What’s the big deal with the King Cake dessert?
It’s that time of the year – no, not for making resolutions to eat healthier, silly. It’s the month of the galette des rois, or King Cake! What is it? Why, only an almond custard-y layer of heaven surrounded by light and buttery puff pastry.
That’s right… forget your 2018 diet plans: This is France!
If you’ve been to France in January, you’ve probably seen these beautifully golden, flaky, round amazing things in the windows of bakeries.
If you do… I have very special instructions for you: Buy one. Heat it up (oven for 10 minutes at 300F/150C). Slice it into triangles. TAKE. A. BITE.
A French galette des rois is two pieces of buttery puff pastry sandwiching an almond-custard filling. It sounds simple and a bit boring but I promise you it is divine. Even just the smell of one warm in the oven will immediately perk up your tastebuds…
Image: France 3
Hidden inside each of these is one fèveem>, a tiny ceramic token. In France, to serve a galette des rois one person cuts the galette while another (usually a child) hides under the table and dictates who each piece should go to. The person who has the fève in their piece is King – or Queen – for the day! They are crowned (typically a paper crown)… and they are supposed to buy the next galette.
Well, with great power comes great responsibility…
Traditionally, galettes des rois begin being sold on Epiphany, which is 12 days after Christmas. Ie: January 6! The holiday is commonly known as Three King’s Day, which explains the name of this dessert. Many bakeries and grocery stores however, begin selling before Epiphany. It’s not uncommon to see galettes right after Christmas!
Traditionally galettes des rois are eaten up until the end of January. (But just because you can no longer find them in bakeries doesn’t mean you can’t eat one… hence this recipe!).
Did you know that the galette des rois delivered to the Elysée Palace (home of the French president) never has a fève inside? the President of France is not allowed to be a King, even if just in words!
(And that’s a tiny indication of the importance of the French Revolution…)
However I thought it was far more interesting to find out how scrumptious home-made galettes are. I’d like to share the love by sharing the recipe…
Note that this recipe makes a pastry cream frangipane… there are simpler recipes without that extra step. However, I’ve tested many galette recipes over the years and the pastry cream is what makes this a five-star recipe.
Galette des Rois five-star recipe
Adapted from a Nestlé recipe
Pastry Cream Ingredients
- 25 cl / 1 c milk
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 egg yolks
- 55 g / 1/4c sugar
- 15g / 2 Tbs flour
- 15g / 2 Tbs flan powder or corn starch
Almond Filling Ingredients
- 100g / 1/2c non-salted butter
- 100g / 3/4c + 1 Tbs powdered sugar
- 2 eggs
- 100g / 1c almond meal
- Splash of rum (optional)
Other things you’ll need
- 2 pre-made puff pastries ‘pur buerre’, or made with butter (Note: if you have square puff pastries as is common in North America, cut them into circles – use a bowl’s edge to trace it!)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 feve (small ceramic token)
- 1 crown (optional, but way more fun)
1. Make the pastry cream: heat your milk in a pot over medium heat. Split the vanilla bean length-wise, scrape all the yummy vanilla goodness into the milk.
2. While the milk is heating, in a separate bowl whisk the 3 egg yolks with the sugar until mixture lightens in color. Incorporate the flour and flan powder/corn starch.
3. Slowly pour about a quarter of the hot milk into the yolk mixture while whisking continuously until combined. Then pour everything into the pot with the rest of the milk and stir over low heat until it thickens and no longer tastes like flour (it will be slightly less thick than custard). Cover with plastic wrap and let cool completely.
4. Make the almond filling: work the butter in a bowl until it’s smooth, the consistency of pomade. Add the powdered sugar and combine until smooth. Then mix in 2 eggs, the almond powder, and a spash of rum.
5. Mix together the completely cooled pastry cream and the almond filling. Congratulations: you have created delicious frangipane, the filling for the galette! Go ahead and taste it…
6. At this stage, everything’s ready to be assembled. If you’re ready to eat the galette ASAP, preheat your oven to 210C/410F and carry on with the rest. If you want to wait until after dinner or tomorrow to compose the galette (it takes about 5 minutes to do and then 30 to cook), put the mixture in the fridge for the time being.
7. Now you’ll compose the galette: take your 2 puff pastries out of the fridge. Unroll one (keep it on its parchment paper) directly onto a cookie sheet. Spread on the frangipane up until about 2cm (3/4 in) from the edge of the pastry. The mixture should be about 1cm (1/3 in) thick. Drop in your feve close to the edge of the galette – that way you have less of a chance of cutting into it later on.
8. With your finger, wet the edges of that puff pastry. Unroll your second puff pastry and place it over the bottom one. Softly press the edges to ensure the top and bottom layers stick together during baking.
9. Whisk an egg yolk with a splash of water, and brush a thin layer of that mixture onto the top of your galette. Lightly score the top layer of puff pastry (don’t cut all the way through it). There are many designs you can make, but here are some of the most common:
Images: cuisinezavecdjouza.fr, jimcdn.com, Madame Figaro, marmiton.fr
10. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes at 210C/410F. Start checking for doneness after about 20 minutes by slightly lifting up the galette to see how the bottom is cooking – it should be a nice golden brown. If the top is getting too golden or starting to burn, move your oven rack down to a lower position. For smaller ovens you may want to turn on the lower heat only function.
11. Remove your galette des rois from the oven, place on a serving dish, and slice like a pie to serve. Enjoy – and Long Live the King!