it is wherever Carnival takes place. Traditionally, a little ceramic baby (representing the Baby Jesus), or some other trinket, is baked inside the cake. The person who gets the little prize is responsible for hosting the following year’s Epiphany celebration. The English tradition is to put a bean in the cake, which is why it also goes by the name Bean Cake. (By the way, there’s a different kind of king cake that is actually a stuffed bread and which is decorated with bright Mardi Gras-type colors. That’s not the kind of king cake I’m talking about.) In the French tradition, a large king cake is topped with a paper crown.
Love Live the King
When I stepped onto my train, I sat down and reached into my bag for a bite of my galette de rois. I tried to break off a mouthful but as I pinched the crisp pastry, I discovered that it was so flaky that it crumbled in my fingers. And it was so buttery that my fingers came away with the pastry glued to my fingers. I knew that if I made any further attempts at breaking off a piece, I would be covered in puff pastry flakes. My king cake had to wait until I got home.
So, now I was home. I made myself some espresso and cut into my cake. The flakey layers crackled slightly as the knife went through them, which promised me a light crunch between my teeth. I wasn’t disappointed. The puff pastry was indeed light, flaky, and buttery, but not sickeningly so (when something is too buttery, it makes me nauseated). The frangipane cream was sweet but not cloying, and had floral, fruity notes. Frangipane is an almond pastry cream made from butter, eggs, sugar, and almonds. It is sometimes enhanced by almond or vanilla extract, or other flavorings. It was really a delicious dessert.
If you want to try making king cake yourself, it’s really quite easy, and here’s a recipe that I made up myself. Although king cake is usually for the Epiphany, I think it will go over very well any time of year.
Galette de Rois (King Cake)*
1/2 cup ground almonds
½ cup softened butter
2/3 cup organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
1 package puff pastry (thawed if frozen)
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Combine all frangipane cream ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.
3. Cut four 4-inch circles in the puff pastry sheet. Place two of them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Place equal amounts of the cream in the center of the two circles. Top each one with the remaining puff pastry rounds. Pinch them gently around the edges to seal.
5. Beat the egg with a little water and brush the egg wash over the tops of each galette.
6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. If it gets too dark too fast, lower the heat to 350 and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes.
* For a traditional celebration, make several batches and place a little ceramic baby, bean or trinket in one of them. Share them with family and friends and whoever gets the prize will have to make them next year. You can also make little paper crowns and top each cake with one.