Epiphany 2010: Galette Des Rois

Yesterday I was coerced into playing jump rope. I had the horrifying realization that I don't remember how to "jump in." It's no fun to be reminded how time turns teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around into a rhyme for putting this teddy bear into a noose.

I'm not crazy about celebrating my birthday and luckily I have another holiday as a buffer.

If you were born on January 6th, the calendar might say "Epiphany" on your birthday. It might also say "King's Day" or "Twelfth Day" (of Christmas). You'd be a Capricorn, which might make it hard for you to distinguish between work and play. It might also make it hard for you to relinquish control of your puff pastry to the makers of the frozen variety (even if you know they sometimes do it better, or at least, do it consistently). So, unless it's your birthday and the idea of spending a day disciplining butter sounds like a celebration, go ahead and buy a box or two of the frozen stuff for this recipe.
King's Day celebrates the day when the three kings finally arrived to the baby Jesus, bearing gifts. (I wouldn't mind frankincense, myrrh and gold {hint hint} but this year I got myself Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads, rolling pin rings, and a garter belt.) This birthday year I'm hoping for the "epiphany" and expecting the Mardi Gras.

My students have been raving about what they do on my birthday, a.k.a Dia De Los Tres Reyes Magos, namely eat Rosca de Reyes and tamales. The Rosca is an enriched bread topped with candied fruit and concealing a plastic baby Jesus. Mexico and Spain both make this kind of cake. New Orleans eats a similar thing, often filled then iced in Mardi Gras colors. Greece buries a coin in an orange-scented pound cake calledVasilopita, and France+neighbors hide a bean or fancy "feve" in a Galette des Rois. There are varying traditions and games regarding who gets the hidden treasure. I was feeling inspired by the idea of the whole world eating cake on my birthday, but having a hard time deciding which version to make. The French kind seems like a good place to start, since that's how I grew up. The traditional filling is a frangipane cream. I topped it with a pear. I used a whole Brazil nut as my "feve," since the idea of having to explain why you were choking on a Donald Duck figurine to an EMT seemed too embarrassing.

Galette Des Rois

Rough Puff Pastry:
  • 1 C butter (2 sticks), frozen
  • 1 1/3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 bread flour (or use all-purpose)
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • <1/2>

  • 4 T butter, softened
  • 1/3 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 C ground blanched almonds
  • 2 T flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • pinch of salt

  • one pear, sliced
  • 1 T butter

Egg Wash
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T milk
  • powdered sugar for dusting

For the pastry:
1. Mix the flours, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Coarsely grate the frozen butter over the dry mix. A grater disc of the food processor makes light work of this. Gently toss the flour over the butter to coat. Sprinkle ice water over then mix gently with a fork. You should be able to squeeze a handful without it crumbling apart. If it's too dry add another spoon of water. Don't overwork it.

2. Dump the mixture out onto a clean, lightly floured work surface and divide into 5 portions. With the heel of your hand, smoosh each portion forward a couple times to flatten the butter. Then scrape them all together and flatten into a 6-7 " square. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

3. Working on a floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle of about 21 x7". With the short end facing you, fold into thirds like a letter: top third down and bottom third up over dough, brushing off excess flour as you fold. Rewrap and chill for 30 minutes.

4. Remove dough and place it on your work surface so the 3-layered edge is facing you. Roll out again into a 21x7" rectangle and fold into thirds again. Rewrap and chill for another 30 minutes.
5. Repeat the rolling, folding, chilling 3 more times. The last couple times, brush the surface of the dough with ice-water as you fold. This creates steam that will help with the "puff" when you bake it. (This technique is from Shirley Corriher's BakeWise.) After the last folding, chill for at least an hour.

For the Filling:

1. In a food processor, blend the butter, sugar and salt until smooth. Add in the ground nuts and blend. Add in the egg and extracts and pulse until incorporated. (Filling can chill in the fridge for a few days, if needed.)

2. Heat 1 T of butter in a pan. Lay in pears and cook, flipping once, until starting to brown. Remove from heat.


1. Divide the chilled dough into half, reserving the half you are not working with in the fridge. Roll out each half into a 12" square, transferring each to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Then cut out a 11" circle from each half. On one of the circles, score (not cut) a 9" circle (basically, use a knife to draw a border 1-2" in from edge). Cut out a 1/2" hole in the center of this circle, for a steam vent. If you like, score curved lines radiating out from the vent to the scored border. Chill both circles in the fridge for 30 minutes or freezer for 10.

2. Preheat the oven to 450.° Place one rack on the lowest shelf and one in the upper third.

3. Gently beat the egg with the milk to make the egg wash.

4. On the un-scored circle, brush the egg wash as a border on the outer 1" edge of the circle. Then spoon the almond filling in the center, spreading to 1 1/2 inches from the edge. Hide your bean, nut, baby Jesus, or feve somewhere in the filling. Arrange the pear layers on top of the almond filling. Lay the scored circle, scored side up, on the filling and press the edges of the two circles together to seal. Seal it good. Crimp or notch the edges. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

5. Bake on the lowest shelf for 15-20 minutes. Then transfer to the upper shelf and bake for another 10-20 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool a little, and serve warm. (The assembled but unbaked galette can be kept in the fridge overnight.)

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