La galette des rois, or kings’ cake (not king’s, it’s plural!), is a very simple and a very elegant concoction served on the Twelfth Night, or Epiphany, to commemorate the wise men - or kings - visiting baby Jesus.
Of course it’s simple and elegant - it’s French.
Made from shop-bought puff pastry, for who still makes puff pastry at home, save for one television baking show finalist? Making puff pastry might be a bit of fun, just like having a go at making your own pasta from scratch, but with the quality of shop-bought and the hassle involved (in both cases), would you really bother? I wouldn’t.
The filling is frangipane cream and that’s also the simplest thing: whizz butter with sugar and egg, add ground almonds and you have the best filling for tarts, tartelettes and galettes.
There are some lovely traditions associated with the galette: a ‘fève’ is hidden inside the cake - a tiny china figurine or an almond - and the lucky person to find it (and not choke on it) is crowned a king or queen for the carnival. Another tradition requires the cake to be cut into as many slices as there are diners with one surplus; to be given to a poor person should one turn up at the door.
The varieties include filling with apricot jam alongside the frangipane but I went for the classic pear and almond pairing, as recommended by Raymond Blanc.
- 1 pear, peeled and cored
- 1 tsp butter
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 sheets all butter puff pastry
- 75g butter, softened
- 75g icing sugar
- 75g ground almonds
- 1 large egg
- a few drops of rose water
- 1 egg yolk beaten with a few drops of water, for brushing
Slice the pear into 8s. Place it in a skillet with the butter, sprinkle with a little sugar and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, until softened. Leave to cool.
Cut two disc of the pastry: one 20cm in diameter and the other 23cm (use plates as templates and cut around them with a sharp knife. Place them on parchment and chill in the fridge.
To make the almond cream, fluff up the butter with a spatula, add the icing sugar, the almonds and the egg and beat it to a smooth paste. Add the rose water, if using.
To build the galette, spread half the almond cream over the smaller pastry disc, top with pear slices and spread the rest of the cream over them - don’t forget to hide the figurine or the whole almond in the cream! Leave a 2cm rim around the pastry disc and brush it with the beaten egg yolk. Place the other disc on top and press well around the edges. Freeze the galette for about 1 hour.
In the meantime preheat the oven to 180C/375F/gas 4. Place the frozen galette on a baking sheet lined with parchment, trim the edge by about 1cm and brush the pastry with the egg yolk. Make a swirly pattern with a back of a knife or a fork.
Bake the galette for 40-45 minutes until deep golden and risen. Cool on a wire rack.