Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gallette du Rois

On the third of January the Epiphany was celebrated in France, at least in theory, I don't know anyone personally that celebrated it. I don't know much about the biblical aspects of this holiday (perhaps Tess can fill me in) but I believe the Epiphany is the celebration of the feast of kings, which marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas, which is when the 3 wisemen got finally got to Bethlaham to see Jesus?
In any case, its a feast that is celebrated on the first Sunday of January which follows a Saturday. My interest in it, as usual, is the baked good that accompanies this religious holiday.
The Gallette du Roi is a round flat pastry filled with frangipane, an almond cream paste. It can also be made with fruit or conserves. Inside the cake is a fève (which translates to bean, which is what used to be put in the cakes.) These days the fève is a tiny figure, and if you are oh so lucky enough to be living in Limoges, it will usually be a porcelain figure.

The cake is cut into equal parts based on the number of people present and each person takes a slice. Originally the cake was cut into as many slices as people plus one. This extra slice was called the "share of the poor" and was meant to be given to the first poor person who came to your home.
Whichever way you do it, whoever is lucky enough to discover the figure or trinket (as it doesn't have to be a figure) in their slice then has the pleasure of being king for the day and claims the crown that comes along with the cake. We tried this at the Christmas party and we learned quite quickly that the fewer people you have playing the more exciting the game. We had to cut our cake into so many pieces that the poor king was sticking out of someones piece, shamefully exposed, before we had even had a chance to start munching.

What I don't quite get about this tradition is the fact that the winner - the king for the day, is supposed to "offer" the next cake. How is it winning if I have to buy the next one?

Poor little guy is still covered in holiday.

Happy New Years Everyone!

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