We’ve reached the end of January and finally seen the back of the Galette des Rois. This more or less passed me by last year, but the start of 2017 has been a veritable frangipane feast. I have sampled not one but four versions of the traditional dessert in honor of the Epiphany, a sort of tart made from flaky pastry and filled with almond paste. Somewhere hidden inside there is always the fève – French equivalent of the piece in the Christmas pudding, usually a tiny porcelain figurine of in the shape of pretty much anything. The word galette is quite confusing for foreigners, because it can also mean the savoury pancakes made from buckwheat flour in Brittany, a very different thing altogether.
So the first of my four galettes was a shop-bought industrial one bought by one of my colleagues to celebrate our first Wednesday meeting of the new year. Nothing very special, but not strong on the frangipane front, which suited me well as I am not a big fan. You can actually buy what are called ‘galettes sèches‘, a version which is empty inside, thus making it a hollow tart consisting entirely of flaky pastry. Much as I like pastry, this doesn’t seem quite right, but D sometimes buys these as he can’t eat the egg in the frangipane.
However, galette number 2 was an egg-free one, with almond paste inside, and very almond-y it was too. This was home-made by my future mother-in-law and also eaten on the feast of the Epiphany itself. Number 3 was eaten to celebrate the inaugural choir rehearsal of 2017, when our English choir director and his French wife introduced the English contingent to the ceremony of ‘tirer les rois‘, the proper way to eat the galette. The youngest person has to get under the table and call out the recipient of each slice of galette, then everyone eats their slice to find out who has the fève, before crowning its owner king. Everyone drinks to the king, of course, and then to his queen, should he choose to designate one.
Galette number 4 was from Dalloyau and clearly deserved to be crowned king of the galettes. Dusted with sugar and consisting of many layers of feathery light sweet pastry (in the style of a true millefeuille), it really did melt in the mouth. Washed down with the traditional Norman cider, it lasted but a moment. Someone brought it to our impromptu quartet recital in the cellist’s studio flat, which managed to attract an amazing 25-odd people. You can see us all in the photo above, with an audience member’s golden crown in pride of place.