There couldn’t be two more different pastries than king cake and galette de rois. Funny enough, they’re both called king cake and served during Mardi gras, or Carnival. Galette de rois is the typical dessert served on Twelfth Night, the Eve of Epiphany in the Catholic tradition.
Where king cake is dense, fluffy, and yeasty, galette de rois is light, flaky and croissant-like. King cake fillings can traditionally range from a simple cinnamon-sugar to pecan praline or cream cheese. Galette de rois are filled with frangiapane— an almond flour, sugar and egg mixture.
This French king cake takes about one third of the time that a traditional king cake takes, so it’s certainly a time-saver on that front. You simply cut out two circles of puff pastry, sandwich them with an almond flour/egg/sugar filling, and bake. The cake itself will puff up alarmingly high, but it will settle as it cools. I love the crisscross chevron pattern on the surface, emphasized by the shininess of the egg washed pastry.
This French king cake is ideal with a cup of coffee for a Sunday breakfast, or after dinner. It’s light, flaky, and sweet, and it reminds me of an almond croissant (my pastry of choice at any patisserie).
Traditionally, a bean or trinket, called the fève, is hidden within the cake. Whoever finds it is king for the feast. This tradition goes all the way back to the Roman feast of Saturnalia, when Roman nobility and their servants switched places for the feast. Whomever of the servants found the bean was the “king” for the evening. It’s up to you whether you want to hide a fève in the cake, but Leibovitz recommends baking something edible into the cake like a whole almond or piece of dried fruit to be on the safe side, especially if it will be served to children.
When the sun sets tonight, it’s officially Carnival season. So laissez les bon temps rouler!
Galette des rois
A flaky puff pastry French king cake with almond filling.
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- zest of half an orange
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 sheets of all-butter puff pastry chilled
- a whole almond or candied fruit for the fève
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon milk
To make the almond filling, in a medium bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the almond flour, sugar, salt, and orange zest.
Mash in the butter until it’s completely incorporated. Stir in the eggs one at a time, along with the and almond extract. The mixture will look a little lumpy, and that’s okay. Cover and chill filling in the freezer.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On lightly floured surface, roll one piece of puff pastry into a circle about ten inches in diameter.
Using a pot lid, plate, or bottom of springform pan as a template, trim the dough into neat circle. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
Cover it with a sheet of parchment paper then roll the other piece of dough into a circle, trim it, and lay it on top. Chill the dough for thirty minutes.
Remove the dough and almond filling from the refrigerator. Slide the second circle of dough and parchment or plastic from pan so that there is only one circle of dough on the parchment lined baking sheet.
Spread the almond filling over the center of the dough, leaving a 1-inch (3cm) exposed border. Place an almond or piece of candied fruit to act as the fève (prize) somewhere in the almond filling, if you wish.
Brush water generously around the exposed perimeter of the dough then place the other circle of dough on top of the galette and press down to seal the edges very well. (At this point, you may wish to chill the galette since it’ll be a bit easier to finish and decorate, although it’s not necessary. It can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if you wish.)
To bake the galette, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Flute the sides of the dough and use a paring knife to create a design on top. For the chevron look, make four shallow cuts across the top of the galette, about two inches apart. Make diagonal cuts in each of the strips, alternating the direction for each strip.
Beat together the egg yolk with the milk and brush it evenly over just the top – glaze on the sides will prevent the pastry from rising at the edges. Use a paring knife to poke 5 holes in the top, to allow steam escape while baking.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the galette is browned on top and up the sides. (During baking, if the galette puffs up too dramatically in the oven, you may want to poke it once or twice again with a paring knife to release the steam.)
Remove from the oven and slide the galette off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack. The galette will deflate as it cools, which is normal. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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