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Friday 18 Dec 2020    The French Pastry Guide

Galette des Rois - A Guide to French Pastries

Every month, we'll bring you a brand new French pastry including a little history, and the traditions that surround it!

What is it? 

The Galette des Rois is essentially frangipane encased within puff pastry and decorated by making cuts in the surface of the pastry. It's served in slices and can be eaten both hot and cold. 

What's the story?

We're glad you asked. Every year on the feast of the Epiphany this particular treat takes center stage, as families across France enjoy a final indulgence to mark the end of the festive season. This is a tradition that goes back to the 14th century, so it's only fair that if you're in Paris during January you get in on the act.

It's called Galette des Rois - the Cake of the Kings - in tribute to the three kings that arrived bearing gifts on the Epiphany. Of course, during the French Revolution - when being a King could lose you not just your popularity but your head - the name was changed to Gâteau de l'égalité or the cake of equality. 

The coveted crown awarded to the winner of the féve. Just watch your teeth! ©LaCuisineParis

Enjoying a Galette des Rois is not just about putting the kettle on and blithely cutting yourself a slice to enjoy with a nice cup of Earl Grey. It's a little more involved than that! First, the youngest member of the party must sit under the table. Obviously. Then, they must call out the name of a recipient for each newly sliced piece of cake. Why? You may well ask. 

The trick here is that hidden somewhere within the galette is the féve - the literal translation being a bean - for some lucky recipient to find. If they find it in their slice, they can claim the golden crown which is always provided along with a galette des rois, as in the photograph above. By calling out the names at random the child under the table ensures the randomness of the winner.

Today, it may still be called a féve, but it isn't actually a bean. Why was it ever a bean? I hear you ask. Well, one theory is that the Romans held their winter feasts and hid a bean in one of the dishes - hailing the finder of the féve King of the Feast. Come Christianity, the tradition of the féve became part of the Epiphany galette des rois tradition, and here we are, with children under tables yelling out names and hopeful friends and family members eating carefully to avoid crunching down on a porcelain or plastic figurine - these days, they can be anything at all, and people collect the little charms for years and years! 

If you arent able to get here this year, book mark it for next! Wondering where to buy your Galette des Rois in Paris? We have a map for that! Check it out just here! 

So how can I make it? 

A quick little recipe for you to play with at home! You will need :

Two Store bought puff pastry (or make them yourself) : one for the bottom and one for the top of the Galette

Almond Cream

110 g Sugar

110 g butter

2 eggs (100g)

110 g ground almonds

20 g flour

Pastry Cream

250 g milk

1 egg

25 g cornstarch

60 g sugar

1 Vanilla bean

Instructions for fillings :

Prepare Almond Cream : Combine butter and sugar in mixing bowl and mix till creamy.  Add eggs one at a time and mix until completely combined.  Add the ground almonds and flour and mix well.

Prepare Pastry Cream : Bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla. Beat the egg with the sugar until the mixture is pale and thick, and stir in the starch. Pour some of the milk into that mixture, stir, then pour back into the saucepan. Heat gently, and stir continuously until the mixture thickens and boils. Remove from the heat and transfer into a large bowl. Set aside to cool.

When Pastry cream is cool, mix together almond cream and pastry cream.

Assembly :

This is where your creative juices can flow! You will need a very sharp knife / razor blade

Cut two circles (large or small depending on what you prefer). Place one circle on a baking sheet and pipe the Frangipane garnish onto the dough (we use a pastry bag and usually pipe in a winding circle form), leaving ½ inch border on the outside. Push a trinket into the cream. Brush the border with egg wash.  Top with the other circle and press down firmly on the edges to seal.  Turn upside down to hide possible finger marks. With the tip of a knife, make a hole on top of the Galette.

Brush the entire top with eggwash. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30mn. Brush with eggwash again, then use a small sharp knife /razor  to make decorative cuts. Bake at 190°C for 30 to 40 mins (depending on size) or till golden brown and puffy. Brush with sugar syrup immediately after taking out of the oven.  

Prepare to enjoy! Don't forget to have a crown ready for you if you are making individuals, or for whomever finds the fève!

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