Galette des Rois (King Cake)

Chantal the Chef!

This is a guest post to Baking Things by my fabulous little Frenchie mother, Chantal. Enjoy!

Since the middle ages, the French celebrate the arrival of the three kings to Bethlehem on January 6th. To celebrate this event, they created the galette—a puff pastry with almond, or sometimes apple, filling with a little figurine hidden inside. The galette is cut in equal parts according to the amount of people sitting at the table and the person who finds the figurine is the king or the queen of the day and wears a golden paper crown.

The little figurine is called a “fève” because before the first porcelain figurines came out in 1870, it was a fève (large bean) that was placed in the galette and the name is used to this day. If a man finds the fève in his piece of galette, he is the king of the day and finds a queen by dropping the fève in a lady’s glass (usually filled with champagne) and everybody applauds; same process, only in reverse, if a lady finds the fève. Traditionally, the youngest person at the meal gets under the table and yells out to the host who gets the next slice of galette until all the pieces are served.

Feves

When I was young, we always had the galette on a Sunday (the closest to the 6th of January) at my grandmother’s so that the whole family could be together. My grandmother always managed to make sure one of us children would get the fève. It was always my brother, one of my two sisters, or me who got the fève and we always thought it was just luck. Now I know why my grandmother, who baked the galette, would say to my father, who was cutting and distributing “I don’t know what happened but it looks more cooked on this side” and point with her knife to some invisible imperfection. To which my dad would answer “No, no, it looks just fine to me” and of course it was her way to let him know where she had hidden the fève so he could give it to one of us.

Chantal (bottom right)

If my grandmother did not have time to bake and got the galette from the baker, she would order it in advance and ask if they could make a special point or design on the galette so she would know where the fève was—the baker would always oblige. In France, there has always been a strong “camaraderie” between the boulangers/pâtissiers and the customers! I think they are still thanking the French population for creating a revolution, beheading a king, ending royalty, and starting a republic–all to be able to afford buying bread again in their boulangeries 🙂

I always watched to see who would get the fève and when I found it I would discreetly hide it. Then, when no one was paying attention, I would drop the fève in my dad or my brother’s glass and scream Vive le Roi (long live the King) and I am the queen! Then everyone would clap and laugh.

The fact that the galette was delicious also adds to the wonderful memories!

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups of ground almonds
  • 3 eggs (1 will be used for glazing)
  • 2 tablespoons rum (or 1 tsp. almond or vanilla extract)
  • 1 package (17.3 oz.) puff pastry sheets, thawed in refrigerator
  • 1 porcelain charm (about 1/2 inch figurine that will be hidden in the galette)

Make the filling: In a bowl, beat the butter and the sugar until well combined. Beat in the almonds thoroughly. Beat in the 2 eggs, one at a time, and then the rum. Refrigerate (the filling has to be cold when you spread it on the puff pastry).

In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg.

Roll out 1/2 of the puff pastry into a 12 in. diameter round (an upside down serving dish works perfectly as a measurement. Use a very sharp knife to cut around the dish). Place this round on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, paint the outer 1 1/2 inch circumference of the pastry with the beaten egg.

Spread the filling in a round in the center of the pastry so that it just meets the egg covered part. Put the porcelain figurine in the filling, closer to the outer edge, so it will not get in the way when you cut in the middle. *Note: If you only have plastic charms, do not put it in at this time, since plastic melts! When the galette is cooked, you can pre-slice it in the kitchen, carefully lift one side of a slice and slide in your plastic charm- no one will know 🙂

Place the other 1/2 of the puff pastry, cut exactly the same way, on top of the first. Press softly with your hand in the center to evenly spread the filling. Use the tines of a fork to close the edges. Refrigerate the galette on a baking sheet for 2-3 hours. Also refrigerate the beaten egg that will be used for glazing.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the galette from the fridge, and with a sharp pointed knife, cut some small 1/2 circles into the crimped edges, making sure the edges are still tightly closed (this step can be skipped-it just will not have the same decorative circumference). Add 1/2 tsp. of water to the beaten egg and brush the surface of the galette with this egg wash, being careful not to get any on the sides (If you do, it will burn the edges). With the point of the sharp knife, make any kind of design on the galette, being careful not to go all the way through the puff pastry. Glaze with the egg wash a second time, making sure it does not spread to the sides, and cut a little hole in the center for the steam to escape.

Put in preheated oven for 30 minutes in the center of the oven. Serve warm with a gold paper crown on top. Et voila!

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