King (or Queen) for a Day
For many, the holidays are made up of a seriously gourmand series of meals, special menus and treats in December. Nothing wrong with that, of course. A grande finale takes place perhaps on New Year’s Eve or Day, when the celebrations come to a close and the new year begins (with or without resolutions). But one musn’t forget January 6th, Epiphany – and one more treat to savor.
If we are in France the first week of January, a whole new series of eating begins – and it’s the same thing each time. Whether it’s brunch at a friend’s house, goûter at my mother-in-law’s, dinner at someone else’s… there will always be a Galette des Rois (Kings’ Cake) for dessert. This is the classic cake made with puff pastry and a layer of frangipane to be served on and often around this day. Traditionally it is baked with a hidden fève (bean), tiny porcelain figurine or even plastic charm in the batter, and comes with a gold paper crown. Here’s why: the youngest child goes underneath the table (this is finally no longer me!) and as an adult cuts a piece of cake, the child yells out the name of someone at the table to receive that slice. Whoever finds the hidden bean in their piece is crowned king or queen for the day, and gets to choose his or her queen or king too!
I can remember eating almost ten Galettes des Rois one year – we just laugh about it. Invited to someone else’s house – oh no, another galette! It’s fun to see how different bakeries and pastry shops stay true to tradition or add their own touch to the cake. I have delicious memories of galettes from when I lived in Paris and in Clermont-Ferrand, of my mother-in-law’s homemade galette and even one year of a very special Pierre Hermé Ispahan galette served by Dorie Greenspan (pâte feuilletée, crème d’amandes à la rose, letchis et framboises). Guess who found the fève?! Moi, and of course I still have my pink crown as a sweet souvenir. Take a look at this slideshow for this year’s creative takes on the Galette des Rois by Paris’ top pastry masters including Pierre Hermé, as well as Dalloyau, Fauchon, Maison du Chocolat, Lenôtre and more…
Back in Zürich for Epiphany, we’ll be celebrating Dreikönigstag (Three Kings Day), as it’s called here. Instead of a Galette des Rois, it’s a Dreikönigskuchen, the Swiss German version. It’s made of small brioche-like rolls baked together, resembling a flower and easily pulled apart. A sweet yeast dough is used, often sprinkled with large sugar crystals and/or almond slices, and sometimes made with raisins too. Light and airy, it is just perfect for breakfast or tea time, not only dessert. And of course it comes with a gold paper crown too. You can see them in bakeries and pastry shops around town, like below at Honold, Sprüngli and Buchmann. You can even order your own, choosing between 6 and 18 Kugeln.
You can not only read up on the cake’s history, but also get an original recipe to try making it at home – Jack McNulty of Laughing Lemon makes a version of the Swiss Dreikönigskuchen filled with jam. And Barbra Austin shows you just how simple a French Galette des Rois faite maison is. Here are also step by step instructions with photos, en français. I hope you are crowned king or queen,… but I just hope you don’t find out with a broken tooth!