Bonne annee

At this time of year in France, when you see someone for the first time after New Year’s Eve, it is customary to exchange new year’s greetings. So, without further ado:

Bonne annee, bonne sante, meilleurs voeux to you all!!

This greeting is usually accompanied by a kiss on each cheek, not a real kiss but kind of touching cheeks and making the appropriate noise.  So please feel yourself virtually kissed!!

The new year’s greetings go on until the end of January!

Soon after Christmas, the galettes des rois or Epiphany cakes make an appearance in the shops and bakeries.  The tradition of the cake is closely tied to the three kings who came to Bethlehem bringing myrrh, gold and frankincense to baby Jesus.

Epiphany cakes come in one of two shapes:  there is the flat galette des rois, a frangipane filled puff pastry confection, or a ring shaped cake made with brioche dough which is often called a royaume and is decorated with sugar and/or with glacé fruit.  That same ring-shaped cake can also be found filled with cream!!

Common to all varieties is the fact that a favour is baked into them.  In olden days, the favour would have been a feve, a dried fava bean.  In France the favour is still called a feve and it is usually a tiny porcelain figure (watch your teeth!!).  Whoever finds the feve in their piece of cake is crowned king for the day.  Whenever you buy an Epiphany cake in any bakery or shop, a small cardboard crown is always part of the purchase!

Another tradition attached to the eating of the Epiphany cake concerns the dividing of the cake.  The youngest person usually sits under the dining table.  The cake is then cut into pieces, and the person under the table then calls out the name of the person who is to have the piece which has just been cut.

If you’re tempted to make your own galette des rois, have a look at this article where I give the recipe.

So, here’s to the start of the new year – let’s hope it’s a good one for all of us!!

The photographs for this post were taken at La Gourmandise bakery in Saint-Chinian.  Thank you, Carole!!

Fit for kings

For those of you who have been following my blog for a few years, I’ll confess now:  I have written about this topic before.  I had planned to re-run that post again.  In the end I decided to write a new post altogether, and I hope you’ll enjoy it just as much.

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In France, Twelfth Night is celebrated with the galette des rois – a wonderful confection of buttery puff pastry, which is filled with almond frangipane.  The galette is usually eaten with friends and/or family, and can be found for sale in French bakeries throughout the month of January.  A small feve (bean or charm) is usually hidden in the filling, and the person who finds the feve in his or her slice is crowned king or queen for the day.  The feve can take all sorts of forms, from a simple dried bean to a porcelain figure such as this:

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If you don’t live anywhere near a bakery where you can buy a ready-made galette des rois, here is how to make your own.  The basic ingredients are very simple, especially if you buy the puff pastry ready-rolled: butter, almonds, sugar, cornflour, eggs.  I’ll be listing quantities at the end of this post as a printable recipe.  I had planned to add some dried yuzu (Japanese citrus) peel to the filling, which is in the yellow packet.  In the end I decided against it.

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To make the frangipane filling, beat the soft butter with the sugar until white and fluffy.

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Add the eggs and beat until incorporated.

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Add the ground almonds, cornflour and amaretto or brandy, and stir until well mixed.

Unroll one sheet of puff pastry and put on a lined baking sheet.  I used the bottom of a cake pan (25cm diam) to cut a neat circle, as the rolled sheets are always slightly oval.  Spread the apricot jam on the base to within 2 cm from the edges…

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…and top with the frangipane mixture.  Don’t forget to put the feve into the frangipane filling!

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Unroll the second sheet of puff pastry, and trim again.  Moisten the edges of the base with water and place the second sheet on top.  Press the edges to seal in the filling.

Mark the top of the pastry with a pattern of your choice:  spirals, zigzags or diamonds – whatever you like.  Glaze the top with beaten egg, which will give the finished galette a wonderful shiny finish.

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Bake the galette in a pre-heated oven (200C, 185C fan, gas 6) for 25 to 30 minutes.  When it comes out of the oven it should look somewhat like this:

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Leave the galette to cool to lukewarm, before you cut it!

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A few notes on the recipe:  I’m not sure whether I’ll be using the apricot jam the next time I make this.  I thought the tartness would complement the rich filling, but having tasted it, I’m not sure that it does.  You could roast the almonds before grinding them.  If you prefer a more pronounced almond flavour, you could add almond essence to the frangipane.  I brushed on too much of the beaten egg so that it went over the edges of the pastry, which stopped it from rising correctly.

