sorry, NOLA, but I was so disappointed when I saw what New Orleanians call a
King Cake (or Kings Cake, or King’s Cake). My first thought: it was a perfectly nice yeast
bread hopped up on sugar and decorated by a kindergarten Jackson Pollock.
fair to New Orleans, my expectations had been set high. I had my first taste of
the French Kings Cake - Galette des Rois
- in Paris one Twelfth Night many
galette, purchased from a minuscule bakery in the Marais, set the gold standard.
That was a Kings Cake to remember.
at the two different cakes, they aren't even remotely similar, starting with
the timing. The galette
in France is served for the feast of the Epiphany or through
the twelve days of Christmas leading up to Epiphany, while the King Cake in New
Orleans is baked and eaten from the start of Epiphany through its end on Mardi
Gras, the eve of the Lenten season.
folk story has it that the galette
was baked to woo the three kings (which
explains why it is plural - kings
cake and Galette des Rois
) to visit the baby
Jesus, thus the association of the cake with Epiphany, the January 6 holy day
that commemorates the Magi’
s adoration of the infant Jesus.
what baked goods the three kings might have encountered two millennia ago, but,
happily, the French took matters in hand, and gave us an exquisite tradition of
a buttery puffed pastry filled with frangipane.
contrast, the kings of the New Orleans Mardi Gras get an eggy yeast bread,
glopped with sugary green, purple, and yellow icing further topped with sugar
sprinkles in the same lurid colors. A note from Markipedia: The Rex Krewe chose these as their colors in the late 19th century, and somewhere along the
way the colors were endowed with the symbolism of purple for justice, green for
faith, and gold for power.
common factor between the French and New Orleanian kings cakes is the fève
. Hidden in both cakes is a
charm - a tiny doll, a coin, or a dried bean (fève
is meant to represent the
baby Jesus. Often a tiny doll, in modern day France the fève
can even be a cartoon
character (I have seem hundreds of Astérix characters for sale online!). I
found the fèves
pictured above at Maiden France Vintage
, owned by Stephanie Hill.
are the lucky one who gets the fève
in your slice of Galette des Rois
, your head is crowned
(a paper crown!) and you are also expected to buy (or make) the next year’
get the fève
NOLA, it is your job to throw the next party. Depending on the situation, that
could be as soon as that same evening, the next night, a few days hence, or the
Galette des Rois
, I made my own puff pastry (recipe below) but you can use
store-bought, all-butter puff pastry with wonderful results.
filling is what makes this galette so special for me - the combination of the almond, vanilla and lemon extracts is perfect.
A Galette des Rois
spectacular dessert, and not terribly difficult to make. And you will have such
fun searching for the perfect fève
to hide inside!
pure butter puff pastry (recipe follows)
tablespoons butter, softened
teaspoon almond extract
teaspoon lemon extract
1 fève– a dried fava bean (fève), ceramic or glass toy
the almonds, sugar, butter, whole egg, and extracts in the food processor. This
is the frangipane; it should be the consistency of a thick paste.
the pastry into two pieces. Roll out each piece of pastry and cut into a circle
about 10 inches wide and 1/8-inch thick (use a plate or cake pan as your
template, being careful not to press down on the dough. Place both circles of
dough on parchment and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
circle of pastry (and its parchment) on baking tray and spread the frangipane
evenly, leaving a 3/4-inch border. Press the trinket into the paste and cover
with frangipane. Using a pastry brush, “paint” the 3/4-inch border with water.
second sheet on top and press the two pieces together around the edge, sealing
completely as you go, then crimp the edges decoratively as you would a pie. (It is very important to seal the pastry well before crimping, otherwise the filling will ooze out.)
the egg yolk with the milk and brush the entire top of the galette with this
mixture, being careful that it stays on top and doesn’t touch any of the sides.
(It might keep the sides from puffing up.) Using a very sharp knife, decorate
the top of the galette with patterns of slashes, being careful not to go all
the way through to the frangipane.
bottom rack for about 30 minutes, but keep an eye on it. It should be golden
with tinges of brown. Serve warm.
Quick Puff Pastry
2 1/3 cup
all purpose flour
cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
flours and salt in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the steel blade.
Pulse a few times to mix. Scatter butter on top of flour, and using on/off
button, pulse until butter is the size of lima beans, no smaller than peas. Add
almost all of the ice water and 12-15 times. If it’s too dry add the rest of the
water and pulse until the dough almost comes together. Don´t let it form a ball of dough;
don't over process.
the dough onto a generously floured work surface and pat it into an 8-inch
square. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a rectangle, about
8-inches by 15- to 18-inches. (This will look like an absolute mess in the
beginning! Don't worry - it will come together!) Flour the dough and rolling
pin as needed to prevent sticking.
first turn: with the aid of a dough scraper, lift one third of the dough, and
flip it down onto the middle third. Do the same starting from the bottom with
the remaining third of dough. (People describe this as a business letter fold.)
Turn the dough a quarter turn clockwise, so that the short side is parallel to
the working surface and the long side with the opening is on your right side.
Repeat the rolling into a rectangle, the folding in three and turn to the right
another three times for a total of four times.
the rolling, folding, and turning of the dough two more times, for a total will
be six turns.
pastry needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 more hour before using it.
Labels: almond extract, almonds, fève, frangipane, galette des rois, lemon extract, quick puff pastry, vanilla extract