a paper crown
For Christians January 6 signifies l’épiphanie (the Epiphany). The Epiphany is the twelfth day after the birth of Jesus; the day the three Magi found the baby in Bethlehem and bestowed upon him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In France, the Epiphany is celebrated with la galette des rois (also known as the “twelfth night cake” or simply “king cake”).
La galette des rois consists of two layers of puff pastry with a frangipane (almond cream) filling. It is garnished with a paper gold crown. What makes the cake special; however, is the trinket, la fève (a fava or broad bean), that is hidden inside. Tradition dictates that the person who’s slice contains la fève is crowned king or queen for the day and gets to wear the crown. To ensure that the distribution of la fève is completely random, the youngest person present goes under the table and calls out the order of the cake recipients. An extra piece of the cake is sliced, “la part du pauvre“ (the poor man’s share), should anyone of lesser financial means happen to stop by the house. Today the tradition of la galette des rois extends beyond the religious context and the cake is sold and enjoyed in January generally, not just on January 6.
For me, la galette de rois, takes a very personal significance as well. Three years ago to the day an ICU nurse gave me her crown (she had found la fève). I still have it and the crown reminds me of how fleeting and precious life is. This year my New Year’s resolution is the same that is has been for the last two years: to eat a piece of la galette des rois because I know that the ability to look down at the crown on the cake and enjoy a piece with those you love is like finding la fève every day.
This week’s simple pleasure is la galette des rois. It is very simple to make and a fun tradition. The active recipe time is about 20 minutes. Nuts are decisive: you either like them in dessert or you do not. If you like almonds, you will love this cake. However, if you are a person who is not crazy about almonds, you can replace the almond extract with vanilla extract or another extract such as orange. You can also minimize the almond flavor by adding melted chocolate to the almond cream or mixing in a little strawberry jam with rose water. However, do not add too much moisture (maxiumum of 2-3 ounces) or you will have soggy puff pastry. With respect to the crown, you can buy the gold crowns at speciality stores or on the internet; however, you can easily make one of your own.
Forget the diet. This week let’s all eat a piece of cake. Je vous souhaite un bon appétit !