Thursday, January 8, 2009

The King's Cake - La Galette des Rois

So easy to make with a unique but delightful flavor, this King's Cake can really be made anytime of the year.

In France, we refer to it as La Galette des Rois and it's a huge part of French culture. It is sold all throughout January in boulangeries all over France, to celebrate the Epiphany. The exact day to celebrate it is on January 6th but we like to enjoy this cake for as long as we can in France. In my family, we usually have it on Sundays and if we're ever invited at someone's house for lunch or dinner, we bring a Galette des Rois.

The fun part about eating this cake is that we hide a tiny king or queen figurine (which today, can really be anything from Homer Simpson to a boat), called "une feve” inside of it. The person who finds the “feve” in its slice of cake becomes symbolically the “king” or “queen”. In France, bakeries always include a paper crown with the cake that you purchase.

You might not find a paper crown or feve exactly like in France, but don't let it discourage you from making it; you’ll be amazed at how simple and delicious this cake is! Snuggled between two puff pastry sheets is an almond filling called frangipane, used in a lot of pastries in France. That's why sometimes you might hear French people refer to this cake as "une tarte a la frangipane". I made it for our New Year's Eve dinner and everyone enjoyed it a lot. It could even become a last-minute kind of cake, if you keep puff pastry in your freezer and almonds or ground almonds around the house... I was able to find ground almonds at Central Market in the bulk food section (anyone knows if it sold pre-packaged in the US? Let me know). In France, you can easily find ground almonds in the baking sections of supermarkets. Instead of rum in France, we often use kirsch in this recipe but I personally find rum to be more sweet and subtle. You could skip the alcohol part altogether if you prefer, but it really adds a nice warm background taste, without really tasting like alcohol.

If you make the cake in advance, I really suggest that you re-heat the cake before you serve it. For that, put it in a 240 F degrees oven for 5 minutes. Do not re-heat it in the microwave as it would make the dough too soft and less crispy. Serve with Champagne, a Clairette de Die or even a good quality cider.

Galette des Rois (a la Frangipane)

2 sheets of puff pastry

1 cup of ground almond (If you do not have any ground almond, pulse 4 oz of almonds to a fine powder in the food processor)

1/2 cup of sugar

4 tbsp of unsalted butter, at room temperature (it's very important that the butter is very soft)

1 egg, at room temperature

2 tbsp of rum

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp of water, for the egg wash

2 tbsp sugar mixed with 1 tbsp water, for the simple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a tart dish. Prepare the frangipane by mixing together the eggs and the sugar until pale yellow. Combine the butter, the almond powder and the rum.

If the puff pastry you bought is rectangular, roll it out on a floured surface into a circle big enough to fit the tart dish. Lay the first puff pastry dough on the bottom of the dish and spread the frangipane filling all over, leaving a one-inch border all around. Cover with the second puff pastry sheet and seal the edges with your fingers or with a fork.

Draw simple straight line designs with the tip of a knife on the surface of the cake (without pushing too hard) and brush all over with the egg wash. Poke a tiny hole in the middle. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, prepare the simple syrup by bringing the water to a boil in a saucepan and completely dissolve the sugar into the water. Allow it to completely cool. Take the galette out of the oven, lightly brush the syrup all over (it will make it shiny) and put back in the oven for 5 minutes. Serve lukewarm.


The League said...

The King Cake is an item that the French founders of New Orleans brought with them, and which spread out to certain parts of the south. The years when one has made an appeaarance, I've always enjoyed it, but they seemed to always come from grocery bakeries. I would be very curious to try your recipe.

While I love the King Cake, I recall biting into the king one year and just about breaking my jaw. So I have learned to proceed with caution.

Laetitia said...

Let me know if you get to make it (it's very simple), I'd like your feedback. It's VERY different in taste from the King's Cake found in the South / Louisiana. As for biting into the king... yeah, you gotta be careful. Decades of practice ! :)

Sylvie said...

Hi Laetitia. I am glad you enabled posters other than bloggers from a mainstream blog to comment. I had tried to post comments several times in the past, and could not - and did not see a way to contact you. So I had stopped checking your blog.

Glad I checked today. I'll be back again.

A bientot, et bonne annee, bien sur!

Sylvie said...

Your King's Cake looks unbelievable -- flaky and decadent! I've always had fun with Epiphany because Jan. 6 is actually my birthday. I love your blog and will be back to find more recipes!

Laetitia said...

Coucou Sylvie, so glad you came back to check out my blog! Yes I made it so everyone can leave a comment. It was not a choice on my part but more a mistake... I have now also added an email address to contact me. By the way, the venison and pork terrine made my mouth water. Oh it makes me want to have some so bad!! With some good bread and cornichons.... Hmmm! Please come back and Bonne Annee to you too!

Laetitia said...

Well Happy belated birthday and let me know if you get to make the king's cake. You'll see it's not hard at all, and surprisingly good!!