Galette des rois

If you’ve ever been in France during the month of January, surely you’ve noticed the blossoming of galettes des rois […]

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Christmas Tree

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Homemade Galette des Rois

Galette des rois

If you’ve ever been in France during the month of January, surely you’ve noticed the blossoming of galettes des rois in the window of every bakery and pastry shop. A puff pastry pie garnished with a buttery filling, it is the traditional confection with which the Epiphany is celebrated*; I have written in more detail about this tradition in this post, so I invite you to go and read that first. I’ll wait right here.

La galette, and the fun ritual that determines who will be king or queen for the day (allow me to insist you read this post if you don’t yet know about the fève thing), bring back many a happy childhood memory for me. Aside from the two years I spent in California, I have partaken of at least one galette a year for as long as I can remember.

My first homemade galette des rois!

I used to buy them from the pastry shop, like most French people do, but I started making my own a few years ago.

My deep attachment to this confection should have compelled me to do so years earlier, but the Epiphany is theoretically celebrated on January 6 — though this is extended to the whole month of January nowadays — and I always felt a bit too tuckered out after the holidays to tackle the project.

But that inaugural year was different. We were celebrating my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary one Saturday, my sister, brother-in-law and nephew were visiting from London for the occasion, and my mother had asked if I could bring the dessert for our celebratory lunch. It seemed the perfect opportunity to share a galette with my family, and I had just enough time to make it myself.

My initial intention was to make my own puff pastry, using this easy puff pastry formula, but I didn’t quite have it in me so I decided to use store-bought puff pastry. Not just any store-bought puff pastry, mind you, but Madame François’ puff pastry, which is produced in Sologne with butter from the Charentes, farine de gruau (fine wheat flour) and zero additives. I got it from G. Detou, where it is sold in slabs of 3 kilos, ready to be divided, shared and/or frozen; it can also be ordered on their website**.

What’s inside a galette des rois?

The stuffing was crème d’amande, not frangipane. There is a lot of confusion between the two, so here’s the difference: crème d’amande (almond cream) is a simple mix of butter, sugar, ground almonds, and eggs, more or less in equal parts. Frangipane, on the other hand, is a blend of crème d’amande and crème pâtissière (pastry cream), which in turn is made with eggs, milk, sugar, and flour or cornstarch.

Most galettes sold out there are filled with frangipane rather than crème d’amande — the production cost of frangipane is a lot lower, since the almonds are the most expensive ingredient in there — but my preference goes to crème d’amande, which makes a more delicate, less eggy, more flavorful filling.

As for the all-important fève (read here to know what that is), I had wisely saved the one Maxence got when we ate a galette des rois at my cousin’s a week before: it is a little porcelain tower of some sort that seems like the tip might pierce the roof of your mouth if you’re really out of luck, but this is France, where people don’t really sue one another for that sort of thing***.

Mini Cookbook of French Tarts

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5 Tips for Fabulous Homemade Soups

You know the feeling. This time of year, you’re simply dying for a bowl of something warm, comforting, and full of vitality. But as painful experiences may have shown you, good intentions and a throw-whatever-vegetables-you-have-into-the-pot approach doesn’t always work so well.

For a simple, clean-out-the-fridge soup, I will point you to my Everything Soup. It’s the ultimate guide to soup improv that you can tweak to your heart and fridge’s content, with recommendations for optimizing flavor profile, plus must-haves and must-nots.

Once you have these basics down, here are some more tips for fabulous homemade soups, which will turn any pot you make into a seductive winter dish that will have your spoon quivering with excitement.

Stay in season

It’s not just about the carbon footprint, the mood of the weather, or the tradition, though of course these things count. It’s also that in-season vegetables taste significantly better, and if you want a soup that shines with flavor, you gotta have good vegetables to begin with.

And as luck would have it, winter vegetables are perfect candidates, with their starchy textures and sweet, earthy notes. Can’t remember what’s in season? I have a free seasonal produce guide for you.

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What To Do Instead of a Detox: A Gentler Way to Start The Year

What to do instead of a detox

We’re just a few days into January, and already you are being assailed by messages of diet this and detox that.

And certainly, you will feel the pull. Who wouldn’t? It’s everywhere, and you feel a little food-ed out from the holiday celebrations. But. There is more than one way to handle this feeling, and I’d like to offer an alternative to self-punishment.

