Saturday, January 14, 2012



No Galette des Rois!” he wails. “No Galette des Rois?” the other asks in astonishment, then shaking his head in utter disdain. Indignation hung heavy in the air, the disappointment so thick one could cut it with a knife. Hopes were blighted and I feared irretrievable, inconsolable damage to our familial relations. Crestfallen faces, harsh reprimands as they pointed accusing fingers at the half-eaten cakes sitting on the table, the cookies that I had insisted upon making at no one’s request all the while allowing the 6th of January, le Jour des Rois Mages, Epiphany, to slide by without so much as a glance, a second thought or, as they haven’t stopped reminding me, a single Galette des Rois.

The message was loud and clear: I had somehow failed my family. How could I have misread the signs, turned my back on something that carried such weight and significance for them? How could I not know that in the midst of all of their complaining about the constant onslaught of baked goods that they would much rather do without that they were each waiting for, expecting, craving a Galette des Rois? Backing away at each sarcastic word, every bitter accusation, unable to answer their “You didn’t?!” “Why not?” and “What were you thinking?” I swore that I would right this wrong and give them just what they wanted.

My family is indeed a confusion of mixed messages, a riot of paradox and irony. One minute they are shouting food abuse, too much, too often, too sweet. The next they are requesting this treat or that, lamenting that the cupboard is bare, charging me with neglect. Or wondering how it is that I have forgotten or have chosen to ignore this holiday or that event. Guilty as charged! Year in and year out, the rules change, Hanukkah or Christmas, New Year’s Eve or not, Passover, Easter, Valentine’s Day, each fête, holiday or celebration leads to a monument of negotiation, discussion, argument and compromise. Shoulders shrugged when asked opinions, each in turn saying that it doesn’t much matter, that it is all up to me. And all the baked goods that accompany each special day? “We could really do without more cake!” each exclaims with a shudder. So how could I know that this year they would want, were absolutely waiting for a Galette des Rois, a special treat one eats on Epiphany, a religious festival we don't even celebrate?

We often talk of comfort food these days, a trend that seems to return with each economic crisis and financial dip, foods we turn to with each bump in the road, each life-changing event or difficult choice we face. We think of foods that bring us back to an uncomplicated, safe childhood full of dreams, foods rich and warming filled with the aroma and coziness of grandma’s kitchen on a Sunday afternoon. Cravings that may change and evolve or that may be different for each one of us; being in a mixed cultural marriage it has been clear from the beginning that the food I turn to for comfort and well-being is not always want he craves when the need arises. But no matter the food, it has the same meaning for all of us. Comfort.

But as comforting as many foods are for us: warm rice pudding or steaming, spicy couscous when the blustery weather threatens and moods turn sour; chocolate cake or a stack of chocolate chip cookies when times get tough; a bowl of ice cream slathered with hot fudge sauce after a harrowing trip to the doctor’s or after a workday of stress; a hot dog nestled in a soft bun with a side of greasy fries or a slice of fresh baguette smeared with tangy goat cheese while sitting in the softest, most comfortable spot of the sofa when difficult decisions are waiting impatiently to be made; there is also much comfort in rituals as well. Following a certain, expected rhythm, ticking off special dates on the calendar and the planning and organizing, the anticipation and the final culmination of a particular celebration or event, no matter how small, no matter how simple, grounds us, reassures us, comforts us. And sometimes it is the food that symbolizes these events that instills a warm contentment that if all comes as planned and expected then all is well in the world: a fresh, tender, golden sweet Challah welcoming the Shabbat; potato latkes on Hanukkah; bûche and orangettes for Christmas and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving and, of course Galette des Rois on the sixth day of January. As each of these foods appear on our table with regularity, like clockwork, we know that in this mad, hectic, unpredictable world that there are still some things that we can always count on.

And here I was, skipping this ever-anticipated treat, shunning this yearly custom. Beginning just after the New Year, glass cases in every French pastry shop are lined with this traditional, buttery confection, two layers of golden, crisp puff pastry filled not only with the traditional almond cream but with chocolate or fruit fillings as well. Every year I buy one or two over the course of the week or two of their short-lived appearance and we all enjoy these wonderful, rich cakes. And these last two years I have even baked one myself. Excitement mounts as the slices are passed from hand to hand and the first bites are taken. The golden crown sits in the center of the table just waiting for one of us to find the special fève nestled deep inside one lucky eater’s slice. The one who perchance discovers the token, the coveted prize, hidden in a mouthful is crowned king or queen of the day. The tradition, the delectable treat and the glory of being crowned have become an important part of a comforting rhythm of our year, a gentle slide from rambunctious holiday season into the normal, risky, uncertain rest of the year.

