It turns out that a lot of European traditions are very similar, albeit with certain national differences. I like that about the world – we’re all the same, really, we just pretend we’re not…
Anyway, a fellow expat blogger, Piglet in Portugal, posted recently about Boli Rei, which turns out to be pretty much the same idea as the French Galette des Rois – a tasty cake to mark Epiphany on 6 January. Any tradition involving cake is a good thing in my book. Hhhmmmm, cake….
I’ll let you read the Portuguese way of doing things in Ms Piglet’s post – they seem to go for bright fruity cakes there which look rather tasty. Here in France we’ve got a less colourful but still somewhat delicious frangipane cake. There’s a little token (called a fève) hidden inside one of the slices. This token is usually a tiny pottery baby, but such things are hard to find in the UK (at least outside the Frenchie paradise that is South Kensington). We used to throw Galette des Rois parties in the UK and (because that was before we owned a real grown-up-person’s fève) we’d just bung a 5-pence piece in and hope for the best. Not very European and I always had visions of someone choking or getting food poisoning from a manky coin, but so far so good… You can use a dried bean if you prefer. If you’re the type of healthy person that has dried beans in the house, that is.
The person who gets the fève in their slice is named king for the day, and then gets to wear a crown for the rest of the evening (assuming they’ve not choked to death or chipped a tooth). I always have great plans to make beautiful hand-decorated crowns in time for our party but invariably never get round to it (surprise surprise) and end up crowning the new king with a bit of cut-up cornflakes packet (possibly covered in foil, but generally not).
I promised Piglet in Portugal I’d post the French recipe we use for our galette. I promised weeks ago and have only just got round to it. Of course. Busy busy here at Christmas you know, but that’s for another post (if I ever manage to stop eating chocolate and playing with
my Alpine Boy’s new toys for long enough to get round to writing it…). But we’ve got three whole days until 6 January, which still gives us plenty of time to get cooking…
So here it is:
What you need:
- 2 circles (each 23cm in diameter) of ready-made puff-pastry (or about 600g if you’re going to make/roll it yourself. I’m too lazy for all that…)
- 200g of powdered almonds
- 1 pinch of vanilla powder (or a drop or two of vanilla essence)
- 100g of sugar
- 75g of butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk and/or a bit of milk to glaze the cake.
What you do:
- Preheat the oven to 220°c.
- Prepare your two puff-pastry circles (i.e. take them out of the packet, if you’re like me; or spend hours creating beautiful hand-made puff-pastry, if you’re nothing like me). Put one of the circles on a greased baking tray and set the other one aside.
- Prepare the filling: mix together the powdered almonds, the sugar and the butter so they form a smooth paste. Mix in the eggs one by one. Add the vanilla and stir. That’s your filling, innit.
- Pour the filling onto the first puff-pastry circle.
- Hide the fève somewhere in the filling. (Don’t forget this bit or you’ll have to eat the entire cake yourself and make another one…)
- Put the other puff-pastry circle on top of the filling and stick the edges of both circles together so the filling can’t escape.
- Make pretty patterns on top of the cake with a knife. If you’re a control-freak like me you can make a secret mark where the fève is… (useful if less than 6 to 8 people are going to eat your cake, as then you can make sure someone is crowned king. Otherwise it’s a little bit weird. And somewhat controlling. But hey).
- Glaze it with milk and/or egg yolk.
- Bung it in the very hot oven.
- Leave it there for about 45 minutes. Turn the oven down a bit towards the end of the cooking process, and make sure you check the cake regularly, especially after the first 30 minutes and especially if you have a fan assisted oven (otherwise you’ll burn it and shout and curse and blame the oven. If you’re anything like us that is).
- Eat it warm. Hhhhmmmmm, cake….
Simple. Try it. It’s good. And if it’s not good, don’t blame me…