After the stresses of 2020 who could be blamed for wanting to see a new year! But, after the excitement of the festive season when life traditionally lulls again, the French have a wonderful way to continue their celebrations into the new year by acknowledging the Epiphany on January 6th.
The Epiphahy is a Christian celebration honouring the arrival of the three wise men or Magi – Balthazar, Gaspard and Melchior bringing gifts to baby Jesus.
In France, the “Fêtes des rois”, or Kings Day is very much about food (of course! This is France!) and is celebrated with “La Galette des Rois” or King’s Cake; in the south of France this becomes a variation as ‘Gateaux des rois’
There are variations of La Galette des Rois but, traditionally, it is a round cake (symbolizing the sun) made with puff pastry and frangipane. Inside each cake a small charm of porcelain or earthenware is hidden. Whoever finds the token inside their piece is king (or queen) for the day. To prevent cheating an extra tradition is for the youngest child to hide under the table and choose who will receive each piece. One slice is also cut to be set aside for an unannounced visitor or the poor.
The Epiphany is also the beginning of Carnaval season which is Mardi Gras on Ash Wednesday (another celebration connected with food, this time the French speciality, Crêpes). The king or queen, as well as wearing a crown for the day, can also be given the honour of making the Crêpes for Mardi Gras.
If you are longing for 2021 and want to start it off the French way (or just an excuse to make a delicious cake and wear a crown) why not try this recipe (courtesy of BBC Good Food) and bake your own La Galette des Rois?
400g ready-made puff pastry
2 rounded tbsp apricot jam
100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
1 lighly beaten egg
100g ground almond
2 tbsp cognac or dark rum
Heat the oven to 200C/fanC180/gas 6.
Divide the ready-made puff pastry in half, roll out each piece and cut into a 25cm round. Put one round on a baking sheet and spread with the apricot jam to within 2cm of the edges.
Beat together the softened butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg. Stir in the ground almonds and cognac or dark rum.
Spoon the mixture over the jam, spreading it evenly. Brush the edges of the pastry with water, then cover with the second piece, pressing the edges to seal. Mark the top of the pastry from the centre to the edges like the spokes of a wheel or in a zig zag pattern, then brush with beaten egg.
Bake for 25-30 mins until crisp and golden. Serve warm or cold.
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