GALETTE DES ROIS aux POMMES CARAMELIZÉES
Lights off, the gray, silent afternoon seeps in through the curtains allowing me just enough illumination to slice and chop apple, the slick flesh leaving a sticky glaze on my hands. As the fog settles onto the city’s rooftops, enveloping the church towers in a soft blanket of mystery, graffiti in pink, blue and gold pressing forward in an endless effort to assert itself, I press my hands into the chilled pastry, brush off a cloud of wintry flour and prepare to assemble this year’s Galette. The hours upon hours, weeks into years, I spent long ago watching a chef pound, roll, turn endless mounds, endless squares, endless layers of puff pastry come back to me, his hypnotic movements, the creamy dough against the silver shine of the worktop reminding me, urging me on. I try and imitate his actions, but lose myself in the sensual pleasure of my every gesture, the clean, bright scent of fresh dough, its smooth, cool softness, the delicate poof of powdery flour that rises around me, making me laugh. And I forget the haunting grayness of this bleak midwinter.
Galette des Rois – the traditional King’s Cake for Epiphany, the 6th day of January – has become something of a tradition in our own home. Glass cases of every bakery and pastry shop fill with an endless display of golden puff pastry cakes as soon as Christmas is ended, a myriad of choice flavors tempt us from frangipane to apple, from chocolate to cherry. Excited like children, we make our choice, haggling, making deals, whose turn is it to choose? The warm galette is slipped into the slim white paper sack and we dash home hoping to be the one to find the fève, the tiny ceramic figurine, tucked inside our own slice. We lick the last of the sticky crumbs off of our fingers, pick up each last crumbly flake scattered on plates and laps and wonder how long we have to wait until we allow ourselves to purchase another one before the short season is over.
Although my experience watching Chef make one block of puff pastry after another, roll, fill, trim and bake one Galette des Rois after the next was repeated four years in a row over twenty years ago, I didn’t gather the courage to make my own until quite recently. And I fell in love with the challenge, the sensuality, the soothing, mesmerizing rhythm of the work in progress. I don’t make a batch of pâte feuilletée often, maybe only twice or thrice a year, but January rolls around and husband begins to hint just as the chimes hit midnight, the calendar flips over to the new year, the new month, a mere few days until Epiphany. Mine may not be as perfect or as elegant or even as flavorful as those bought in any number of local boulangeries or pâtisseries, but each galette I make is definitely made from the heart. An A for effort?
There is no religious symbolism in these galettes in our home, no religious affinity with the day. But there is something emblematic about having a galette or two to kick off the New Year, something comforting about eating warm, crispy, sweet galettes in the dead of winter. Husband waits expectantly, a yearly habit, an annual custom, biding his time with a bakery-bought galette, until I pull out the flours, the rectangles of butter, decide on a filling – or two – until he hears the familiar bang bang bang of the rolling pin on pastry, sees the two white powdery handprints on the back of my skirt where I inadvertently wiped them clean and knows that one of my homemade Galette des Rois is in the making. He finds the box where a dozen or so tiny ceramic figurines, lucky fêves of galettes past lie nestled in a happy heap, sifts through the collection and chooses one that I will push down into the frangipane or the fruit compote or the pastry cream before placing the second round of feuilletée atop and slide it into the oven.
More favorite recipes using puff pastry:
Roasted Cherry Tomato, Rocket & Feta Quiche
Tarte Fine aux Pêches
Portuguese Cream Tartlets
Caramelized Onion and Tomato Tart
CARAMELIZED APPLE GALETTE DES ROIS
Puff Pastry (recipe follows) – Pâte Feuilletée
4 pie/tart or baking apples
¼ cup (50 g) granulated brown or white sugar
1 Tbs (15 g) butter
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Egg wash (1 egg yolk + 1 tsp cold water)
Powdered/confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Prepare the 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
17.6 oz (500 g) cold unsalted butter (choose a butter with low water content)
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 refrigerator. 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 into the refrigerator 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 (perpendicular to your body) and the folding process one more time (you’ll now be rolling and folding the dough 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 (or 3 x 2 rolls/folds). 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.
Prepare the Caramelized Apple Filling:
Prepare the filling after the last two turns of the dough have been completed and the dough is resting in the refrigerator.
Peel and core the apples. Chop into small cubes. Heat a large skillet and, over low heat, add the sugar and allow it to melt and begin to color. Add the butter and stir, allowing it to cook very briefly until a caramel. Add the cubes of apple and toss and stir quickly to coat with the caramel; if some of the caramel has solidified, simply continue to cook the apples, stirring often, and the caramel will melt and blend with the apples. Cook the apples for 10 or 15 minutes over low or medium-low heat, stirring often, until tender – more or less so as desired. Remove from the heat and stir in the ground cinnamon. Allow to cool to room temperature before assembling the Galette.
Assemble the Galette des Rois:
The block of Puff Pastry should make either one 8 ½-inch (21 cm) large – with puff pastry left over for another project or a second slightly smaller Galette – or 8 x 4 ½ inch (11 ½ cm) individual Galettes. This quantity apples will fill one large Galette or 8 small. For my four individual galettes, I used 600 grams dough (with some leftover) but 1 pound (500 grams) would work better, making slightly thinner galettes.
Roll out the puff pastry to a thickness of ¼ inch (1/2 cm), long and wide enough to cut out 8 or 16 rounds of 4 ½-inch diameter rounds – the dough my quadruple in thickness when baking so decide in advance whether you desire a thin galette or a thick galette. Using a template or metal ring molds – whatever is available - and using a very sharp knife, trace and cut out the discs. Place the discs 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.
Remove prepared rounds of puff pastry. Choose half to be the bottoms of the cakes and, leaving them on the parchment-lined baking sheets, gently press the edges out a bit with your fingers to enlarge the circles slightly. Mound 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cooled apple filling in the center of each bottom disc of dough, leaving about a ½ inch (1 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 filling, if desired.
Paint the outer edge of each dough disc around the 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, pressing to have at least one finger width of pastry around all the edges well sealed.
Using a sharp knife held perpendicular to the table, cut into the side edges of the dough to create a scalloped edge all around to the cakes. Now carefully carve a design into the top of the cakes (not too deeply into the dough). Brush the top and sides of the dough lightly with egg wash. Place the tray of galettes in the refrigerator for the time the oven takes to preheat.
Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
Place in the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden.
Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C) and continue baking for an additional 25 minutes (maybe a bit longer for a large Galette) until the sides of the pastry are also golden and crisp and the pastry is well risen. If you think the pastry is browning too quickly, simply lay a piece of foil over the top.
Remove the Galettes from the oven and move the rack up one notch. Generously dust the entire top surface of each 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 once you have the perfect glaze it can very quickly, in the flash of an eye, burn! You must watch so you can pull it out of the oven just as the last of the top turns a gorgeous shiny deep golden and not leave it one second longer.
Remove the Galettes from the oven and slide the parchment paper off onto a cooling rack. Allow the Galettes to cool before serving.
If serving a Galette des Rois with a fêve inside, 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!