Today’s a special day in France, it’s the 12th day of Christmas, Epiphany and, more importantly, the day when the cake known as Galette des Rois is traditionally served. However, in practice, it’s served throughout the month of January.
This puff pastry delight is a piece of French gastronomic history from as far back as 14th century, though for a short while during the turmoil of the French Revolution it was called the “Gâteau de l’egalité” as any reference to royalty was frowned upon.
The cake is made of a seriously buttery puff pastry, filled with almond paste, the top of which is typically decorated like a pithiviers. Patisseries and boulangeries produce little else during January. Some are quite creative, making them from various types of frangipane such as pistachio or chocolate or even apple.
The Galette des Rois is a reminder of the Three Kings in the Bible – Melchior, Balthasar and Caspar. To commemorate their journey to Bethlehem, a little figurine called a ‘fève’ is hidden in the galette des rois. In olden days it would traditionally be a baby Jesus but these days it could be anything!
Tradition says that whoever has a slice of the cake with the ‘fève’ in it becomes the King or Queen for a day and gets to wear the golden cardboard crown which comes with the cake when you buy it.
In the south of France, the galette is more traditionally made from brioche dough and decorated with glace or dried fruits. Sadly I’m forbidden both of these delights but my beloved has no such problem and has already been conducting some extensive taste tests. His favourites so far are from Patisserie Lac but that could change in the next few weeks as he tastes more and more!
Usually, in January the cycling club has a galettes des rois get together for all its members. In years past, I’ve been in charge of the catering but not since we changed clubs. It’s unlikely the cycle club willl have anything to rival Lac, but you never know!