Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Galette des Rois - The End of Christmas

The 6th of January is the date of Epiphany and the official end of Christmas; this is reputedly the day the three kings arrived with gifts for the baby Jesus. In France, Epiphany is celebrated with a cake called a Galette des Rois (Kings' Cake) in which a ceramic figurine is hidden - whoever gets the figurine in their slice is crowned King or Queen for the day. I was given a recipe for a Galette des Rois by a teacher of mine in France way back in 1997 and had never made it. Fourteen years later I finally decided to give it a go and incorporate a new tradition into our family!

A galette is a cake made with puff pastry, I bought frozen pastry that I had to roll out but it would have been even easier if I'd bought the ready-rolled variety. Inside the galette is a layer of almond paste, although we all agreed that adding a bit of cinnamon or ginger to the paste would have given the cake that little bit extra flavour. As I didn't have any ceramic figurine - a plastic one wouldn't have been a good idea! - Simon came up with the good idea of placing a whole almond inside instead and that worked perfectly. It was extremely easy to make, took just 30 minutes to cook and it can be eaten either cold or hot straight from the oven. My memories of the galette in France are of a much thinner cake than mine turned out to be, but that was probably just the type of pastry I had bought. Before you think I've lost track of my days...I was having dinner with my parents and extended family yesterday and not tomorrow so I just tied it in with that!

2 pre-rolled sheets of puff pastry (approx. 250g each)
100g almond meal (if you can't buy it then just grind up almonds in your food processor)
100g butter (make sure it's soft before you start)
80g caster sugar
2 whole eggs (plus 1 yolk for glazing)
50 ml rum (I just realised I forgot to put the rum in my cake yesterday - that would have added that little bit of kick to the flavour!!)
1 whole almond

1. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees (less for fan-assisted ovens).
2. Beat the butter until it is soft and mousse-like.
3. Add the sugar and beat together until it forms a paste.
4. Beat in the almond powder.
5. Mix in one egg, then add the second egg.
6. Add the rum.
7. Lay one layer of pastry on a baking tray and spoon the almond paste on top - leave a border of about 3cm the whole way round.

8. Lay the whole almond somewhere in the paste.
9. Cover the paste with the second layer of pastry and press the two pastries together around the edges with your fingers so they are totally sealed.
10. With a fork, prick all over the top of the pastry (this lets the steam escape).
11. Glaze the pastry with the egg yolk mixed with a teaspoon of water.

12. Place the galette in the fridge for 15 minutes.
13. Move the galette into the oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes in the centre of the oven.
14. Keep your fingers crossed that you get the almond and become the Queen or King!

NOTE: In France, the galette is round but I decided it would be easier to leave the pastry square, although as I write this I realise that I could have used a round tin as a template to cut the pastry so both sheets would have been the same size. Next time...

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