Serious Eats: Recipes
Baking with Dorie: Galette des Rois
Here in Paris we said au’revoir to the last bûches de Noël (yule logs) on New Year’s Eve and bonjour to les galettes des Rois on January 2, the day the city’s pastry shops reopened. While the galette des rois is a cake meant specifically for January 6, Epiphany, it’s impossible to resist its temptations before or after the official holiday—so impossible that some shops offer the sweet until the end of the month.
The galette is really very simple, if a little time-consuming to make—it’s an almond and pastry-cream filling sandwiched by two rounds of (all-butter) puff pastry dough—but so, so good. Nothing beats buttery puff pastry and a filling made with more good butter! But great taste is only one of its attractions—the chance to wear the king’s crown is another, and probably the one that keeps kids asking for the cake over and over.
Every galette comes with a crown and, this being Paris, patissiers vie to have the most beautiful crowns of the season. And the way you get to wear the crown is to be the person lucky enough to get the feve, the little trinket that’s baked into the filling. Feve means bean and, originally, that’s what the trinket was. But over the years, while the word feve remained, the beans gave way to fanciful trinkets. (There are feve collectors all over the world now.) It probably goes without saying, but this being Paris, the best pastry chefs change their feves each year and, yes, vie to be the most original. The feves in the picture are from my little Pierre Herme collection.
The recipe I’m giving you is for a classic almond Galette des Rois and it comes from Stephane Vandermeersch, a patissier in Paris, whose galette is always among the top-rated in town. The recipe’s not difficult; what’s hard is finding a crown.
Oh, one last thing about the crown—you’re not supposed to keep it. If you win, you can pocket the trinket, but when you get the crown, you’re meant to place it on the head of your chosen king or queen. It’s a lovely tradition, but one I’ve never seen honored. Everyone I know who’s won, has plunked the crown on his or her head, gloated over winning and dug into the galette.
About the author: Dorie Greenspan is the author of several books on dessert, most recently Baking: From My Home to Yours. Dorie can also be found at DorieGreenspan.com and on the Bon Appétit website, where she is a special correspondent.