The new year is settling in, but before officially wrapping up the Holiday season there is one more ritual that French people will gather for and enjoy: the Galette des Rois.
The Galette des Rois, also know as King’s Cake, is a scrumptious treat enjoyed for the Epiphany on January 6 (to celebrate the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem). But truth to be told, the French love this early January treat so much that it is enjoyed throughout the entire month (several times!).
There are two kinds of “Galette des Rois” in France. The first one, from the South of France, is a yeasted cake shaped in a crown and usually topped with colourful candied fruit. We’re making the second version – more popular in the North of France – made from two layers of buttery puff pastry filled with almond cream, known as “frangipane”.
And with Galette comes the tradition of “drawing the king and the queen”. A lucky charm figurine (called “la fève”) is hidden in the galette (before baking it, usually inserted inside the frangipane filling). The galette is then cut up and served, and the person who finds the figurine in their slice ( … or in their mouth), becomes king or queen for the day.
As playful as this might sound, these little “fèves” are, for some French, highly collectibles gems. You will see them in most antique markets and stores in France, and they come in so many shapes, images (from religious icons, celebrities, cartoon characters and pretty much anything you could imagine), and of course prices (some porcelaine vintage fèves can be pretty pricey.) It has become common for bakeries to come up with their own line of figurines each year. They are truly part of the French culture, and you wouldn’t believe how delighted a french can be if they’re the one getting the fève!
And to keep things as fair as possible, another part of this family ritual is to have the youngest child of the family hide under the table and call out which slice goes to whom, while an adult divides the galette in even slices.
And if you buy your “Galette des Rois” at a bakery in France (which, let’s be honest, most people do nowadays), a gold paper crown will be included so it can be offered to the king or queen who finds the fève.
- This version of the Galette des Rois is the most classic one you will find, with two puff pastry layers and a creamy frangipane filling. But the beauty of making your own galette is that you can tweak it as you want – by adding 2 tbsp of cocoa in the filling for example, or sliced up apples or pears (they are delicious with the almond cream). Another spin is to use ground pistachios or hazelnuts, instead of almonds.
- I used Tenderflake ready-to-bake puff pastry sheets – find it in the freezer section of your grocery store (that I then cut out into two 9” circles). It’s important to keep your puff pastry sheets well-chilled. Take them out of the fridge and work with them quickly to create the galettes. Puff pastry tends to get pretty sticky and uneasy when it warms up.
- Do not skip out on the almond extract! This is what gives the frangipane filling its unique delicious taste.
Galettes des RoisPrint This
For the « Frangipane » Almond Filling
1 cup (100g) almond meal
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
zest of 1/2 orange (organic)
3 1/2 ounces (100g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 puff pastry sheets (450g ; 225g each)
A fève (or a whole almond, if you can’t find one)
For the Glaze
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk
For the almond filling:
In a medium bowl, combine the almond meal, sugar, salt and orange zest. Add the butter and cream (with a spatula or in a stand mixer) until the butter is fully incorporated. Stir in the eggs, one at a time., followed by the almond extract. Cover the bowl with a plastic film and chill.
To build the Galette:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out your puff pastry pieces into 9 ½” circles, or (if using square sheets), use a plate or a cake pan to cut them out in circles. Chill them for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 375F.
Remove the pastry circles and frangipane filling from the fridge at the same time. Lay the first pastry circle on the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread the almond filling in the middle, leaving a 1 inch border. Stick the fève, or whole amond somewhere in the filling. Brush the border generously with water and quickly cover the galette with the other circle of puff pastry. Press down all around the border to seal the edges (make sure they are sealed well, or the filling will escape during baking).
Flute the sides of the galette, using a knife and your fingers (as shown on photo). Brush the whole galette generously with the glaze (the egg yolk stirred with the milk). With a small knife, create a design on top of the galette and poke a small whole in the middle of the top layer (to let steam escape while baking).
Bake for 30 minutes, until the galette is golden. Right out of the oven, the galette will be puffy but will deflate when cooling down. Transfer to a cooling rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Like most puff pastry treats, the Galette des Rois is best enjoyed the day of.