Saturday, January 21, 2012

Galette de Roi : King Cake

At my engraving (gravure) class this week we were treated to a homemade Twelfth Night Cake made of frangipani or grated almond paste. We drank cider and popped open a bottle of good champagne brought by another student.  All this before we started class at 9am ! ( we didn't want the chemical smells of our various processes to mix with our treat.)

 All through the month of January and particularly from Christmas eve to epiphany, Jan. 6, this is a treat shared in many Catholic countries wherever friends come together .

 It's the third galette I have had this month already and this time I drew one of the favors in my slice.  

The recipient of the feve or dried bean is the queen and the ceramic trinket ( usually of santon   or village person figurine  but now disney figures are often found) is meant for the king or Roi.

Various privileges and obligations are implied including the wearing of the paper crowns that come with the cakes bought from the bakery.  

Related culinary traditions are the tortell of Catalonia, the gâteau des Rois in Provence or the galette des Rois in the northern half of France.   The galette des Rois is made with puff pastry and frangipane while the gâteau des Rois is made with brioche and candied fruit.   Both types are sold and made in the South.

 The cake is named for the three kings (Rois) or "wise men".  A little bean traditionally hidden in it,  is a custom taken from the Saturnalia in the Roman empire: the one who stumbles upon the bean  is called "king of the feast." In the galette des Rois, since 1870 the beans have been replaced by porcelain and now by ceramic figurines.   Here is the Titi (Tweety) Roi that I gathered from my pastry slice on Thursday.

Samuel Pepys (whose wife was French) recorded a party in London on Epiphany night, 6 January 1659/1660: " my cousin Stradwick, where, after a good supper, there being there my father, mothers, brothers, and sister, my cousin Scott and his wife, Mr. Drawwater and his wife, and her brother, Mr. Stradwick, we had a brave cake brought us, and in the choosing, Pall was Queen and Mr. Stradwick was King. After that my wife and I bid adieu and came home, it being still a great frost."

I love new traditions and this one is particularly "amicable":   Friendly and fattening too.  But ah,  I seem to remember a book I read, " French Women Don't get Fat" and so it seems for some lucky few.

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