Growing up in France, “La galette des Rois” is something we were looking for just after Christmas. As we go every day to the bakery to buy fresh baguettes, we could smell down the street the galettes baking. The memories of puff pastry and almond scents down the street are still very vivid in my mind. Traditionally, the Kings cake appears in the bakery at the beginning of January until the end of the month. La galette is much more than just a cake, it is made of butter pastry and almond that take its roots back to the Roman Empire.
The tradition says that we have to Tirer les rois , it mean to “Find the King” at the beginning of the New Year has survived the fall of the Roman Empire, the Middle Age and the French Revolution. The one that find the “feve” the little ornament inside the galette will be the king or queen for the day.
The Celebration of The Galette des Rois is biblical. It is a way for French people to celebrate the Epiphany, the arrival of the Three Wise men (Magi). Every year, on January 6th or the first Sunday of the year, people gather pour tirer les rois, to find the kings. The traditional galette is cut in a very specific number of slices: one slice for each person sitting at the table plus one. The extra slice is symbolic for the first poor person passing by.
The most innocent or youngest person, which is often me 😊 , in the room goes under the table, and announces the name of the people at the table who gets the next slice. Such an importance is given to the distribution because of the lucky charm, la fève, hidden in the galette. Once upon a time, the lucky charm was a bean but it has since evolved and was replaced at the end of the XIXth century by porcelain trinkets, and today porcelain or plastic trinkets.
The person that gets the slice with the lucky charm becomes “the king” for the day. French bakeries sell the Galette with a paper golden crown. The king of the day is supposed to wear the crown as a symbol of royalty. Children and adults get excited about it because it is fun and allows the family to get together. I have a lot of loving memories of eating this delicious pie made of buttery, flaky, light , melting puff pastry filled with almond cream and a hint of Rum.
To access my recipe, follow the link below:
Home made puff pastry Vs Convenient puff pastry:
In this Recipe I am showing you how to make The “Galette des rois” from A to Z. You can make your own Puff pastry as i show in this recipe. Puff pastry could be a challenge for many people but with few tips, it is a great pastry and worth every effort. Furthermore, Making your own Puff pastry requires a lot of resting times. I recommend you to make the pastry a day in advance.
You can also buy it directly from a baker or used frozen puff pastry. If you use Frozen sheet puff pastry, i recommend you use 3 sheets for the bottom layered on top of each other and the same for the top. Do not forget to remove the plastic between the sheets.
THE HISTORY OF LA GALLETTE DES ROIS
History books mentioned that during the reign of the Roman Empire, people were honouring Saturn. During the ancient Roman Festival held from the end of December through the beginning of January, the Roman god (Saturn) for Agriculture who symbolized the Golden Age. This very festive period allowed for some usually forbidden activities, like gambling. But one of the major traditions was to reverse the roles between master and slave. One slave was designated as “the king of the day” after finding the bean in the galette
Later and during the Middle-Ages in France, the Galette des rois was used during the time of feudal fees. It was of tradition to give one Galette to his own master. The Galette des Rois was even celebrated at Louis XIV’s royal table. Louis the XIV, liked himself as the “Sun King”. Some food historian said that is when the Galette was shape to look like the sun, to please the king.
Due to a famine in France in 1711, the Galette was prohibited to reduce the use of flour. The flour was only to be used to make bread. Later on, and during the French Revolution in 1789, every symbols of the royalty had to be abolished or chopped off.
Nowadays, the galette des rois is very popular and on many tables during the entire month of January. Many pastry chefs have given it a modern twist. You can buy the galette in different shapes these days. The filling is not just of almond, but also apples purees, salted caramel, hazelnut and different mix of flavours. Even the puff pastry has seen few cotemporary changes with a chocolate flavour arising, tonka beans and many more little twists that make the galette an excitement and a tradition that persisted over the centuries.
So, “Vive La galette des rois” and Bon Appetit.