The Christmas and New Year festivities over for another year- well not quite- we must not forget the feast of the Epiphany. This annual festivity takes place on the 6th January and celebrated the arrival of the “Three Wise Men” or Magi at Bethlehem carrying their gifts of golf frankincense and myrhh.
In France this is another excuse for a party and a gourmet treat! It is customary to clebrate this occasion with a “galette des rois” which varies from region to region. InParis this is a cake mede of puff pastry and filled with frangipane. In the South West it is made of shortcrust pastry. Here in Provence it is made of brioche in the shape of a crown, decorated with crystallised fruits and more correctly called le gateau des rois.
As with most products, the quality of the “home-made” or artisan galettes is superb and far outweighs the mass-produced varieties.
In Provence the fruits confits are often local and high quality almonds are used for the galettes with frangipane
Hidden within the galette des rois is a charm. It used to be a broad bean, but this has evolved over the years. Nowadays it is likely to be a small ceramic fruit or figurine. The person who is served the slice of cake with the charm is designated the king ” le roi” and wears a paper crown, which is supplied with the cake for this purpose.
The cake was traditionally divided into the number of guests plus one, this piece being reserved for the poorvperson to visit the home. Traditionally the youngest child sits under the table and calls out the names of the people present to distribute the portions of cake at random, so that no-one knows in advance who will get the trinket inside.
The galettes des rois are on sale in the bakers for several days before and after Ephiphany to extend the celebrations.
Recipes for La Galette des Rois- As you can see- this galette is not without variation!!!
As the French emigrated so did their custom- In New Orleans the “king cake” parties go hand in hand with Mardi Gras celebrations
Similar customs are enjoyed in Belgium, Spain and the hispanic countries.