Today is Epihany, the Christian celebration of the day when three kings came to bring gifts to baby Jesus. Kings’ Pie (Galette des rois) is a lidded pie with almond-based soft filling, traditionally served in France before, during and after Epiphany (celebrated in France on the second Sunday following Christmas, in spite of the official date being 6th January). Even though I don’t celebrate Epiphany, I find it an excellent excuse to make this pie. Kings’ Pie dates back to the XVIIth century and shouldn’t be mixed up with Kings’ Cake (Gâteau des Rois), one of the more ancient French cakes, dating back to the XIIIth century. It is a sweet bun filled with crystallized fruit and has a huge doughnut form with a hole inside. It is now mainly eaten in the South of France and less famous in other regions.
When served on Epiphany day Kings’ Pie is linked with a particularly dangerous custom, involving a paper crown and a bean. Traditionally a dry bean – nowadays usually replaced by a figurine – is placed somewhere in the pie and the one who finds it in his part of the pie is announced as the king of the evening and has the right to wear the crown. This tradition is especially perpetuated in the company of children, but from what I have noticed all the bakers put one (or even two) figurines (still called “fève”, meaning “broad bean”) in the pie. I am only wondering if they have ever done statistics concerning the teeth loss during the Epiphany period… I haven’t put anything in mine of course. Dentist’s services is not the most exciting idea of spending one’s savings.
The most frequently made and bought version of Kings’ Pie has only heavy and thick almond cream inside (the mixture of almonds, eggs and sugar), but the one I prefer is filled with “frangipane” (a mixture of almond cream and pastry cream), giving a lighter and moister result. The latter version is the most delightful, lightest almond cake I know and I prepare it much more often than once a year. My modified (in what regards the ingredients’ amounts) recipe comes the French website 750g.com. The pie is delicious, generously filled with “frangipane” and surprisingly not heavy at all. It is also not very sweet, so if you prefer very sweet cakes, add 30% more sugar to the almond cream.
TIP: If you have leftover puff pastry cuts, you can quickly use them making Last-Minute Crackers
Before I pass to the recipe I would like to draw your attention to this beautiful German Potato Salad posted by Mr. Three-Cookies (from the Three Cookies blog) and inspired by a recipe from my blog. Thank you, Mr. Three-Cookies, for having tried my recipe!
Preparation: 1 hour
Ingredients (makes one approx. 25 cm diameter tart):
150 g powdered or ground almonds (there will be a difference in texture, but the taste is equally good in both cases)
10 heaped tablespoons sugar
50 g softened butter
350 ml milk
4 heaped tablespoons sugar
2 medium egg yolks
3 heaped tablespoons flour
1 egg yolk (to brush the pie before baking)
2 puff pastry packages (about 230 g each)
Prepare the almond cream mixing the butter with the eggs, adding the almonds and 10 heaped tablespoons sugar and mixing again.
Prepare the pastry cream.
In a small pan bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, in a bowl, mix the yolk with the flour and sugar.
Add the hot milk gradually to the yolk mixture (tablespoon by tablespoon, otherwise the yolk might “cook”). Finally transfer everything back to the pan and constantly stirring, let it thicken (it will take about 3 minutes).
Put it in a cool place (e.g. balcony) to cool down a bit.
In the meantime preheat the oven to 180°C.
Butter a pie dish and line it with one of the pastry sheets.
With a spoon combine the almond cream and the pastry cream in a bowl.
Put the creams’ mixture over the pastry and cover it with the second sheet.
Seal well the edges, pinching with your fingers.
Brush the surface with the egg yolk and pick it with a fork (otherwise the surface will rise too much).
(You may also attempt making a traditional crisscross pattern with a knifepoint).
Bake for around 40-50 minutes until golden brown, covering with aluminium foil after the first twenty minutes (otherwise the top might burn).
Serve it alone or with red fruit jam.