Galette des Rois

The French have a wonderful tradition of marking Epiphany (the day the Three Kings arrived bearing gifts for the baby Jesus) with a Galette des Rois, a puff pastry "king cake" filled with almondy frangipane. The family fun includes hiding a fève (a bean or porcelain piece of something) somewhere in the galette, and whomever receives it is the king and receives a prize...or at least the excuse to gloat. (Chocolate & Zucchini has a great description of the galette and its tradition here.) Mandy decided Saturday was Galette des Rois day, so I hopped on the A train ready for a baking adventure.

Mandy received both volumes of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Christmas, so we decided to break them in by following her frangipane recipe, even making our own almond meal. (Why pay $15 for a pound of it when you can toss some blanched almonds and a little sugar in a food processor and make your own? I spent $2.50 on 1/3 pound of almonds, and we had lots leftover for future baking adventures). And inspired by Serious Eats' Mini Galettes des Rois recipe, we decided to make lots of baby galettes so we could easily share the fruits of our labor with friends and family.

We did chicken out on the puff pastry making, though, and Mandy bought some frozen dough for us to use. But as it was crazily expensive, we decided that we'll dedicate a day to making and freezing our own sometime soon.

The frangipane turned out to be fairly easy to make, though we agreed you either need a stand mixer or two people (it would be difficult for one person to drizzle the hot milk into the egg mixture--while beating it--armed only with a hand mixer and no one to hold the bowl). We were especially amazed/proud of ourselves when the frothy milk/egg mixture turned into a custard on the stove...cooking science at work! We finished by adding the ground almonds and other flavors, but we had to substitute a little cherry brandy for the kirsch, as Mandy's local boozery didn't have any of that particularly useful eau de vie.

For the baby galettes, Mandy rolled out the dough and we used her holiday cookie cutters (a bell and a Star of David) to make little shapes. We plopped frangipane on one piece (along with a few strategically hidden beans), topped with another slice of dough, sealed, and brushed an egg wash on top. For the big one, we did the same thing, but ended up with a sort of amoeba shape that ultimately baked itself pretty much into a circle.

In the oven, we had a few frangipane explosions...we figure we either overfilled the pastries or didn't poke big enough holes in the tops of each. But it really didn't matter, because all in all, everything turned out pretty well. We were especially happy with Julia's homemade frangipane, and we'll definitely make it again. Thank you, Julia!

The only bummer was that Mandy and I, after slaving over the galettes, lost the kingship to Stéphane. Whatever!

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