The French know about and crave these round, buttery, flaky, almond-paste-filled creations, of course, and so do all expatriates living in France, but tourists and business people just passing through may miss them completely. So, I think these traditional “Kings’ Cakes” made for the feast of the Epiphany (celebrated on January 6) constitute one of the best kept secrets of French gastronomie!
Because les galettes des rois appear for only about 4-6 weeks in the winter (roughly mid-December to the end of January), they cannot be experienced by the throngs that visit Paris and France any other time of year. Their appearance with plain-looking, brown crusts probably cause most winter tourists to pass over them, too, in favour of the fancier pastries filling every pastry shop display case. The flat cakes are most often sold whole, in sizes that can be divided into 4-10 portions, so finding just one slice to try can be tricky. When you do find one, though, please have it warmed up before eating! Although some folks might say they are good cold, they approach sublime when heated in an oven, and only then will the almond and butter fragrance waft from the wedges—fully half the experience in my book!
I blogged about the whole Kings’ Cake experience (including collecting the hidden fêves and playing the traditional game to win the gold paper crown) in February 2015 here: https://parishaiku.com/2015/02
Everyone gets into the act: co-workers will share them in the office; friends will get together just to share one; kids at school often make them in class; families welcome the chance to stretch the holidays just a little longer with this tiny celebration, usually washed down with “hard” apple cider (the drier brut has a slightly higher alcohol content than the sweeter doux), or sometimes Champagne. In tea salons, you may wish to have a warm slice with coffee or tea, of course. Are you after a ‘real’ French experience? You just found one!
David Lebovitz has an excellent recipe for making them at home (so easy!), so now you have no excuse not to discover these for yourself if you missed them on your last trip to France; here it is: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2014/01/galette-des-rois-kings-cake-recipe The almond-crème or frangipane filling is traditional, but some pastry chefs are experimenting with new fillings, too.
Although I’m reposting last year’s photo, I also wrote a new 17-syllable haiku:
What temptation hides
Beneath these plain brown wrappers?
Sinfully good taste!