Our own Duchess Anne de Bretagne must have found the fève in her slice of Galette...

The plate is set before me, the aroma of warm pastry and almonds whirls and swirls up and around my head. I inhale deeply and breath in all the goodness, the scent of cozy winter afternoons in front of a roaring fire, snowy days bundled up under a thick blanket, dog at my feet, a mug of hot tea in my hand and this delicacy, this thing of beauty placed before me. Layer upon layer of flaky golden pastry, its sugary, buttery flakes cradling a rich, rum-kissed frangipane in which hides a very special prize. And like all great French fashion, it comes with the perfect accessory: a golden crown. The Galette des Rois, proudly displayed for a few short weeks of January in every pâtisserie across France, has finally found its way to my table. It took me a few extra days, but I rolled out luxurious, smooth puff pastry from a recipe shared with me by my wonderful, talented friend Gail, The One Tough Cookie, and switched out the traditional almond frangipane with pistachio and added a swirl of cherry preserves for an added fruity sweetness.

This piece on Comfort Food is part of a series for France Roundtable hosted by Christine of Why Go France. This little French Roundtable is made up of a group of five bloggers who have gathered together to share our love, experience and knowledge of this country we call home. This month’s topic is French Comfort Food. Although my French husband and I often turn to such wonderful and comforting foods as Riz au Lait, Blanquette de Veau, even a plateful of local oysters, cool and nutty with a squeeze of lemon to soothe what ails us, the events and festivities that dot our calendar have become reference points, a way to find rhythm to our year, signposts along our well-traveled, often hectic and uncertain road. And from the unexpected reaction of my son and husband when January 6 rolled around and there was no Galette to be seen just shows me how much they hold onto these heart-warming symbols, these yearly customs and rituals that console and delight simply in their regular and well-regulated appearance. Comforting, indeed.

Please visit the the other members of the French Roundtable to see what French foods they turn to when comfort is required…

Why Go France
Chez Loulou (oops! absent this month!)
Food Lover’s Odyssey


Puff Pastry (recipe follows) or enough store-bought for 2 x ½-inch thick x 8 ½-inch rounds

2 ½ oz (70 g) sugar
2 oz (60 g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
1 large egg
2 ½ oz (70 g) ground almonds or pistachios
¼ tsp vanilla
1 Tbs rum
2 Tbs cherry jam or preserves, optional
Egg wash (1 yolk whisked with 1 tsp cold water)
Icing/powdered sugar for dusting the top of the Galette

Prepare the Frangipane filling:
Beat the sugar and butter together until fluffy. Beat in the egg, the ground almonds or pistachios, the vanilla and the rum. Add more vanilla or rum to taste, if desired. Place the filling in a small bowl covered with plastic wrap or in a lidded plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use. It needs to firm up before assembling the cake.

To prepare the Galette des Rois:
Roll out the puff pastry to a thickness of ½ inch (1 cm) and not less than 3/8 inch, long and wide enough to cut out two 8 ½-inch (21 cm) discs. Using a cake tin or plate of about 8 ½-inches (21 cm) diameter and using a very sharp knife, trace and cut out two discs. Place each disc carefully on parchment-lined baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Stack remaining dough (don’t mash together into a ball as you would other dough), wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for another use.

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).

Remove prepared rounds of puff pastry. Choose one to be the bottom of the cake and gently press the edges out a bit with your fingers to enlarge the circle slightly. Remove the chilled frangipane from the fridge and, if desired, swirl a tablespoon or two of cherry preserves through it and then mound in the center of the bottom disc of dough. Press it flat and out, using the back of a soupspoon, leaving about 1 ½ inches (4 cm) border of dough free around the edges. Press a fève, a ceramic charm of some sort, or even an old-fashioned dried bean or a coin into the almond cream.

Paint this wide edge of the dough around the frangipane filling lightly with the egg wash (too wet and the top disc may slide during baking). Gently place the second disc of dough on top of the filling placing the top and bottom discs edge to edge (so the edges meet all the way around), gently stretching the top disc if needed so the edges line up. Press to seal tightly.

