A couple of years ago, we started a new January tradition in the ApLingo offices which we thought we would share with you. Forget New Year resolutions and diets, we think countries such as France and Spain have definitely got it right with this most sociable and delicious custom to brighten up an otherwise dark and depressing month.
In France, Kings’ cakes, or galettes des rois, are consumed throughout the month at friends’, in the office, in schools – pretty much everywhere! Although it is customary to wait until Epiphany on 6th January, some shops start selling them before Christmas. This puff pastry and frangipane treat is often accompanied with a nice glass of cider or sweet white wine, if you feel like indulging even more.
Be king or queen for the day
During the preparation, the baker hides in each galette a little figurine called fève (which is French for broad bean). This tradition dates back to Roman times, when a real bean used to be baked into the cake, similar to our traditional coin in the Christmas pudding. Nowadays, the fève is generally made of porcelain. The person who finds it in his or her slice receives it as a keepsake and they become king for the day. They get to wear the shiny paper crown that is always sold with the galette. At home, to give all members of the family an equal chance at winning, a child, often the youngest, hides under the table when the portions are cut and distributed. When asked, he or she decides without seeing it which portions goes to whom.
Similar Epiphany traditions exist in Spain, Portugal and Latin American countries with different variations of the fève. In Italy, carnival cakes are shared with neighbours.
What a great way to bring a bit of warmth and cheer to these dark winter evenings! So if you haven’t yet adopted the tradition, we’re giving you the recipe so that next year, you can make your own Kings’ cakes too. It’s truly a delicious treat and you don’t need to be a master baker to make one.
Make your own – it’s easy!
Serves 6 to 8
For the case
- 2 round sheets of puff pastry
For the almond mixture (we recommend doubling the quantities if, like us, you have a sweet tooth…)
- 1 egg
- 75g caster sugar
- 50g unsalted butter
- 100g ground almonds
- A few drops of almond extract
For the glaze
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 fève (you can use a small charm, a coin, etc. It should be big enough to make sure that you or any children notice it, and don’t break a tooth or swallow it!)
Place one sheet of puff pastry on a greased baking sheet.
Prepare the almond mixture: soften the butter and add the sugar. Beat strongly to obtain a smooth texture. Add the ground almonds, then the egg and the almond extract. Beat again.
Place the almond mixture in the centre of the round-shaped pastry and spread it evenly, up to 2cm away from the edge. Add the fève near the edge (if you add it near the centre, it might be easily discovered when cutting the cake).
Cover the base with the second round-shaped pastry and make sure the two pastry sheets are stuck down together, to avoid the almond mix slipping away from the cake when baking. You may use a little water to join the two sheets along the edges.
Make an egg wash with the egg yolk and a little milk and, using a pastry brush, brush all over the top.
With a knife, carefully trace decorative shapes (waves, diamonds, flowers – be as creative as you like!) Don’t press too hard to avoid piercing the pastry.
Bake in an oven pre-heated at 170 °C for about 40 minutes. We recommend keeping an eye on it as we found our oven bakes it a lot quicker.
Bake the galette for a further 5 minutes at 220 °C to caramelise the sugars and get a nice colour on it. Take out of the oven.
Invite a few friends or neighbours. Serve the galette lukewarm and have a great January!