Published the Jan 22 2018 in "Articles"
The Galette des Rois is a traditional cake in France. After Christmas, French people start to eat this delicious cake, mainly in the northern regions. It is pretty common to find Galettes in almost every bakery during all month of January, sometimes even until March!
The Galette is a flaky pastry with notches incised across it and browned in the oven. The simplest version is filled with frangipane. But there are more complex ones such as apple compote or chocolate recipes.
In the south of France, the traditional dessert for January is a brioche with fruit, called Gâteau des Rois.
To understand better what this tradition is about, we have to say that it is nowadays mostly used as an excuse to meet with friends and relatives. It is the perfect pretext to invite someone home for a catch-up. It is used to be served with sweet white wines, Champagne-method sparklings –we highly recommend the perfect pairing with our Cremant de Loire Blanc de Blancs 2014 from Le Domaine Maison-, a glass of cider or a cup of tea. An important detail is that inside the cake there was originally a bean, replaced nowadays by a porcelain token. It is all the fun of this tradition as the one to find this token in his slice is crowned “king” or “queen” for the day. If a grownup gets the “bean”, they are supposed to buy the next Galette.
The origin of this tradition is linked to the Three Wise Men epiphany, it is said that the Three Wise Men, Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar went to give presents to the baby Jesus at Belem. But also this tradition dates back to Roman times, when they cooked dessert whit beans inside, to celebrate Saturnalia, the festival of the winter solstice, at which a queen or king was chosen for one day.
It is believed that at the table of the King Louis the XIVth they played “find the king”. The ladies of the court who found the “fève” (bean) became queens of France for a day and could ask the king to grant them a wish called “grâces et gentillesse”. But the Sun King, Louis the XIVth, was to abolish this custom.
In the past, the pastry would be cut into as many portions as there were guests, plus one. The last one, called the “part du pauvre” or poor man’s share, was for the first poor person who stopped by the house.
Another curious tradition related to the Galette is the annual reception at the Elysée Palace, the residence of French President. An enormous Galette (measuring 1,2 meters across for 150 people) is made for the President of the French Republic to be served after a ceremony. But the artisan baker and pastry chef responsible for making it are instructed not to put a fève in the cake because “it would not be appropriate to find a king in the presidential palace of the Republic”.