Friday, January 6, 2012

Galette des Rois

Mmm, the almond flavor and chewiness makes this delectable pastry unforgettable. It also makes me think of freezing cold winter weather, and drifts of snow.
Epiphany is celebrated in France on the Sunday closest to January 6th, by serving a special puff pastry dessert filled with almond cream, also called Pithiviers, named after the town 50 miles away from Paris that specializes in making them. In southern France, they traditionally serve a brioche similar to the Spanish Rosca. A feve, or bean, is hidden inside, and the person who finds it in their piece of pie is the king of the evening, gets to wear a golden paper crown, and can play their role by bossing other people if they like. Another practice is to expect that person to purchase next year's galette. The children hide under the table, where they can't see the pastry, and say the names of the people who will receive the next piece of pie. The number of pieces equals the number of guests plus one. The extra piece is called "God´s piece" or the "Virgin´s piece". Next, most people continue eating galette during the entire month of January.
The origin of the pastry comes from Roman times, when they had parties called Saturnalia at the end of December; the slaves were similarly given a chance to be the "king of the day" if they found a bean in their piece of cake.
In 1650, the modern galette was first eaten by Louis XIV and his mother, Anne of Austria.
During the French Revolution, the pastry was briefly renamed Equality Cake.
I got my recipe from Pierre Herme´s cookbook, and also tried Chef Simon`s:

600 g Puff Pastry
450 g Frangipane (made up of 1/3 pastry cream or creme patissiere, and 2/3 almond cream)
1 beaten egg,  to brush on the pastry 
To make the frangipane, you will need to grind your almonds in a blender or coffee grinder, as shown in this picture; this way you will obtain almond powder, which you can see on the left side, weighed on a small kitchen scale. In some places the almond powder can be found already made and ready for purchase in the supermarket.

Instructions for making the Galette: Mix the required amount of pastry cream in the almond cream. Next measure the pound of almond cream and reserve it to place it on the raw dough. Roll out an 11-inch round of puff pastry and place it on parchment paper on an aluminum baking sheet. Then place the almond cream in the center of the round, and make sure you have left a margin of 3 inches all around the mound of cream. Lightly moisten that margin with water on a brush. Add a red kidney bean, or a feve. Roll out another circle of dough and place it on top of the cream and first round of pastry. Pinch the edges shut.
Be careful to seal the edges shut, or the almond cream will crawl out of the pastry, and a pool of it will surround your galette and will overcook. It's tasty, but it's better if it stays inside the pastry. Brush the pastry with a previously beaten egg, then make a design by cutting into the top of your pastry with a sharp knife.You can make spirals that are separated by approximately two inches on the edge of the pastry, similar to the one in the picture. Or you can make horizontal and vertical lines that leave the pastry looking like graph paper.  Next, leave it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before placing it in a 200ºC oven for 20 minutes, then 190ºC for 20 more minutes, or until the top is golden.

There are many recipes for galette des rois of different flavors. Whereas some people are horrified by seeing the traditional pastry transformed, others are entranced by Pierre´s chocolate Isadora, or look up ways to add fruit to their galette.


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