Instead of diving head first into group guilt, self-loathing, shame, restrictive eating, imaginative cleanses, and the inevitable backlash they breed, consider directing these vast (VAST!) amounts of time and energy and brain juice toward making peace with food and with your body.

It’s revolutionary.

I don’t believe anyone passionate enough about food to read cooking blogs — or, um, write one — has a perfectly carefree relationship to food and body image. In fact, I’ve long surmised that many of us food bloggers start their blog in part to make sense of that relationship; I know I did.

And it’s no wonder, friends. We live in profoundly body-obsessed societies that hold up impossible standards for us to beat ourselves up over. And French women, with their worldwide reputation of slim figure and effortless elegance, are in no way immune to this. I don’t remember a time, past the age of nine or ten, when I was a-okay with the way my body looked. Do you?

The obsession and its implications come in different flavors depending on the culture, but it is so profound, so internalized that few even question it.

Over the past couple of years, I have become more keenly aware of this: in the way I inhabit my own body, and in my environment, both online and offline. Body positivity and unconditional self-love* are radical ideas, and I am fully on board.

Only recently, I watched my friend Elena Rossini’s new documentary The Illusionists about the global marketing of unattainable beauty. It carries such an important, enlightening, liberating message that I wanted to share it with you, and I have five copies of it to give away (details at the bottom of this post).

The Illusionists: A documentary about the marketing of unattainable beauty around the world.

The Illusionists: A documentary about the marketing of unattainable beauty around the world.

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10 Kitchen Resolutions for a Happy, Delicious Year

10 Kitchen Resolutions

Happy new year! I’ve always loved the blank-slate feel of early January: while it’s a great time to reflect on everything you’re already doing right (you rock!), it’s also an invitation to form new and better habits to shape the year ahead and improve our lives.

So I offer you 10 kitchen resolutions, inspiring but approachable, to make you a better cook and eater this year. Please add yours in the comments below, or share on social media with the hashtag #cnzresolutions, and I will retweet and repost my favorites.

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Best of December

Christmas Tree

How are your holidays coming along? Any fun plans for New Year’s Eve? Be sure to check my post on French Holiday Meals, and my 12 Best Food Gifts!

We had such a lovely, quiet Christmas celebration this year. Now that my children are respectively 4 1/2 and almost 2, we are really getting into the magic of it.

In addition to the big-boy bike for Milan (training wheels? who needs them!) and the adorable crochet vegetables and mini dining set for Mika, Maxence and I had a blast hunting for vintage toys from our own childhoods, such as “real” Lego blocks (not the hyper-specialized, imagination-thwarting crap they put out now) and Smurf figurines (I mean Schtroumpfs) with an actual! mushroom! house!.

A Family of Shoes

Currently loving

  1. As part of my Monthly Museum Challenge, I went to the Grand Palais to see the Hergé exhibition all about the creator of Tintin, joining a private guided tour led by the amazing Catherine Rosane of Fred & Kate. I loved the exhibition and Catherine’s insightful take on it, and doodled along gleefully (see below). I am now engrossed in Benoît Peeters’ biography of Hergé, Hergé fils de Tintin.
  2. How to Throw a Dinner Party Like a Parisian, with some of my thoughts thrown in.
  3. In addition to my Monthly Museum Challenge, I’m enriching my life further with a Monthly Poem Challenge: I’ll be choosing a new poem to memorize each month. For years and years I’ve known just two (Mon Rêve familier and Le Dormeur du val), and I’ve just memorized this new one, which jumped up at me in a copy of Les Fleurs du Mal lying around at Aloha Café. I love the idea that by the end of 2017, if all goes well, I’ll know twelve more. Are you in?
  4. Meals at La Mascotte, a wonderful Belle Époque brasserie in Montmartre where the food is excellent and the waiters are genuinely nice.
  5. Our new hand-crafted clay mugs in moss green and yellow, which I found at Amami in Paris. I plan to spend all winter with my hands wrapped around their smooth, soft sides.
My sketch of Hergé's 2CV

My sketch of Hergé’s 2CV

Find my top Paris spots on this map of favorites, and follow me on Instagram to see many more food shots and Paris recommendations throughout the month!

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