Place a bowl upside down on top of the discs – the bowl should come up to ½ to 1 inch from the edges. Using a sharp knife held perpendicular to the table, cut into the dough to create a scalloped edge to the cake. Now carefully carve a design into the top of the cake (not too deeply into the dough). Cut a small circle in the center of the top dough disc and insert a chimney (make a chimney out of parchment or foil or, as I did, use an upside down aluminum pastry bag tip).

Brush the top and sides of the dough with egg wash. Place in the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown. If you think the pastry is browning too quickly, simply lay a piece of foil over the top.

Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C) and continue baking for an additional 25 to 30 minutes until the sides of the pastry are also golden and crisp and the pastry is well risen.

Remove the Galette from the oven and move the rack up one notch. Protecting your hand with an oven mitt or kitchen towel, gently and carefully lift out the chimney. Generously dust the entire top surface of the Galette with powdered sugar (using a sieve or sifter) then place the pastry back in the oven. Now bake for around 5 minutes until the sugar has turned to a golden and very shiny glaze. Stand next to your oven and watch because it turns to the perfect glaze very quickly then in the flash of an eye burns! You must watch so you can pull it out of the oven just as the last of the top turns a gorgeous deep golden and not leave it one second longer.

Remove the Galette from the oven and slide the parchment paper off onto a cooling rack. Allow the Galette to cool before slicing and serving.

Make sure there is a child under the table while the host cuts the Galette and then passes each slice as the child calls out whom to serve. Have a paper crown ready to crown the King or Queen who finds the charm!

PUFF PASTRY – Pate Feuilletée
Recipe from Gail of One Tough Cookie using my own procedure

Click here to see step-by-step images of how to put together your own perfect Puff Pastry!

8.8 oz (250 g) cake flour
8.8 oz (250 g) bread flour (type 55)
2.5 oz (70 g) softened butter
2 tsps table salt
1 cup (250 ml) cold water

8.8 oz (250 g) cold unsalted butter

The détrempe or the basic dough can easily be made in a food processor, but I did this by hand in a snap.

Blend the 2 flours and the salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter cut into cubes and rub into the dry ingredients until it has disappeared. Add the chilled water all at once and stir until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough starts to pull together. Add a tablespoon or two more if needed. Scrape out onto a well-floured work surface and knead for just a few minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable.

Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Incorporating the Butter:
Place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or becomes oily, chill it before continuing.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Working on a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into an approximately 10” square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps. Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square. Make sure it stays cool at all times; if need be just pop the whole thing in the fridge regularly for a few minutes until it firms up again.

Making the Turns:
Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square “package” to seal, thus ensuring the dough stays square. Keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured, roll the dough into a rectangle, perpendicular to your body, 3 times as long as wide (24” long, the width may vary between 8” and 9” but don’t worry).

Brush off all excess flour from the dough and fold the bottom of the dough up (mark off 8” down from the top and align the edge of the folded dough to this). Again brush off excess flour from the folded up portion and bring down the top remaining third so the edge comes to the bottom edge (the dough is now folded into thirds, all edges even and no gaps). Pull gently on the corners if need be so there are no gaps. Gently but firmly press the rolling pin on the edges to “seal” so when rolling again the edges stay aligned.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and the folding process one more time (you’ll now be rolling and folding in the other direction). Once it is rolled out and folded again into thirds, you have just completed the second turn. If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy and beginning to soften, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.


Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Oh my gosh, what a fabulous King Cake Jamie. Tres, tres belle.

The King Cakes in Mississippi and Louisiana are bright purple and yellow.

Jackie Gordon Singing Chef said...

What a glorious cake and gorgeous story. I get the same mixed messages. "Who ate the cake?" juxtaposed against "Who do you think is going to eat all that cake?" Or "Don't give them cake they're eat terribly already" juxtaposed against "Do you think you could make a little cake for them?

This holiday season I had to find people to give cake to!

It's CWAZY and all we can do is keep making cake!

And I'm so glad you DO!!!

Can you bring us a King's cake in March please? We will not say a word except "Mmmmmmm..."

Christine @WhyGoFrance said...

Oh my goodness, I'm drooling. God bless French butter. LOL

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

I saw some snippets with you and Gail going back and forth and it's evident that it worked fabulously...this is absolutely gorgeous Jamie.

