Epiphany : a Christian festival held on January 6 in honor of the coming of the three kings to the infant Jesus Christ
: a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way – Merriam Webster Dictionary
Every French kid looks forward to January 6th as the day we get to eat a galette des rois, or King’s Cake, and perhaps be king or Queen for a day. Hidden among the warm rum scented layers of frangipane (almond cream) and puff pastry is a small ceramic figurine guaranteed to break your tooth if you aren’t careful. The figurine, also known as a feve, used to actually be a small bean but changed to figurines sometime in the late 1800’s. The cake celebrates the feast of Epiphany when the three kings brought gifts for sweet baby Jesus. Who ever finds the feve in the galette gets to wear a crown and be king or queen for the day!
I have a confession, I never made one myself till this year. I wanted my son Beaumont to enjoy this part of growing up and feared no bakery in Portland would have one. Or, if they did, they would be tempted to work some pork belly into it somehow. I just wanted a simple, classic version like the ones I grew up eating. Making one is actually super easy and there are very few steps involved. It is a perfect pastry to make with your small child.
There are a few brands to choose from in most American grocery stores, but Pepperidge Farms puff pastry sheets is the most widely available. It can be found in any grocery store freezer section. Thaw a box completely. The downside to Pepperidge Farms brand is each sheet is folded in three and has very distinct creases when you unfold the sheet. Throw a little flour on a smooth work surface and roll the dough out a little bit. You can usually roll out the creases, mostly. Use a 10 inch spring form cake pan (or any other ten inch circle shaped thing you have to cut a circle out from the pastry. Be sure to use a sharp knife so you do not pinch the dough too much. Pinching causing the dough to rise unevenly. I wouldn’t worry too much about that as it is mostly for looks. Repeat with the second sheet in the box. Put the sheets aside while you make the frangipane.
The story of Bob’s Red Mill is one of perseverance and great American success. I feel very fortunate to live less than 10 miles from the store. Bob’s Red Mill products can be found on most grocery store shelves across the country. They are consistently high quality and a great value. I use his almond meal/flour exclusively. In a bowl mix, 1 ounce of rum, 4 ounces of room temperature butter, 1 cup of almond meal, 1/2 cup of sugar, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon of almond extract, 2 eggs and the zest of one orange. Mix till you have a semi homogeneous mixture.
Lay one circle of puff pastry on a sheet pan (cookie sheet, baking pan) lined with parchment paper. Scoop your frangipane out and plunk into the center of the circle. Spread it out leaving a one inch border free and clear of frangipane. If you are putting in a feve do so now. If you want to “cheat” and make sure your little one gets the feve make some kind of secret mark on the galette so you know where it is.
Mix one egg with one tablespoon of cold water. Use a pastry brush or your fingers and light wet the one inch border you created in step three. Place the second circle of puff pastry over. Since the dough is room temperature it will be soft and easy to manipulate. Obviously, the second sheet technically needs to be larger because it has to cover the mountain of almond cream and still reach to cover the bottom layer of puff pastry. Align one side and gently stretch to fit to the other sides. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t exactly align. Who cares.
David Lebovitz stole my life from me. Just kidding. He is a Chez Panisse alum who lives in Paris and spends his life eating and drinking in France and writing about it. The guys is a genius and I absolutely love his books and blogs. His blog is what I try mostly miserably to emulate. With great fear of losing the three people who actually read my blog (Hi Mom) I strongly suggest checking his out. This technique of crimping is shamelessly “borrowed” from him. Put two fingers on the one inch border facing out from the center of the galette and draw the backside of a butter knife towards you. This simple technique will create a visually stunning border that will elevate your pastry making to art form. Stick everything into your freezer and forget about it it for one hour. The idea is to solidify the dough a bit without freezing the pastry. One hour maximum.
Step Six: Decorate the galette with a razor sharp paring knife. Remove the solidified pastry from the freezer. Use a sharp knife to cut into the top of the galette into any design that fancies you. Classically it is semi circles spiralling out of the center. This is solely for show and does not matter. Be sure to only score the top and not to actually cut all the way through the dough. Brush the top with egg wash and throw into a preheated 400 degree oven till golden brown, about thirty minutes or so. Let cool slightly and eat! You do not need to wait till January 6th to eat this. Not so surprisingly the French also call this dessert Pithivier the rest of the year and eat it with great fondness.