 

Galette des Rois

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:
2 rounds of ready rolled puff pastry
2 tbsp apricot jam
100g butter at room temperature
75g caster sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
125g ground almonds
1 1/2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp amaretto or brandy
1 beaten egg for glazing

Pre-heat the oven to 200C – fan 185C – gas mark 6

To make the frangipane filling, beat the softened butter with the sugar until white and fluffy.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat until incorporated.  Add the ground almonds, cornflour and amaretto or brandy, and stir until well mixed.

Unroll one sheet of puff pastry and put on a lined baking sheet.  I used the bottom of a cake pan to cut a neat round (the rolled sheets are always slightly oval).  Spread the apricot jam on the base, to within 2 cm of the edges, and top with the frangipane mixture.

Unroll the second sheet of puff pastry, and trim again.  Moisten the edges of the base with water and place the second sheet on top.  Press the edges to seal in the filling.

Mark the top of the pastry with a pattern of your choice:  spirals, zig-zags or diamonds – whatever you like.  Glaze the top with beaten egg, which will give the finished galette a wonderful shiny finish.

Bake the galette in a pre-heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Leave to cool to lukewarm before cutting.

Three Kings and cake?

Walk into any bakery in France at this time of year and you’ll see rows of flat cakes with little paper crowns on top lining the counters.  These are the famous galettes des rois, which are traditionally eaten around Epiphany all over France.  The galettes are made of puff pastry, filled with frangipane and they all contain a feve, a small trinket, most often made of porcelain, but in the old days it would have been a dried bean.  The person who finds the trinket or bean in his piece of cake is king or queen for the day.  Wikipedia has a good article about this tradition here, for those of you who’d like to read a little more.    Of course this being the South of France, there is another traditional Epiphany cake:  ring-shaped and made of brioche dough with candied fruit, glazed and sprinkled with decorating sugar.  It’s lighter than the frangipane version and of course it also contains a trinket, AND you get the paper crown with it too!

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I decided to make my own galette des rois this year, and thought I would share the recipe with you.  I used ready rolled puff pastry (two sheets), but if you like to (and have the time) you can of course make your own.  A 10″ dinner plate was my guide for the rounds, one for the base, one for the top.  Keep the trimmings, you can re-roll them and make cheese straws or such with them.

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For the almond cream I used a recipe found in my old Constance Spry Cookery Book:
3 1/2 oz blanched almonds
3 1/2 oz caster sugar
1 1/4 oz butter (good weight)
2 egg yolks
vanilla or a liqueur glass of orange flower water or rum (you could also add some almond essence)

To blanch the almonds put them in a pan and cover with water, bring to the boil and leave to stand for a couple of minutes.  Drain and refresh under the cold tap, then slip off the skins and leave the almonds to dry.

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Once dry grind the almonds finely.  Cream the butter with the sugar, add the yolks and beat well, then add the almonds and flavouring of your choice.

You’ll need some egg wash to assemble the cake – beat an egg yolk with a tablespoon of milk and a pinch of salt.  Spread the almond paste evenly to within 3/4″ of the edge of your puff pastry disk.

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Brush the edge with egg wash.

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And don’t forget to put the bean into the almond paste!  I put it towards the edge to minimise the chance of cutting it when dividing the cake.

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Then the top goes on – I scalloped the edges using my fingers and the back of a knife.

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With the back of a knife you trace a pattern – the traditional pattern is a wheel, with the spokes radiating out from the centre.  I always curve my spokes, but decorate it any way you like, allow your fantasy full reign!

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And then you brush the top with some more egg wash.  Careful around the edges, it shouldn’t run down the sides as it’ll stop the puff pastry from rising.  For a deep and extra glossy finish you can put the cake in the fridge and leave the egg wash to dry a little, then go over it again lightly.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 centigrade for 20 – 30 minutes.  Start watching the cake after 25 minutes, and don’t hesitate to leave it a little longer if you think it needs it.  Leave to cool on a wire rack and serve lukewarm.  You’ll have to make your own paper crown, or save one from a Christmas cracker?  What do you drink with it, I hear you ask?  Anything you like, a glass of champagne or sparkling wine, cider, white wine or a cup of tea will all go well with it.  This size cake will give you eight servings.  If you think that sounds a bit mean: I’m usually pretty greedy when it comes to desserts, but an eighth of this cake is just about enough for me; the filling is pretty rich!

Just as an aside – I had some pecans and maple sirup so decided to make another batch of frangipane replacing the almonds and sugar with that.  I’ll be baking it tonight – fingers crossed!!

ADDENDUM  Here is a picture of the pecan and maple frangipane galette.  Not in the traditional round shape, but very delicious!

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