The vagaries of our families are never ending aren't they. Sometimes stressful, sometimes delightful, always amazing.

Lisa said...

Isn't it funny how comfort food in America is so different from that of France? A Galette Des Rois is a luxurious pastry that costs a ton at patisseries in the city, while it's childhood comfort that celebrates the le Jour des Rois Mages, Epiphany in France. Sad thing is - Twinkies (and the like) are comfort food in the US!!

Your Galette Des Rois is beautiful, love the spoked wheel like design the egg wash brings out, on top. I will definitely make this soon, using pistachio, and, of course, pate feuilletee from scratch.

La Table De Nana said...

I hope I remember to come and see how you prepared yours next yr..I forgot to make one this year!:(

But love how you have artistically decorated yours..I also love the Ephemera and Babar:) There is no calligraphy I like better than the typical French one on the Babar cover La galette..etc:)
We take our tree down after Epiphany..I still have my 3 wise men under the creche until that day too:)

Janet Rudolph @ DyingforChocolate said...

What an amazing post! Love the photos and the text. Love live the King!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Yes, what a blasphemy! LOL. At least you remediated to that situation. Your galette looks incredible! A real beauty. I love the French version of King Cake, although i don't always make it. This year, I decided to bake Eccles Cakes instead.



Gail said...

Oh Jamie!!! What a wonderful post. Your galette is so beautiful; I can actually feel the puff pastry melting on my tongue.

I love that instead of cutting vents in the top, you made a 'chimney'. Such a pretty presentation!

Viva la mille feuille!!!

Fresh Local and Best said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous, and fit for royalty. I can see why your family felt a bit a hollow in the 6th, your cake is simply amazing and life can resume now that they've had their cake.

Jefferson's Table said...

What a beautiful idea! Perfect for MartiGras coming soon. We do a New Orleans style and this will be a fun. Love your blog and will follow. Best from Montecito California, Sherry

Robin | what-about-the-food said...

You temptress you. I am not a baker, yet you entice me with a story and delectable images. Maybe one day....when the butter beans are gone. They were my comfort food this week.

Mathilde said...

Bonsoir Jamie ! Tout d'abord, je te souhaite une très bonne année, santé, bonheur, réussite dans tout tes projets, et encore plein de nouvelles recettes...
Et ta galette me fait rêver...
A très bientôt, bisous.

WiseMóna said...

You are a master baker Jamie.
This is just gorgeous and I love how you made this with love for your hungry boys. Of course they would crave this!
I think that family food traditions and customs do happen organically and many are never written down or planned...they just happen. Beautiful recipe and words as always..xx

tasteofbeirut said...

We almost bought a galette des rois this year, since there are Paul bakeries in Beirut and suburbs and they make really good viennoiseries and such. Yours look great!

Ivy said...

Jamie your galette is fit not only for Kings but for Emperors! I had bookmarked a recipe many years ago , which I have not made until today, but yours now looks very tempting and I want to make it although I am back on a diet again.

maxivida said...

This looks incredibly yummy and I will definitely make it some day. It is truly a cake of the kings.

Barbara Bakes said...

Fabulous! Love how you changed it up. I wish I could grab a fork and dig in. My kids were disappointed I didn't have croissants this year for Christmas. I never know either.

Maureen said...

wow, what a fantastic galette des rois! I find it amazing how much food defines our past. Just eating somethings that my grandmother used to serve brings peace to my soul when I get homesick.

Torviewtoronto said...

looks fabulous deliciously done

beti said...

what a delicious looking cake! it is really impressive the way you decorated it

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I was lucky enough to try one of these one year and it was divine! Yours looks amazing Jamie, look at those lovely deep grooves and burnished top! :)

A Thought For Food said...

Wow... just wow! That pastry looks phenomenal, Jamie!

Sarah (Snippets of Thyme) said...

Your Gallette de Rois is beautiful! I would love to make something like this instead of the more cinnamon roll looking gallette splattered with tacky green and purple sprinkles.

Jill Colonna said...

Jamie, I love your galette's decor and see you have really posh crowns. Sure beats the Kimi dolls in vogue in the supermarkets just now! Absolutely adore Anne de Bretagne's crown, too - lol!

Cake Duchess said...

Viva la mille feuille, indeed! I was anxiously waiting for this following the tweets w/you and Gail. It turned out just perfect. Even more perfect would be me having a slice right now.

