January 6, 2009
January 6 ~ the Feast of the Epiphany. The end of the 12 days of Christmas, and the day on which, in the Christian calendar, the three wise kings of the Orient came to bestow gifts on the infant Jesus. Epiphany is rarely observed in the Anglophone world, although I've always known it as the day to take down Christmas decorations (any later is bad luck). The French celebrate Epiphany with cake.
Traditionally, the Epiphany cake, or Galette des Rois, is a puff pastry disc filled with almond and pastry creams. I'd like to buy mine from Pierre Hermé, as Dorie Greenspan does. My galette was going to have to be improvised because I only had 1 egg. I decided to add apple, make a simple almond paste, and use the sheet of puff pastry I had in my freezer.
Besides the ingredients, I needed 2 props: a small porcelain favour to hide in the cake (whoever found it in their slice would be king or queen of the Feast), and a golden paper crown with which to award this monarch. I planned to use this lovely porcelain dog, saved from a Rose Tea box, as my favour, until I realised he was much too big ~
I made the apple puree, simmering just over-ripe apples in sugar and lemon juice, and adding flecks of vanilla ~
Then, I put together a simplified almond cream by grinding almonds and flour, and adding sugar, butter and egg ~
I rolled out the pastry sheet, spread it with almond cream and apple puree, and marked out a design with the tip of a sharp knife ~
The result was delicious - light pastry, a soft, sweet taste of apple, and a slightly gritty undertaste of almond and egg. In place of a paper crown: a golden vintage brooch ~
Apple & Almond Galette
For the apple puree:
3 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into small chunks
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
optional: the scrapings of about 1/4 inch of a vanilla bean
For the almond cream:
1/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 tbsp all purpose (plain) flour
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
Puff pastry, 1 or 2 sheets (depending on the size)
1 egg, beaten
To make the apple puree: cook all the ingredients in a heavy lidded saucepan over medium low heat until fruit softens, about 15 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to medium high, and cook until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Puree in a food processor or blender.
To make the almond cream*: finely grind almonds and flour in a food processor or blender. Mix in sugar, then butter. Blend until smooth. Mix in egg. Transfer filling to a bowl. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.
To assemble the galette*: roll out puff pastry to 1/8 inch thick. Using a cake pan or plate, cut out 2 circles of the size you prefer. About 9 inches would be best - my galette was a little small because I didn't have enough pastry. Transfer these circles to a baking sheet lined with baking paper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while the almond cream is chilling.
Center a rack in the oven and pre-heat to 475F/250C. Remove the pastry discs on their baking tray from the refrigerator. Spread one with almond cream and then apple puree, leaving a half inch border empty (there's no need to use all the cream and puree - you will probably have too much). Brush this border with beaten egg. Using a knife with a sharp point, score the other pastry circle with the design of your choice (traditionally curved lines), again leaving a half inch border free. Make sure your knife doesn't break the dough. Carefully place this second circle over the first, sealing the edges with your finger or a fork. Create a small hole somewhere in the pastry to vent steam while cooking, and brush the entire galette with beaten egg. Place the baking tray in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 400F/200C. Bake for 20 minutes. Best when warm, still delicious when room temperature, the galette should be served the day it's baked.
* Adapted from Bon Appetit's Pear & Almond Tart, Feb 2005, via Smitten Kitchen
* Adapted from Paris Sweets, via Serious Eats