Every year on January 6th, it is the tradition for French families to enjoy the feast of the Epiphany while sharing a Three Kings Cake. As the cake is cut into equal parts for all the people sitting at the table, the youngest child sits under the dining room table, and as the mother (or father) of the house calls out "c'est pour qui?" the slices of cake are distributed to each person sitting around the dining room table. There is a favor hidden in the cake and the person who has the favor in his or her slice is crowned the King or Queen. Tradition also states that that person will have good luck for the rest of the year.
The Cake that is traditionally eaten in the North of France is an almond filled cake, while the one in the south of France is more of a brioche cake with candied fruit in it. While these cakes are widely available at most French bakeries every year during the month of January. I have found that they are quite easy to make, which is a good thing because what often happens is that it is January 6th when I look at the calendar and realize that I have forgotten to order a cake and have no time to go get one before we have dinner and we are expected to have the cake for dessert.
So here is what you’ll need,
a store bought puff pastry (or short pastry - I’ve done both. The puff pastry may be the traditional one, but the short pastry has less crumbs and is quite tasty). Ideally, you'll have remembered to bring your dough to room temperature earlier in the day - but if you haven't, no worries, ten or thirty seconds in the microwave can solve anything.
a Frangipane recipe…
That's it! So, let's get started...
GALETTE DES ROIS
PREHEAT your oven to whatever your pastry dough calls for - 200 C should be pretty good.
FRANGIPANE (Almond pastry filling)
6 tablespoons of softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I've cut this down a bit - some recipes call for more - I find them too sweet)
1 cup ground almonds - I like to grind them myself - with or without skin is fine, use whatever you happen to have in your pantry. if you want the skin off - just blanche them in boiling water, the skins will pop right off.
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon of almond extract (or to taste)
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
Add these ingredients one by one into your stand mixer. Once the recipe is incorporated and nice and creamy put it into a smaller container and refrigerate it. In an ideal world, you let it cool down, but as I usually am not drowning in time, I just put it to the side while I roll out my dough.
FOR THE EGG WASH
1 egg mixed with some water (some people prefer milk - it's your call)
MAKE THE PITHIVIER
Two sheets of puff pastry - add the frangipane to lower disk of the puff pastry and use an egg wash. At this time, be sure to hide a whole almond or a bake proof favor in the almond mixture. Be sure to leave an inch of cake around the outside so that you can “glue” the top layer of pastry to the bottom disk. Crimp the edges together so that the mixture stays in the cake. Then draw a pattern on the top of the cake and put a couple of small holes in your pattern so that steam can escape.
At this time, ideally you would place the cake in the refrigerator and let it chill for about an hour. Since, I usually forget that it’s three kings’ day and I need to have a cake after dinner, I skip this part and it turn out just fine. That said, in a more perfect world, place the cake in the refrigerator for around a half an hour.
If you haven’t preheated your oven, you should do that now while your cake is cooling in the fridge. Brush your egg wash on the top of the galette and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. If it browns too quickly cover the top with an aluminum foil tent so that your bottom isn’t soggy when you take it out. Let the cake cool at room temperature when it gets out of the oven and you can eat it warm or at room temperature.
Some would brush the top of the galette with simple syrup when it comes out of the oven to make it a bit sweeter. It's a choice, I don’t like mine too sweet…so I skip this step…
Hope that this is helpful...
My recipes are guidelines, jumping off points for you to explore new tastes and recipes - so please let me know if you have any advice or changes that you would make - I am always open to suggestions.