Now that we're starting into January, it's time for making and eating galette des rois, or "cake of the kings," the traditional French pastry eaten in celebration of Epiphany. According to the gospel of Matthew, the infant Jesus was visited by three kings, and church tradition has it that these kings (named Caspar, Balthasaar, and Melchior, if you were wondering) arrived 12 days after the birth of Christ to pay him homage. This twelfth day of Christmas, which falls on January 6, is known as Epiphany.
For centuries, Epiphany has been marked by the eating of king cakes as well as by the tomfoolery associated with Epiphany Eve (also known as Twelfth Night). One of the most famous traditions is the eating of the king cake, in which a dried bean or trinket has been hidden. The one who finds the bean in their slice is then crowned king or queen of the day and may bid their "subjects" to do all sorts of silly things!
In France, the galette des rois is enjoyed in the days preceding and following Epiphany. If you happen to be far from a French bakery, however, don't despair! Like I'm telling you, it is easy to make a delectable galette of your own at home, thanks especially to frozen puff pastry now available in most supermarkets. (Of course, you're welcome to make your own puff pastry from scratch, but the hours spent rolling layers of butter and dough by hand would bump the difficulty level of this pastry from "easy" to "you've got to be kidding me.") After reading up on the making of galette des rois, I came up with this straightforward recipe that yields perfect results. I served this just yesterday at a Twelfth Night soiree, and as my guests loved the crisp and flaky puff pastry and soft almond filling so much, I realized this was a recipe to share!
Galette des Rois
10 ounces marzipan (60% almond paste, 40% sugar)
2 Tbs. softened butter
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. rum
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large dried bean
2 sheets puff pastry (from one 17 oz. package), thawed
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water
Roll out the puff pastry sheets to erase the creases and cut two 10-inch circles. Chill pastry dough. Meanwhile, beat together marzipan, butter, sugar, flour, eggs, rum, and vanilla until smooth to create the frangipane filling.
Spread the frangipane over one of the pastry circles, leaving a one-inch border. Press the bean into the filling. Moisten the border with water, then place the second circle over and press to seal the border. Pierce the top layer in a few places to allow steam to vent during baking, and brush top with egg wash.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 425 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and continue baking 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. (Don't open the oven door during the first half of the baking period; the pastry dough needs sustained heat in order to rise, and cool drafts could deflate the glorious puff!) Let galette cool, then dust with powdered sugar.