“Galette des Rois”
A French New Year Tradition
The “Galette des Rois” or “Cake of the Kings” is a special cake that is looked forward to with great anticipation in much of France in January. They are available in most bakers from just before the Epiphany, the 6th January, to commemorate the arrival of the Three Kings to witness the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
The sharing out of the galette is the occasion to “tirer les rois” or draw kings. A “fève” (once literally a dried bean, nowadays usually replaced by a porcelain or plastic figurine) is hidden in the cake; the person who gets it in their slice becomes king for the day and wears the golden cardboard crown that always accompanies the cake.
The porcelain figurines come in a myriad of designs, frequently in sets themed on Disney characters, animals, saints, TV characters, etc. The little tooth-breaking figurines attract keen collectors; more than 10,000 “fève” figurines are kept at the Museum of Blain near Nantes and a market is held annually in March when collectors exchange pieces. There are even magazines like “The French Fabophile” and books published about these figures.
In some parts of France (e.g. Provence) the tradition is for a sort of cake made of brioche, rather than a galette, but in most regions the tradition is for a flat galette made of flaky pastry and filled with almond paste or frangipane.
Here in Normandy an apple filling is also popular, and other regions have their own special versions of the “galette des rois”.
To make a Galette des Rois for 8 people
250 grams of puff pastry
1 egg yolk
frangipane or almond paste
1 bean or figurine
Divide the pastry into two
Roll into two circles
Put one pastry circle on a plate
Spread a layer of almond paste or frangipane
Place the bean
Cover with the second circle of pastry
Using a knife or skewer, make a drawing on the pastry surface
Brush with beaten egg yolk
Bake 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees until top is golden brown
To make frangipane, if you can’t obtain any:
Make a syrup with ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water brought to the boil
Finely grate an orange peel
Place the peel in the boiling syrup for 15 minutes – keep an eye on it to make sure it does not burn
Let it cool to room temperature
Add 50 grams of sugar and 50 grams of butter and stir vigorously until the mix is soft and creamy
Add 1 beaten egg, 100 grams of almond powder, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, orange zest, 1 tablespoon of Cointreau
Beat an egg white to peaks and fold in