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***.
Continue reading »