January 12, 2007
And this year's galette des rois (read more about the galette des rois tradition) was brought to us by Arnaud Larher, a thirty-something pastry chef and chocolatier who opened his own shop in Montmartre ten years ago, after honing his skills at Fauchon under Pierre Hermé's direction.
I called the day before to order une galette pour six -- ordering is not mandatory for such a standard size, but I sleep better if I do -- and went to collect it in mid-afternoon. As I walked home and dropped by a handful of other shops for my dinner-making needs, the paper bag bearing the pastry chef's coat of arms elicited much commentary from these neighboring vendors, whose facial expression (corners of the mouth pulled down, chin jutted forward, eyes semi-closed, head nodding slowly) indicated their respect for the artisan, and their approval of my choice of purveyor. I hurried home for the wind was picking up, and the threat of rain was a dark omen for my fragile disk in its not-even-remotely-waterproof paper house.
Although Arnaud Larher makes a chocolate galette that can't possibly be anything but very good, my dinner companions and I all prefer the classic version. In Larher's case, classic means a moist mattress of frangipane* lightly flavored with orange zest -- a subtle and tasteful twist -- between two sheets of extra-fresh flaked pastry. The ensemble was neither overly buttery nor overly sweet, and was much enjoyed by all.
I will note that this year was the first in many many years that: 1- We did not reheat the galette before eating (we'd read an article that said the reheating instruction was a ploy devised by sellers of inferior galettes to exalt what measly aromas they contained) and liked that change of method; 2- My mother got the fève! She never gets the fève! We couldn't get her to wear the crown for more than twenty-three seconds and a half, although it was quite attractive a crown and it looked royal on her, but she did keep the heart-shaped glass pendant that acted as the bean.
* Frangipane is a mix of almond cream (almonds, sugar, butter, eggs) made fluffy by the addition of pastry cream (milk, egg yolks, vanilla, sugar, flour). The ratio of almond cream to pastry cream (classically: two parts almond cream for one part pastry cream) determines how rich and flavorful the frangipane will be. And because almonds are a pricy ingredient, cheap-o galette makers tend to use more pastry cream than they really should and compensate with almond extract, which results in a heavy filling with an artificial, in-your-face flavor. Tempting, no?
Arnaud Larher / Map it!
53 rue Caulaincourt, 75018 Paris
01 42 57 68 08
Note: If you do pay him a visit, I also recommend his chocolate tartlets, his filled tablets of chocolate (especially the ones with cacao nibs), his sweet and savory mix of nuts, and his ice creams (in season).
Almond and Orange Blossom Croquants Cookies
Easy Candied Almonds and Hazelnuts
Zucchini Pasta with Almonds and Lemon Zest