In the Christian calendar, Epiphany comes just after Christmas, falling on 6th January. If my childhood memories serve me correctly, Epiphany is traditionally the day when the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem at Jesus’ manger to offer him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Somewhere in the world (most likely France if you ask me), sometime in the last two thousand years, an absolutely brilliant pastry chef invented the Galette des Rois. Sometimes translated as The Kings’ Cake, two disks of flaky puff pastry lovingly offer up a rich, slightly sweet almond paste for your gastronomic pleasure. And as the Wise Men offered their gifts, the Galette des Rois offers its own gift in the form of a token hidden inside it. The French tradition at Epiphany is to play a little game before eating these delicious galettes. Whoever finds the token gift in his or her slice is literally crowned King (or Queen), in much the same way as we wear the paper crowns contained in Christmas crackers in the UK. The youngest person present (often a child) is asked to hide under the table (see why it’s usually a child?) and, since they can’t see which slice is being served, to designate who gets which piece of the galette. Don’t worry, if the youngest person is an adult they don’t have to go under the table, just close their eyes!
The tokens themselves can be plain or fancy, metal or plastic, white or coloured; and represent everyday objects, historic and religious figures, film and literary characters, and – wait for it – even our best friend in the kitchen! People collect them, trade them, sell them on eBay, and generally enjoy finding them in their delicious pastry. From the 6th of January through to the end of the month, bakery windows and shelves regorge with these delightful pastries and anyone invited to lunch or dinner brings a galette des rois as a dessert offering. Office workers maintain their festive spirit with multiple feasts, each person finding the token bringing the next galette in for coffee break tasting. Champagne is the beverage of choice to accompany a galette des rois and in the good old days bubbles abounded even in offices. Today, alas, health and safety and alcohol limits have taken over and the only bubbles at the office are in sparkling water!
Here then is the latest method for making fast and easy puff pastry in your Thermomix, along with my recipe for a delightful almond filling, so you can make your own Galette des Rois.
Thermomix Puff Pastry
This is a brilliantly fast and easy method from Thermomix France for making lovely puffy layers in your pastry. You’re best to think ahead on this one and freeze your butter the night before or a few hours earlier, as when the frozen butter comes into contact with the hot oven it creates steam and puffs up (hence the name puff pastry) the pastry into beautiful flaky layers. The “snail” method is pure genius! And because your butter is frozen, you don’t have to wait for several hours between “turns.” If you work quickly, you can use this puff pastry in less than an hour. Makes 2 sheets, i.e. enough for two one-crust tarts or one large galette des rois.
300 g flour
300 g butter, diced and frozen overnight or several hours earlier
1 pinch of salt
150 g cold water
- Weigh all ingredients into your Thermomix bowl and mix 15 seconds/Speed 6.
- Mix again 10 seconds/Reverse Blade Function/Speed 2 to pull the dough away from the sides of the bowl.
- Tip the bowl upside down onto a lightly floured surface, release the base and watch as the weight of the dough pulls the blade out – magic! Carefully remove any remaining dough from the blade and then roll your pastry dough into a rectangle three times as long as it is wide.
- Fold one third of this rectangle over towards the centre. Repeat with the remaining third, then roll out once again into a rectangle. You now have three layers.
- Roll the dough with your hands along the long side into a snake, and then roll this snake into a snail-like spiral or scroll. This is how you make all those extra layers so easily! Cover your pastry “snail” with cling film and pop it in the freezer while you prepare your filling – 20 to 30 minutes will do the trick.
- Remove your “snail” from the freezer, set it on its side and gently press down to flatten it into a workable shape, taking care not to let the snail’s spiral unroll. Cut it into two if you’re making a top-and-bottom pastry, then roll out to your desired thickness. Use it immediately or keep it chilled and be sure to bake it in a really hot oven to create the “thermal shock” between hot oven and cold pastry. This creates steam that puffs up the pastry in between layers.
Et voilà! Fast and easy puff pastry!
Crème d’Amandes (Almond Paste)
This fragrant mixture works brilliantly well with puff pastry to make what has to be one of my favourite desserts. I just love the month of January in France
160 g granulated sugar
200 g almonds
200 g butter, diced and at room temperature
5 egg yolks
50 g cognac or rum
- Weigh the sugar and the almonds into your TM bowl and grind 30 seconds/Speed 9.
- Insert the Butterfly Whisk, add the butter, rum or cognac and 4 egg yolks and mix 15 seconds/Speed 4. Reserve while you prepare your pastry disks.
Assemble the Galette des Rois
Almond cream is notorious for leaking out of poorly-sealed pastry. Take a good look at the pictures before doing this so that you understand the brilliant technique for ensuring a perfect seal around your galette. Any questions? Just leave a comment and I’ll be right there to help! Serves 8 to 12.
- Preheat the oven to 210° C/400° F. Roll out your Thermomix puff pastry into two disks. Cut one disk into a 12-inch/30 cm round and the other half into an 11-inch/28 cm round (use two different sized plates as patterns or cut the larger disk by leaving a border around the plate). Place the smaller circle on a non-stick baking tray or pizza pan lined with baking parchment.
- Spread or pipe the reserved almond paste over the small pastry bottom, leaving a 2 cm/1-inch border all around. Add your token or fève, or as my grandmother used to do, hide a penny wrapped in waxed paper somewhere in the almond cream. Beat the remaining egg yolk with a drop of water and brush around the edges. Place the larger remaining circle of pastry on top, and seal the edges with your fingers, about an inch inside the edge of the large disk. Now centre a large plate (the one you used as a pattern) on top of your galette, hold the plate and your pizza pan or baking tray and then quickly and very, very carefully flip the whole thing over.
- Seal the pastry by firmly rolling and pinching all around the edges of the disks. Brush well with the egg yolk and then with a sharp, pointy knife, lightly score the top of the pastry in a swirl design, to look like the spokes of a wheel. Note that the scores should be made after the egg glaze goes on so that bare pastry shows through. I forgot about this detail and egg washed first. It doesn’t look quite as wonderful but it still tastes really, really good Bake the galette for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the inside is firm. Remove from the oven and serve with a good cup of coffee or a glass of champagne.
Bon appétit !