La Galette des Rois is a French tradition that has been around for centuries. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the French Revolution, the customs and reasons behind this celebration have seen many transformations. Today, these thin, frangipane filled pastry puff cakes adorned with a golden crown can found displayed in patisserie windows across France throughout the whole month of January.
The least obvious and yet most exciting part of this tradition is the “fève”. The hiding of un fève (a lucky charm or bean) inside the galette, was originally taken from a Roman holiday, Saturnalia. During this time of “king and slave” role reversal, whoever found the hidden bean inside the cake, was crowned king for a day. Later, the Catholic church named this day “le jour des rois” as a way to celebrate the Magi’s finding of the baby Jesus, “L’Epiphany”. The bean eventually was replaced by small charms, which have also taken on many faces. From porcelain to plastic, these figurines have even become a favorite for many collectors.
Although most people have their own interpretation, one thing is sure: the fun of “role reversal”, the suspense of finding “le fève”, and the delicious taste of the cake keep this culinary treat a staple in homes across France. The slight downfall, however, is the steep prices on these beauties. Below is a simple and delicious recipe to make within your very own walls. It’s completely feasible!
- 1/2c sugar
- 1/3c butter
- 2 eggs
- 2 yolks
- 1c ground almond
- 2 rolls of puff pastry
For the frangipane stuffing
Whip the sugar and the butter at room temperature until the mix whitens. Add one whole egg while continuing to whip, then the ground almond then the other egg. Mix well.
For the puff pastry
Cook or buy the equivalent of 2 rolls of puff pastry. Spread each puff pastry in the shape of a plate. On one of the puff pastry, pour the Frangipane in the middle and spread it on the pastry while avoiding the sides. Put the other pastry on top and roll the sides towards the inside to seal the galette. Then take a brush and spread some yolk on the whole cake to give it a golden color. Let the whole cake rest for 45 minutes. Spread again some yolk. With a know, draw horizontal and vertical lines on the dough (without cutting it!) and put in an oven for 25 minutes at 400F (200C). Serve cooled or hot.