I made over 50 of these delightful little pastries for the Epiphany reception after Mass at my Church, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in NYC. They are mini "Galettes des Rois" (King cakes), served on Epiphany night, to commemorate the night when the three Kings from the East journeyed to Bethlehem to pay honor to the baby Jesus, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Posted in her column on the "Serious Eats" website is an entry by Dorie Greenspan on Galettes des Rois: Dorie writes, "While thegalette des rois is a cake meant specifically for January 6, Epiphany, it’s impossible to resist its temptations before or after the official holiday—so impossible that some shops [in Paris] offer the sweet until the end of the month.
The galette is really very simple, if a little time-consuming to make—it’s an almond and pastry-cream filling sandwiched by two rounds of (all-butter) puff pastry dough—but so, so good. Nothing beats buttery puff pastry and a filling made with more good butter! But great taste is only one of its attractions—the chance to wear the king’s crown is another, and probably the one that keeps kids asking for the cake over and over.
Every galette comes with a crown and, this being Paris, patissiers vie to have the most beautiful crowns of the season. And the way you get to wear the crown is to be the person lucky enough to get the feve, the little trinket that’s baked into the filling. Feve means bean and, originally, that’s what the trinket was. But over the years, while the word feve remained, the beans gave way to fanciful trinkets. (There are feve collectors all over the world now.) It probably goes without saying, but this being Paris, the best pastry chefs change their feves each year and, yes, vie to be the most original. Oh, one last thing about the crown—you’re not supposed to keep it. If you win, you can pocket the trinket, but when you get the crown, you’re meant to place it on the head of your chosen king or queen. It’s a lovely tradition, but one I’ve never seen honored. Everyone I know who’s won, has plunked the crown on his or her head, gloated over winning and dug into the galette."
Of course, at our reception, we just ate the galettes. They were very popular - "so delicate", "the best Galettes I have ever tasted", (comment from a visitor from France!), "this is a lovely pastry," and so on. But my word, they are a lot of work! I used the Defour Puff Pastry, which is worth every cent of what it costs. It's a light, buttery pastry and can be rolled out quite thin - I got 12 two-and-one-half inch cakelets from one box. I made the frangipane (almond cream) filling from a combination of recipes, tripling it to make enough for the entire batch. That was easy, but it's the putting of the pastries together that takes the time. Would I make these again? Yes, definitely, for a small batch, but never again for 50 pastries! This is the Frangipane recipe I used. It's quite delicious and difficult to resist the temptation of eating it with a spoon.
Frangipane 1 stick (110 gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/2 cup (100 gr) sugar 1 cup (100 gr) ground almonds 2 eggs (beaten) 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
Combine dry ingredients in food processor and pulse until almonds are fine in texture. Add beaten eggs, then stir in cream (do not pulse cream). Store in refrigerator overnight so the cream can firm up.
Roll out pastry to about 1/8 -1/4 inch thick and cut 2-1/2 inch rounds. Using two rounds for each galette, place 1 heaping TBS. of frangipane in center of the bottom round, leaving at least 1/2 inch around the edge uncovered. Dab some water on the edges and press together the sides. Bake at 375 degrees F for just over 20 minutes. (This is the temperature recommended for Dufour pastry.) When they are nice and golden, with a little bit of brown on the base, remove from oven. Place immediately on cooling rack.
They are absolutely best eaten fresh, slightly warm. This is not practical for most baking I do but they taste really good the first day baked. The unbaked, filled rounds can also be frozen and then baked straight from the freezer if it's necessary to prepare them in advance.
What changes would I make for next time? 1.Add more ground almonds until the frangipane is of a firmer consistency - it tended to spread and leak over the edges of the rounds. 2.Make them a bit larger - 3 inch rounds at least (more room to handle them).
I have some of the delicious puff pastry left over; I'll freeze it again and my next adventure will be with Eccles Cakes from the North of England.