Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Galette des Rois

Here is a tasty version of the traditional French Kings’ Cake, complete with a hidden feve inside, to celebrate Epiphany. It is surprisingly easy, made with frozen puff pastry and a rich, creamy filling made with either purchased or no-fuss homemade almond paste. And it looks like it came from a fancy bakery!

I found several versions of this cake recipe online, and they are all very similar. While I don’t claim that my result is exactly “authentic” from a traditional French Cuisine perspective, it makes for a beautiful presentation, and was fun to share at our Epiphany Dinner Celebration! (It would make an excellent brunch pastry, as well!)

The feve, by the way, is a small dried bean or ceramic figure – we used a little ceramic animal found in a tea box – that is hidden in the cake before it is baked. The cake is traditionally topped with a paper crown: Whoever finds the feve puts on the crown and is King for the Day!

1 recipe almond paste (simple recipe follows), or ½ c purchased almond paste
¼ c granulated sugar
3 T unsalted butter
1 egg
¼ t vanilla extract
¼ t almond extract
2 T all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1 (17.3 oz) pkg frozen puff pastry (thawed out of the package for about 40 minutes at room temperature)
1 dried bean or tiny toy (don’t forget to tell people it’s there – and watch small children!)
Egg wash (1 egg plus 1 T water, beaten together)
1-2 T white sugar
1-2 T sliced almonds, unsalted
Golden Paper Crown (traditional)

Almond Paste:
½ c unsalted slivered almonds
¼ c 10x sugar
¼ c granulated sugar
¼ t almond extract
2-3 T water

In a food processor, process almonds until a fine powder. Add sugars and extract, and blend thoroughly. Add enough water to make a paste consistency. Refrigerate until ready to use in above recipe.

Directions for Pastry:
Place prepared almond paste into a food processor. Add about half of the sugar, and process until well-blended. Add butter and remaining sugar, and process until smooth; blend in 1 egg, vanilla, almond extract, flour and salt. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

Dust the parchment lightly with flour, and unfold one sheet of pastry onto it. Roll lightly in all directions, from the center out, until you have an 11” square. Using any circular dish or pan that measures about 11” across, trace a circle onto the dough with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove excess dough, and place pan in refrigerator.

Prepare second sheet on a cutting board in the same way, dusting with flour, rolling out and tracing a circle. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Take first sheet out of the refrigerator.

Place the almond filling over the pastry circle, spreading to about 1-1/2” from the edge. Place the bean or feve into the filling. Remove top sheet from the refrigerator and place atop the filling, lightly pressing edges to seal.

Brush the top crust with the egg wash (using about ½ of the prepared wash); then score in a diamond pattern all across the top. Make several small slits to allow steam to escape (if you scored a little too deeply in a few spots, this will suffice!)

Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. (Caution! Any peeking during this time will result in under-puffed pastry!) Remove from the oven, and brush lightly one more time with remaining egg wash. Sprinkle with almonds and sugar. (The almonds and granulated sugar are not a traditional topping for this cake, though it’s gorgeous and flavorful! As an alternative, you can skip the second egg wash and sprinkle the top with 1 T of 10x sugar instead at this point, which will glaze the top and really show off your cut pattern!)

Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the top is a deep, golden brown.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool (I used a cookie sheet to facilitate this).

Finally, set a crown atop (or, as we did, beside) the cake. We made a game of choosing slices: I cut the pastry into six equal slices (for the six of us at home, of course), and then, starting with the youngest, let each person choose a slice. (Use your best poker face while you slice, lest you inadvertently discover – and give away! – the location of the feve!) When everyone had a slice, we all lightly poked our slices with a fork to see who would be King for the rest of the night! (Then I quickly cut the children’s slices in half before they started eating, and saved the rest – this is pretty rich!)

Makes 12 servings.
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  1. I'm a French catholic mom, and I can say your recipe is quite correct (and looks delicious!)
    Hugs from France

    (BTW this blog is very very interesting !)

  2. As I prepared this treat again this year, I made a delightful discovery: One of my stock pot lids is exactly 11" in diameter. It was like using an oversized cookie cutter to make the circle shape!

    Christiane - a belated thank you for your kind vote of confidence! Hugs right back to you.

    Happy "12th Day of Christmas!" :)