In France, January is the month of the Galette de rois – the cake for kings. It is to celebrate the ‘Epiphany’ in the Catholic religion, when the three kings came to visit baby Jesus. After New Year’s, all of the pastry shops in Paris begins to churn out these flaky galettes made out of puff pastry and almond filling, and you see it displayed proudly everywhere – in supermarkets, boutiques and in frozen food stores. On Sundays, people line up at their favorite pastry shop for the freshly baked galettes to be enjoyed after their Sunday lunch.
When I first arrived came to Paris years ago, single and busy with work, I did not understand what the fuss was all about. But now, with Magnus, the galette des rois has become a whole new ‘event’. Because the best part of this tradition is that there is always a small little treasure hidden inside, and whoever gets the little tiny ‘feve’ in their slice of galette gets to be king or queen for the day, wearing the paper gold crowns that are sold with the galettes. Traditionally, the smallest members of the family gets to sit under the table and instruct the person doing the cutting which piece should go to whom. And the good thing is that this is full of good things – almonds provide Protein, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium – so it is a great foundation for a healthy snack.
And the anticipation of the the surprise adds to the lovely celebration that lights up an otherwise grey and dreary January.
The big thing for me this year is that I actually baked my own galette. With all of the stores carrying freshly baked and beautifully decorated galettes, I am not sure how many people bother to bake one at home. But I had to try, since I know we won’t be able to buy them in the U.S., and I want to be fully prepared for when we go back home – not that I am training to make fresh baguettes and croissants at home, but I think these galettes are so special, with the secret prize hidden for kids to enjoy, that I just had to try. I was inspired by all of the great blogs out there – from French recipe websites, videos and such. Since Kjetil loves almonds, I added my own twist with wheat germ, flaxseeds and a dash of almond extract inside the filling for added almond scent, and wrapped it up in store-bought puff pastry which can easily be found at most supermarkets and Whole Foods – in their frozen section.
So we have been enjoying our galettes – store-bought and, this past weekend, home-made, and I think it is a great way to celebrate the post-holiday season with your family. Just buy a tiny little plastic toy or a trinket, find a gold paper crown, and tell everyone to chew very carefully lest the treasure is buried in their little morsel of almond filling.
La Galette des Rois
500 grams (17 2/3 ounces) all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen
8 tablespoons butter
½ cup sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ground almonds
1 teaspoon wheat germ
1 teaspoon ground flaxseeds
1 tablespoon corn starch
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 egg yolk
1. In a bowl, beat the butter until creamy.
2. In another bowl, combine the sugar, almonds, wheat germ, flaxseeds, corn starch, and salt. Add to the creamed butter and mix well. Add the almond extract, then the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 12 hours (overnight).
2. Take the thawed puff pastry and cut it in half. Roll each one to a circle around 12 inches in diameter. Using a sharp knife and taking a form from a clean plate, cut a neat 12-inch circle out of one, and a slightly larger one with the other, adding about ¼ inches around the plate shape.
3. On a parchment paper covered baking sheet, place the smaller circle of the puff pastry on the bottom, then fill the almond mixture in the center, spreading it around.
4. Take a small bowl and whip the egg yolk with a bit of water (1 tablespoon) and using a brush or the tip of your index finger, glisten the outer rim of the dough. Don’t wet the edge of the dough – it will inhibit the dough from rising.
5. Place your secret ‘treasure’ inside the almond filling, towards the edge of the filling.
6. Place the second round of pastry on top of the filling and press down around the edges to seal it.
7. To give the galette a decorative look, take a fork or the dull side of your knife and make swirls or lines without poking through the dough. Brush the top of the galette with the leftover eggwash and put in the fridge for one hour.
8. Preheat the oven to 360°F. Bake the galette for 25-30 minutes. Let cool and serve.