Thursday, January 29, 2009

Galette des Rois

Around the beginning of January, our family started noticing all of these "galettes" in the bakery windows around town. I was intrigued by these round, flat cakes made out of pastry, particularly since the galettes were always topped by a crown. When Brooklyn's teacher sent home a note saying that she needed a crown for school, I used it as the perfect excuse to splurge on a galette for our family.

Our first galette was filled with apple, making it very much like an apple pie baked on a cookie sheet instead of in a pie dish. We enjoyed our dessert, and were just about finished with it when I noticed with horror something big and black stuck in the filling of my pastry. Closer examination revealed that it was actually a tiny ceramic figurine (a character from Harry Potter, to be precise.) Obviously there was more to this galette tradition in France than we understood.

Fortunately, one of Brooklyn's classmates invited us over a couple of weeks ago to share a Galette des Rois with their family, and we got to experience the tradition first hand. This galette was homemade and filled with a delicious almond paste (frangipane). It turns out that frangipane filling is much more traditional, but they make apple ones too for those who don't like almonds.

According to custom, while the galette is being cut, the youngest person goes under the table (literally) where he or she can't see and calls out who should be the recipient of each slice. (This prevents any sneak peeking.) The person who gets the figurine is designated the king (roi) or queen and gets to wear the crown. (They also get to select a partner to rule with them.)

Galettes are eaten in celebration of Epiphany (January 6th). Traditionally, different figurines from the nativity were hidden in the filling. During the month of January, it's very common for family and friends to get together and share a Galette des Rois (perhaps best translated as Kings' cake or Twelfth Night Cake).

I thought it was a great tradition and a nice way to continue the Christmas season a bit longer, instead of crashing completely after New Year's. I even dared to make a Galette for our own family. Since I forgot to take a picture, here's one I snagged off the web. (Can't say that mine looked quite as pretty, but with equal parts of butter, sugar, and almond flour, it definitely tasted good!)

Cheers to the royalty inside us all!


Tanja said...

yummy on your tummy!
I like this idea too ... especially when you see Easter decorations in the stores already. :(

Brian and Tonya said...

What a cool tradition. Mmmmmm looks so nummy I could eat the picture.

Mrs. M said...

This is one of my favorite French traditions, and I keep wanting to do it in our house. Obviously not wanting it enough to actually do it. Next year will be entirely different!

Jackie said...

How neat! So what does one do as king or queen for the day? :) I think I need to get myself a crown to wear around the house to make my role a little more official...

Anonymous said...

Although I very much admire this "Galette des Rois" tradition, we are not without our American equivalents. It is very possible to declare a "K-Day" or "Special K" day any day of the year by eating Special K cereal for breakfast, and a Burger King Whopper for lunch (complete with a complimentary BK crown). If you really want to make K-Day complete wear your BK crown to K-Mart and walk around the store holding a toilet plunger as a mace. Keep smiling!