In France, the holiday season continues into January with the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, the 12th day after Christmas.
For the occasion, pastry shops are filled with galettes des rois, Epiphany cakes. (The name actually translates to kings’ cake; a galette is a flat pastry cake.)
The cake is traditionally—more of an almond puff pastry tart—is filled with frangipane (almond cream). Other fillings can be substituted, from almond paste (marzipan) to chocolate ganache to sliced apples. In the south of France, brioche is often substituted for the puff pastry.
You can buy puff pastry (pâte à choux) or make your own with this recipe.
The cake is often garnished with a metallic gold paper crown, and a charm is baked into the filling. Originally a baby, representing baby Jesus, today any trinket can be substituted. The person who finds the trinket in his or her slice becomes “king” for the day.
This year, we present François Payard’s slightly different recipe, with a bit of rum and almond extract (Darroze prefers a citrus zest flavor accent).
It was a staple for French-born Payard, who grew up in Nice, where his grandfather owned a pastry shop (his father also was a pastry chef).
Each baker puts his or her own design on top of the Epiphany Cake. These are from Parisian pâtissiér Pierre Hermé .
RECIPE: FRANÇOIS PAYARD’S GALETTE DES ROIS
1. MAKE the cream filling: Mix together the almonds and sugar. Add the creamed butter, the two whole eggs and rum; mix well together.
2. DIVIDE the puff pastry dough in half; roll out each half into a 12-inch (about) circle. Lay one pastry round sheet on a very slightly greased baking pan. Pour the filling in the middle and spread without reaching the edge. Drop the toy into the filling.
3. TOP carefully with the second circle of dough. With moist fingers, press firmly all around to seal the “cake.” Glaze the surface with the remaining beaten egg yolk. (For a little more control over the color, brush the yolk on roughly halfway through the baking)
4. DRAW some light, curved lines for decoration using a knife or fork. Make a few tiny cuts on the top to let out steam during cooking.
5. BAKE for about 35 to 40 minutes in preheated 400°F oven. Check with an oven thermometer, as oven temperatures can vary. Remove when the pastry is golden. Cool and serve while still warm, if possible.
We like ours with a dab of barely- (or non-) sweetened whipped cream or crème fraîche.
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