Dewi said...

Wow! Your gallette look so pretty. I love the pattern, and hmmm, love the crown too :)

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

Exquisite. I so identify with what you are saying about the mixed messages from your family!

Lora said...

Absolutely beautiful cake fit for a king...or a queen :-)

Anna @ the shady pine said...

This looks fantastic and so impressive! I adore the story with it.

I made a cheat's gallete recently which I wrote about using frozen puff pastry and raspberries and it was a hit.

Nuts about food said...

Jamie, that is a work of absolute perfection, no matter its tardiness. I just read of this tradition in Lichtenstein, although they use a different cake. Well, I guess it makes sense, given the proximity of the two countries.

Helene Dsouza said...

Ah Jamie how could u forget the galette des rois?! *shakehead* ;)

But I know what u mean, evbery time I ask what they want to eat and they retort that its up to me and once I make something they wanted something else. XI

My mum used to make the galette des rois every year and she would hide inside un petit jesus christ. (omg I gotte speak with somebody in french, I am forgetting the language O.O )

I love this dish, by the way!

Priya said...

Mouthwatering here, the picture itself tempts me a lot.

Deeba PAB said...

Its a gorgeous post my friend, and men will be men I guess. I could see their faces like a movie...oh, the disappointment, and then the exhilaration at this beautiful Galette des Rois. It is STUNNING, a work of art. I have some rough puff pastry in the freezer. Do you think it'll work? Must try this before winter goes away and summer melts the butter to rivers of fat! MUST!!

Nancy said...

I have never made a King's Cake and I swore after culinary school I'd never make puff pastry again - but after reading this post, I am reconsidering!!

Tickled Red said...

I would cry for this as well, just gorgeous! I have been dying to try puff pastry for a while now but have been nervous. I'm going to start with you recipe first. :D

Jeanne said...

Dear, dear, what were you thinking?? No galette de rois?? ;) glad that you managed to salvage family relations! And I love substituting pistachios for almonds in frangipane recipes. Great minds and all that...!

bunkycooks said...

This is truly spectacular and I am thinking that a patisserie is in your future! It is interesting how very different this King's Cake is from the ones served in New Orleans during Mardis Gras, especially since there is such a large French influence in New Orleans. I made one of their traditional cakes last year, but this may be the next challenge. Just gorgeous, Jamie!!

Fahad Khan said...

These lines almost made me hungry: "But as comforting as many foods are for us: warm rice pudding or steaming, spicy couscous when the blustery weather threatens and moods turn sour; chocolate cake or a stack of chocolate chip cookies when times get tough; a bowl of ice cream slathered with hot fudge sauce after a harrowing trip to the doctor’s or after a workday of stress; a hot dog nestled in a soft bun with a side of greasy fries or a slice of fresh baguette smeared with tangy goat cheese while sitting in the softest, most comfortable spot of the sofa when difficult decisions are waiting impatiently to be made; there is also much comfort in rituals as well."
Looks very delicious Jamie - like all your recipes do,hehe.:-)

Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

Haha We could really do without more cake! Yes, love is a battlefield, and I'm pretty sure you're winning with this beautiful galette. So different from the King's Cake in New Orleans whose history is connected in some way I'm sure. Lovely post as always, Jamie.

Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris said...

Here in Paris, I haven't seen many Galettes as beautiful as yours! My sincere congratulations!

JavelinWarrior said...

Love this! And I’ve been inspired (again) to feature your amazing cake in my Friday Food Fetish roundup and on Pinterest. As always, I can't wait to see what you come up with next and please let me know if you have any objections...

Yuri - Chef Pandita said...

This king cake looks perfect! And homemade puff pastry? I only made it in culinary school, now want to try making it again just for fun. I missed reading your posts, sending you warm panda hugs from the Caribbean :) xo

Meeta K. Wolff said...

AHH! Don't I know those mixed messages. Less food, not enough food etc. That is why I think we need to move together to appreciate each other's treats. Seriously, love the galette des rois and wish I had a slice to enjoy the rest of the post I have missed!

Mairi @ Toast said...

Where would we be without comfort food? That galette looks just incredible..that is a whole different level of comfort :)

Mairi @ Toast said...

Where would we be without comfort food? That galette looks just incredible..that is a whole different level of comfort :)


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