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The Sweet Life


第4回  Holiday Traditions: Galette des Rois


I will never forget our Christmas in France, five years ago. Tokyo Christmases and New York Christmases I have seen many of, but Christmas in France was an altogether new experience. Grocery shelves lined with an exorbitant amount of foiegras, and long lines not at the butcher but at the seafood market, where people would purchase oysters and lobster. The food of choice in Tokyo at Christmas is chicken and Christmas cake, in New York it is traditionally turkey and ham with pumpkin pie and gingerbread, and in France, foiegras and oysters. Partaking in the French spirit of Noel, that year I decided to try my hand at a lobster flambé, and nearly burned our quaint, very old cottage to the ground! I have since learned that you need to heat the alcohol before igniting it...
Now the pastry I remember most from my taste of a French holiday was not the buche de noel that you see everywhere in Tokyo alongside the ubiquitous "Christmas cake", but a pastry known as Galette des Rois, or in English, Kings' Cake. Traditionally eaten on January 6th, or Epiphany Day, the cake earns its name from the Magi or 3 kings who came to visit the baby Jesus. Incidentally, January 6this also the day that Christmas decorations are traditionally taken down, including the Christmas tree with the star on top, the star that guided the Magi to the baby Jesus.
Galette des Rois is a rather simple dessert consisting of an almond cream encased in puff pastry. Each galette contains a trinket, which traditionally was a bean but is now more commonly a porcelain figurine. Many of the renowned patisseries in Paris have their own signature trinkets, or fèves, made just for this pastry. Each galette usually also comes with a toy crown, and the person who eats the piece of cake containing the trinket is crowned king (or queen) for the day, and will also continue to be lucky for the rest of the year. In the spirit of fairness, the youngest person in the room when the cake is served, usually a child, sits under the table and names the person who is to receive the piece of cake being cut. One extra piece was traditionally cut and left to be given to the first person who came to the door.
Although not quite as popular as the Christmas buche, some patisseries in Tokyo do offer the Galette des Rois, usually by reservation only. This year we will be reserving a galette from Pierre Hermé, where I studied in Paris, and who has his fèvesspeciallymade for the occasion. http://www.pierreherme.co.jp/galette2013/
Galette des Rois are traditionally enjoyed on January 6th, but can be eaten throughout the month. Why not start a new celebration to brighten up your January and shed the winter blues?
Wishing you all a royally sweet 2013!

Caption 1: An American holiday tradition--a gingerbread house! We made ours this year on Christmas Eve.
gingerbread house2.jpg

Caption 2: Galette des Rois
galette des rois2.jpg

The Sweet Life

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