If you hide a dried bean in this pastry and eat it on or around the 6th of January, it’s called a Galette des Rois. The rest of the year it’s a Pithiviers.
Whatever you call it, it’s one of my favorite French pastries. Pâte feuilletée and frangipane: Is there anything better?
(Don’t answer that.)
This is the dessert traditionally served in France for Epiphany, the holiday commemorating the day it was revealed that that was no ordinary baby in the manger. A bean or tiny figurine representing one of the kings (rois = kings) is hidden somewhere in the galette, and the person whose slice contains the tiny tooth threat is named king for the day, and may also have the responsibility of buying next year’s galette.
Which brings me to my next point: Assuming you have a decent grocery that stocks puff pastry in the freezer section, this is very easy to make at home. (I make my own puff, which I keep in the “freezer section” of my tiny fridge, but I’m going to guess that most of you do not). Look for a brand made with only butter, with no shortening: Dufour makes a good (though expensive) product, and I’ve heard the Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s make butter-only versions. Most commercial sheets seem to be about 10″ x 15″ x 1/8″, but some are as thick as 1/4″. Bear with me for a moment: You want the sheets to be 1/8″ thick, so if they are thicker you will need to roll them out. As per the diameter of your galette, it’s really up to you. Obviously it can’t be wider then the sheet of puff pastry is to begin with, but it can certainly be smaller. A 9″ galette will serve 8 people.
I am making this sound WAY more complicated than it actually is. Maybe the photos will help.
Honestly, the trickiest part of putting together this thing might be trimming and scoring the pastry. I cut scalloped edges make a sort of sunburst pattern on top, but I’ve seen plain round versions, some with an edge forked like a pie crust, and sometimes the top is marked with a series of cross-hatches or straight lines radiating from the center. The important thing is to not cut all the way through the top crust: you just want to score it. All of this is much easier if the pastry is well-chilled, so if you find it getting too soft to work with just put the whole thing in the fridge or freezer to firm up.
The recipe below makes more frangipane than you will need, but it freezes well. Having pastry dough and frangipane in your freezer is not a bad thing if you make desserts with any frequency.
Galette des Rois
For the Frangipane:
4 oz (112 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz (112 g) almond paste*, at room temperature
5 oz (140 g) powdered sugar
3 oz (85 g) almonds, toasted, cooled, and chopped fine (you can use the food processor to do this but don’t overdo it)
2 eggs, at room temperature
2T plus 2t (22g) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
a few drops of vanilla extract
2 sheets of puff pastry, 1/8″ thick, thawed (see post)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Make the Frangipane:
1. Place the almond paste in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer will do) and mix on low speed to break it up.
2. Add the butter a bit at a time to create a smooth mixture.
3. Combine the powdered sugar and the nuts and add it too the butter mixture. Carefully mix on low speed at first to avoid creating a cloud of powdered sugar and then increase to high speed and mix until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.
5. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix. Stir in the vanilla and the salt. This makes more than enough for a 9″ galette. Freeze what you don’t use.
Assemble the Galette:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place one sheet of pastry on the baking sheet. Spread a circle of filling on the pastry, leaving at least a 1″ border around the frangipane. The filling should be about 1/2″ thick. If you are making an honest-to-goodness Galette des Rois, hide a dried bean somewhere in the filling.
3. Brush the border with some of the beaten egg — this is where you will seal the top crust to the bottom. Place the second sheet of pastry over the filling and seal it to the bottom pastry by pressing the border firmly with the side of your hand.
4. Trim and decorate the galette: With a very sharp paring knife, cut a scalloped edge around the galette, being careful not to pierce the interior where the filling is. Alternately, cut a smooth round edge and crimp it with the tines of a fork as you would a pie. To score the top of the galette, hold the tip of your knife at an angle and draw a series of curved lines radiating from the center to the edge in a sort of pinwheel pattern. Try your hardest not to pierce the pastry. If at any point the dough gets too soft to handle, put it in the fridge or freezer. Brush the top of the galette with the beaten egg (this helps it brown).
5. Preheat the oven to 400°. While it’s heating, put the galette in the fridge to firm up.
6. Bake the galette at 400° for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and continue baking for 15-20 minutes or so, until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
This pastry is best eaten the day it is made, and especially good a little warm — just reheat it in the oven before serving. Scraps of raw puff pastry can be kept and reused. It will no longer puff properly, but makes a fine cookie: Roll the dough with sugar instead of flour and roll it up into a log. Chill or freeze the log until firm. Cut 1/4″ slices (the result will be a spiral) and bake at 350° until golden brown.
*Make sure your almond paste is soft and fresh. If it is old, hard, and dry, it will never, ever, ever smooth out. Trust me.