Galette des Rois - Twelfth Night Pastry Dessert Traditions

Traditional Galette des Rois - photo courtesy Flickr
User Gael Chardon through a Creative Commons License.
Twelfth Night is a celebration that marks the coming of Epiphany, and most Christians celebrate it on the 12th day after Christmas. Epiphany celebrates the divination of Christ, and is also known as Three Kings Day from the visit of the three wise men. Twelfth Night officially ends the Christmas Season, and the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Tradition for this religious holiday celebration includes placing a bean, a miniature figurine of a baby, or other non-edible object inside the pastry as it bakes. When the cake is presented, it is generally cut into portions one for each person plus one. The extra one is to symbolize giving charity to the first poor person who comes by the house. When the cake is served, the lucky one with the object is celebrated such as having good luck all year, being required to host another event at a given time or has set obligations they must do, or as in a King Cake - be the 'king of the party'.

There are many different versions of a Twelfth Cake depending on the country. Traditional King Cake in New Orleans will include a yeast bread topped with icing decorated in Mardi Gras colors (green, purple, and gold). Roscon de Reyes is a yeast bread made in a cylindrical shape, decorated and flavored with candied fruits. Some parts of South America and Italy use a Panettone, another yeast bread with a mixture of candied and dried fruits, to celebrate the holiday.

The French have different versions of the Twelfth Cake: the Gâteau des Rois and the Galette des Rois. The Gâteau des Rois is a brioche bread with candied fruits (like the New Orleans King Cake without the New Orleans colors). The Galette des Rois is a French dessert made of puff pastry and frangipane. If you have tasted or made Pithiviers, then you've tasted or made a Galette des Rois. It is a very simple dessert, and one of my favorites year round to serve. I have to say, just being a mom and knowing children (and from experience), watch to make sure they don't swallow the baked trinket if they are the lucky ones to receive it.

Galette des Rois - courtesy Flickr User elPadawan
through a Creative Commons License.
Galette des Rois
  • Puff Pastry - two 9 to 10 inch rounds
  • Frangipane
  • Egg wash as needed

Place a round of puff pastry on a sheet pan. Push a bean or small, oven-proof trinket into the dough. You'll want to make it so it isn't conspicuous when the top is placed on the filling. Using a pastry bag and a large round tip, pipe a thin layer of frangipane, starting in the center and spiraling out to about a half an inch from the border. Coat the plain edge with a thin brushing of egg wash, then top with the second puff pastry round. Using the tip of a small, sharp knife, cut into the top a decoration (can be anything - lines, wheat designs, wreath going in a circle, etc.). This can also be done on the work surface then transferred to the frangipane-filled bottom puff round. Cutting into the top serves two purposes: decorates it and vents it.

Seal the edges and brush the top lightly with egg wash. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until the puff pastry is a deep golden brown. Cool, and serve.



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