Sunday, January 6, 2013

Galette des Rois

As I write, I am somewhere in the bright, clear, U.S. air, flying to San Francisco to do a tour with my a capella group. I could not be more excited!

The sun is streaming in from the window. The light reflects off the pebbly clouds below like bloggers and journalers everywhere at the end of the year, who fill with resolutions and intents for the new year ahead.

And I made a Galette des Rois, or King Cake, an epiphany tradition in France. Maybe there's an epiphany hidden in the cake...more likely though, there's a monopoly hotel, because I didn't have a dried bean or baby Jesus figurine to hide inside.
What? That doesn't make any sense, does it. Or does it?

Well, traditionally, a bean or figurine is hidden near the crust inside the cake, and the cake is divided into as many pieces as there are people, plus one (the extra piece was kept in case a beggar came to the door for food.) Whoever gets the piece with the bean is King (or Queen) for the day.

This cake is one of my oldest taste memories, too. I lived in France for a year when I was 3, and very distinctly remember the flavor and texture. It's amazing to me that I could still remember after so long, but as such, Galette des Rois has been on my baking bucket list for a while, and I'm glad I finally got around to making it.

I was always disappointed in French class at school when we would get king cake, and every year I hoped I could taste again what I remember so strongly, and every year we got the traditional New Orleans-style king cake. Which is also good, just not what I remember.

Alas, I blab. This cake is kind of a tart, with an almond "frangipane" filling surrounded by a puff pastry crust and sealed at the edges. Mine wasn't entirely sealed, so some filling seeped out, but you know what? It tastes fantastic scraped off the baking sheet with a spoon. It's brushed with egg yolk, which creates a beautiful leathery lacquered sheen, and decorated with a simple pattern drawn in the top crust with a sharp knife.

Galette des Rois
Yield: one galette

  • 125g (about 1 cup) almond meal 
  • 125g sugar 
  • 125g (about 1 stick) unsalted butter 
  • 1 teaspoon rum 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon corn flour (omit if you don't have...I tried cornmeal and it detracted from the smoothness of the frangipane) 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm) 
  • 1 egg yolk 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Cream almond meal, butter, and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. 
  3. Add rum, vanilla extract, and corn flour and mix to combine. 
  4. Add the eggs and mix again to combine. 
  5. Lay one piece of puff pastry on a baking sheet. Fix cracks with fingers dipped in water. Use a plate (or eyeball) to give and cut form of circle. 
  6. Put frangipane on this circle of dough and smooth towards edges. Leave about an inch on all sides to seal. 
  7. Cut the other piece of puff pastry to make a circle, then lay it gently on top of the frangipane (do not press down). Seal the edges of the top and bottom with a bit of water and by pressing down with your fingers. 
  8. Brush the top of the galette with egg yolk, then cut a pattern in the top. You could do a diamond pattern, like I did, or a flower, or make your own pattern. 
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until deep golden brown and puffy. Cool to room temperature or just slightly warm before serving--cut into as many pieces as you have people plus one, and see who's your king for the day! 
Recipe from Mme. Strock, my parent's friend from France.

P.S. You know those corners you cut off to make the galette round? They are awesome with some cinnamon sugar, folded in half and baked for 20 mins at 400. Little cookie/croissant/turnover babies.

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