Le Gallete des Rois

by brookefiore

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As with any of my bad days, they come far and few, and the sun always rises again and I so willingly get swept away in a day of pretty skies and good conversations, belittling the shortcomings of the day before. Suddenly the positives from the day before come to surface when just a day ago they lurked at the darkest depths of the sea no matter how hard I tried to shine some light upon them. My excitement for writing returns and my computer no longer haunts me.

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I was really excited about Gallete des Rois, the French King Cake for Epiphany. Though I’ve never traveled to France, nor have I ever celebrated Epiphany day, the history of the cake and the aesthetic appeal lured me into the kitchen. The timing was perfect as Epiphany day falls on January sixth and I had most of the ingredients on hand. Though tempted to make the pastry dough from scratch I refrained, my first take at custard needed all the attention and energy I could muster.

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I always thought that the reason the nativity scene outlasted the other Christmas decorations in our house was out coincidence or my mother’s forgetfulness. It was not until I shared the back story on Le Gallete des Rois that I was informed of this conscious effort to observe the day that the three kings came to meet the newborn baby Jesus.

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Although the combination of custard and pastry should have scared me, I was too enchanted by the history to take notice. This cake took me a few tries and I can’t say I am completely satisfied with any of my attempts. The first try yielded perfect pinwheel cakes, that towered just like the pictures I’d found online. However, the frangipane filling made of butter cream, almonds and pastry cream wasn’t as sweet and flavorful as I was anticipating. After a good night’s sleep, and renewed optimism, I picked up more pastry sheets and began again. The second try seemed to be going smoothly, the texture of the frangipane was more cohesive. I had pulled together a custard that actually resembled custard on the third try. My confidence was boosted but unfortunately it was a little too soon. I subsequently overfilled the pastry circles and this of course was not fully revealed until the kitchen timer went off and I discovered the frangipane had run all over the parchment and the pastry circles had failed to meet.

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It was a brutal end to my no good, very bad day. I considered erasing it from my mind – and my camera – completely. Ah, but today is a new day and suddenly the egg shell that fell in while the mixer was running at half speed seems more comical and less like mockery.

Perhaps I will keep this recipe tucked away for Epiphany Day 2014, better luck next time!

The recipe I used, which also provides a brief history can be found here.

For any of you who are interested, I used 1% milk and Sara Lee pastry sheets. I used my food processor to ground the almonds. I also mixed some of the milk and sugar mixture into the egg yolk/cornstarch mixture (by constant whisking) to temper the eggs prior to adding the full yolk mixture into the milk and sugar. The first time around I did not do this and the result was scrambled eggs in my custard. I knew that question from my food science exam would come back to haunt me one day.

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