Dominique Ansel’s King’s Cake (Galette des Rois) is a fun traditional game for family and friends to play.
Much more than just a cake this pastry is a beloved tradition that traces its roots back to the Roman Empire and is typically eaten on Epiphany when the three kings arrived in Bethlehem. The cake is made with flaky puff pastry and almond frangipane filling, think almond croissant in cake form, with a single porcelain fève (charm) hidden in each cake. Once sliced whoever discovers the charm is king (or queen) for the day leaving friends and family to be summoned at every whim.
“Traditionally, the pastry would be cut into as many portions as there were guests, plus one. The last one, called the part du pauvre (poor man’s share) was set aside for the first pauvre who stopped by the house” explains Chef Dominique Ansel.
When recreating this cake Dominique decided to use reversed puff pastry to make the crust. This is done by wrapping the butter around the outside of the dough rather than inside resulting in more flakier puff pastry and stronger caramelisation when baked. The galette should be served warm and can be paired with sparkling (Champagne, Crémant), light sweet wines from Loire Valley (Montlouis, Vouvray), Alsace (Gewurztraminer), or Sauternes.
Epiphany is an ancient celebration for the Winter solstice called Saturnales. The tradition of the charm “fève” might originate with the Saturnales. The “charm” was, until the 1960s, a real dried bean, but since the 19th century little porcelain figures have been used.
The oldest finding of the “galette des rois” goes back to 1311 where a chart of Robert Bishop of Amiens talks about a custom to “draw the kings” with a light fluffy galette. Interestingly during the French Revolution the name was replaced with “galette of equality”.
Another origin sustained by the Besançon’s inhabitants says that in the XI Century monks from Besançon elected their future leader by inserting a silver coin in a bread. This custom was repeated in other monasteries. The bread will become a “brioche”. Hence, You can find the “fougasse” or “fougaço” in Languedoc and Provence, the “coque” in Ariège, sometimes garnished with sugared fruits or anis seeds (garfou) in Béarn. We find also “fouaces” in Perche, “flamusse” in Bresse and “garots” in Normandy, and finally “crépeaux” or “patissous” in Périgord.
Galette Eating Rules:
Once the galette is cut the youngest child in the group hides under the table to give the name of the person that will be served next. The youngest person is said to be the most innocent one and therefore fair in the distribution of the slices.
The person who finds the charm becomes King or Queen for the day and wears the crown. This person must also buy the next Galette and so the game continues.
Galettes des Rois or French King’s Cake
Available: December 26th to January 21st
Pre-order online (with 48 hours advance notice) for collection at the Bakery: dominiqueansellondon.com/shop/gallette-de-rois
Price: £30 whole cake / By slice £6.50 take-away & £7.20 eat-in
Twelfth Night / Epiphany 2018 : 6th January