This week, Galette des Rois or ‘King’s cake’ will be sold in bakeries and consumed in family homes all around France. Traditionally eaten on or around 6th January, this sweet pastry dish is aimed at drawing the Wise Kings to the Epiphany festivities. After the big, boozy celebrations of Christmas and New Year, Epiphany is a slightly tamer social gathering where family and friends gather around the table for some food and festive fun.
The recipe varies depending on where it is made in France but in the north east, it is made from layers of puff pastry and frangipane. Hidden between these layers lies la fève, a figurine which used to be a modest broad bean but can now be anything from small ceramic cars or animals to tiny Disney characters.
There is a special tradition for eating the galette: the youngest guest at the party shuts their eyes or hides under the table while the oldest guest slices the galette according to how many guests are there (no spare slices!) The youngest person calls out who should get the first slice, the second, the third and so on until everyone has a slice. The party all dig in and see who finds the hidden fève which will decide who becomes the next King or Queen of the evening. Whoever wins the fève is then next year’s host and has fork out the cash to buy or bake the galette – it’s a win-lose sort of moment, in true reflection of France’s attitude towards having a monarchy.
This recipe always takes me back to my time living with a French family in Lorraine, France. I was the one that found the fève and, being “la petite Anglaise”, the rest of the guests sang God Save the Queen as they coronated me with my paper crown.
Whether you’re at home this week or off skiing, this recipe is so simple and the evening promises a royal dose of family fun. The price of these galettes can be pretty extortionate in some artisanal French bakeries but I was really surprised with how easy it was to bake myself so it’s well worth a try…
400g ready-made puff pastry ( well Mary Berry wouldn’t make her own)
2 tbsp apricot jam
100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
2 medium beaten eggs
100g ground almonds
A fève – this needs to be small enough to be hidden in the pastry and something that won’t harm people. I’ve used dried pasta shell before since it is only noticeable once you’ve tucked in and is still edible.
- Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
- Roll out your ready-made puff pastry (or unwind if you were savvy enough to buy the ready rolled pastry). Cut the pastry into a circle with a diameter of approx. 25cm. Lay out the first round on a baking tray and spread the apricot jam to within 2cm of the edges.
- Beat together the softened butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy, then stir in one egg followed by the ground almonds. Some recipes add a dash of cognac or rum to the mix – your call. You can flavour this mix how you like. Those with nut allergies or who don’t like frangipane can get rid of it entirely and use apple compote as the filling instead.
- Spoon the mixture over the jam, spreading it evenly. Don’t forget to add the fève!
- Brush the edges of the pastry with water, then cover with the second round piece, pressing the edges to seal.
- Score the top of the galette with a wide rhombus or zigzag pattern then brush with some beaten egg or milk to get a nice golden glaze.
- Bake for 25-30mins until crisp and golden. Serve warm or cold. Enjoy.