Our holidays were fun but hectic. My sister, niece, nephew, mother-in-law, and uncle were all in town and having them all here felt so right, so like the crazy big Christmas of my dreams. We had loads of big family dinners, played a thousand games, drank enough wine to make Bacchus proud, and ate whatever we wanted.
My heart is full, but my body is tired. Getting back into a routine for school and work at the end of this week was a challenge. At least the weekend is here again so we can all get a bit more rest.
My stomach feels the most worn out. Three out of five of us have gotten some type of stomach malady. I'm not sure if it's a virus or a case of too-much-holiday, but either way, there has been a peak in the consumption of crackers, rice, and toast.
But before the 12 days of Christmas are finished, we (at least those of us whose stomachs are up to the task) will squeeze in one more treat: the Galette des Rois for Three Kings Day, the day that marks the official end of the holiday season.
The tradition is to bake a bean inside the cake. When serving the cake, the youngest person in the room goes under the table and dictates who gets each piece. The person who gets the bean becomes king for a day.
This recipe came to me from my friend Andrea and it has now become a family tradition. It was the first thing I cooked on our new stove at the end of our kitchen renovation so it has a special place in our family lore now.
Now that the holidays are officially over for us, we can turn to some healthier eating, at least long enough to counteract the effects of the holiday excess.
Although this cake is not difficult to make, it requires advance planning because the filling has to freeze overnight before baking. I have given precise measurements for the sizes of the filling and the pastry, but you don't need to be too tied to them. The idea is just that the filling will be small enough to fit inside the pastry and the bottom sheet of pastry should be big enough to pull over the top piece of pastry and crimped.
When you assemble the cake, make sure to mark the spot subtly so that you (and only you) know where the bean is. That way, if you don't serve the entire cake at once, you can be sure that someone will still get to be king.
30 minutes preparation time, plus overnight to freeze the filling and 30 minutes to chill
1 hour baking time
6 tablespoons butter, softened
7 ounces almond paste
3 large eggs, divided
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons flour
1 14-ounce package puff pastry
Put the butter, almond paste, 2 of the eggs, lemon zest, and flour in the bowl of a mixer. Mix on low speed until the ingredients begin to blend together. Turn the mixer up to medium and mix until the ingredients cream together into a consistent texture, although it will not be completely smooth because there will be small lumps from the almond paste.
Lay a sheet of parchment orwax paper on a baking sheet. Turn the mixture onto the paper and with a rubber spatula, spread it into an 8-inch round circle. Cover with another sheet of parchment or wax paper and freeze overnight. If the puff pastry is frozen, put it in the refrigerator now so that it can overnight.
When you are ready to bake the cake, remove the pastry from the packaging and unfold it onto a lightly floured counter. Cut it in half. Roll half on the floured counter until all sides measure at least 10 inches.Trim the pastry so that a 9-inch circle remains. Save the scraps. Transfer the pastry to a baking sheet with sides or a jelly roll pan.
Remove the filling from the freezer, unwrap it, and lay it on top of the puff pastry. Place a bean on top of the filling.
Roll out the second piece of pastry into a 9-inch circle. Transfer it to the top of the filling. Gently pull the bottom piece of pastry up over the top piece and crimp it tightly together. Make a subtle mark where the bean is so that you know where it is. You want as tight a seal as possible so that the filling doesn't leak out as it cooks. Cut a design, such as a crown, and lay it on top of the cake. Use the decoration to mark the spot where the bean is. I like to point the longest prong of the crown towards the bean.
Mix together the remaining egg and a spoonful of water. Brush the cake lightly with the egg glaze (you won't need it all). Put the cake back into the refrigerator to chill for about half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. After the cake has chilled, bake it at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. If the top starts to get too dark, cover the cake with foil. After 45 minutes, with the cake still in the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for another 15 minutes. The pastry on top should be golden brown and dry to the touch.
When the cake has finished baking, let it cool for a few minutes before cutting into it.