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!
The sun appeared briefly yesterday before the rain reasserted itself once more. I’m therefore spending rather more time than anticipated on the home-trainer and down the gym, where I’ve cranked my routine up a few more notches to maintain momentum. Because we’re both resorting to the home trainer, a tug o’ war has ensued over the mat. We’ve got both of the trainers set up in the bedroom, where there’s ample room. However, there is only one mat. My beloved bought it for me last Xmas with my home trainer. However, he seems to think that possession really is 9/10ths of the law. It’s true that I don’t want him dripping sweat all over the wooden floor. So I’m sensing that a trip to my LBS (Local Bike Shop) to order another one might be a good idea.
My intrepid English class conducted some very important research yesterday afternoon. I have been charged with acquiring the Galettes des Rois for the club’s event next Tuesday. I decided to purchase them from my local bakery but prior to placing the order thought a taste test wouldn’t go amiss. The result was conclusive and very positive. So now I’ll place the order.
In case you’re wondering, a Galette des Rois celebrates Christ being visited by the Magi (the three kings), at Epiphany. The galette differs according to the regions: for example in Paris it’s a puff pastry dough covering a frangipane centre whereas down here it’s made of brioche, shaped like a crown and decorated with glace fruit. The cake contains a lucky charm (une fève) which originally was a bean, a symbol of fertility. Whoever finds the charm in their slice of cake, becomes King or Queen. Latterly, the charm can take any shape or form. It sometimes represents a religious figure such as the baby Jesus, but it can be virtually anything, and they have become collectable items. It’s normal to eat a galette at the beginning of January with family, friends or club mates.
To supplement the purchased galettes, I’m going to make a couple of chocolate ones. In addition, I’ve a made a very rich and fruity Xmas cake and (my take) on mince pies. Hopefully, this should be enough to feed the hungry hordes.
The sunshine returned yesterday as forecast, although it was very windy. The crews were still clearing up the coastal road, so we decided to head over to Sophia Antipolis and return by way of Valbonne and Biot. Riding the same roads that I suspect the peloton may cover in the forthcoming Tour of the Med, the Saturday stage of which will finish in Biot.
The wind was pretty fierce (British understatement) and at times it felt as if I was cycling in treacle. It was not a day for showing how my “look no hands” was progressing. I therefore had to make regular snot stops (my beloved’s terminology, not mine). Yes, the cold is lingering on.
Today was even colder and a quick check on the temperature this morning sent us scampering back under the bedclothes rather than going on the club ride. Instead we set off at 10:30 and I made it as far as the coffee shop! My beloved rode off while I huddled in the warmth and read the Sunday papers before returning to prepare lunch which was served as soon as my beloved emerged from his post-ride shower. Just the way he likes it.
When it’s cold like this there’s only one thing for it – comfort food! Soups, casseroles and hot toddies are essential to put the warmth back into chilly bodies.
I’ve spent the afternoon curled up on the sofa watching the ski-jumping from Innsbruck, where there’s a paucity of snow. It’s hill 3 of the 4 Hills Tournament, held for the past 50 or so year’s over the New Year to Epiphany period. In year’s past, we’ve watched it in Obersdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Innsbruck, but have never visited the 4th hill: Bishofshofen, in Salzburgerland. I have fond memories of huddling in warm clothing, drinking a glass of gluehwein and watching those boys soar off the in-run: rather them than me.
Today is the last day of my beloved’s vacation and it’s back to the grindstone for both of us tomorrow. The paperwork has been piling up and we’ve a major technological challenge to overcome. Our newish printer/scanner/fax which has never, ever been able to receive faxes threw a wobbly two days ago and now won’t print. Instead, it gobbles up the paper. Also, the paper feeder keeps jamming and it scans only when it feels like it. I think we’ve the printer equivalent of the rogue supermarket trolley. To be fair, the manufacturer is offering us a replacement machine, I just hope we don’t have to wait too long.