I meant to make this Galette des Rois on Wednesday for Epiphany but we were so glued to the news of the unrest in Washington DC that I completely forgot. Yesterday morning I woke up in a bit of a panic at my blunder and made one right away.
Galette des Rois is a lovely French tradition that brings the holidays to a sweet close. The cake is served on the 12th day of Christmas (Epiphany) to represent the visit of the three wise men to baby Jesus. Yesterday may have been the 13th day of Christmas (better late than never!), but I quickly whipped together this one using store-bought puff pastry and, for the fève, a (very clean) coin which I wrapped in aluminum foil. The tradition, which goes back to Roman times, dictates that a fève – a little trinket or small, porcelain nativity figurine – is hidden in the filling of the cake before baking. Whoever finds it is crowned King or Queen for the day. As the name suggests, a dry fava bean was originally used; however, last year I baked a real bean into the cake and it was never found. (!!) I’m always on the hunt for antique porcelain fèves but so far haven’t had any luck finding them in the US. Last night, Eva was the lucky fève finder. Her first order of business as Queen was to play a board game with me.
Because I’m allergic to nuts*, instead of the traditional almond filling I went the apple route. I peeled, cored and thinly sliced two apples, then caramelized them with brown sugar and salted French butter. Cooking the apples with a good salted French butter gives them a decadent richness, but if you don’t have salted butter, you can absolutely use unsalted butter and add a pinch of salt to the filling. The apples rest on a thick bed of mascarpone cheese and the whole thing is encased in an envelope of flakey puff pastry.
Galette des Rois aux Pommes
I put this cake together so quickly that I didn’t take any notes so please be aware that all measurements are approximate. The beauty of using store bought pastry is that you can adjust the filling to your individual tastes and the entire recipe is highly adaptable and forgiving. The one caveat is: depending on the variety and ripeness of apples used, there can be quite a bit of liquid released during the cooking process. Just be certain to boil the syrup down until it just coats the apples.
- 2 large apples
- 5 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon water
- 1 Tablespoon heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons (30 g) salted French butter
- 2 sheets puff pastry dough
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- 1 TBSP granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Peel, core and slice the apples. Set aside.
In a saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Stir in the cream, then the apples and the butter. Cook over med-low heat for 10 minutes, then raise the heat and boil rapidly until most of the liquid has evaporated and the apples are coated with the thick brown sugar syrup. Take off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Use an 8 – 9 inch (23 cm) salad plate as a stencil to cut the dough into two circles. Place one of the circles of dough on the prepared baking sheet. Spread the mascarpone cheese over the dough leaving a 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) border. Using your finger, rub a little of the egg yolk around the edge of the circle. Place a fève (small figurine or coin) somewhere on the cheese near the outer edge. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the apples evenly on top of the mascarpone, hiding the fève. Cover with the second piece of puff pastry and press around the edges to seal.
Cut a small X in the center of the cake to allow the steam to escape, then, using the tip of the knife, inscribe a decorative pattern on the top of the cake, being careful not to cut all the way through.
Brush the top with the remaining egg yolk and sprinkle with the granulated sugar.
Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven heat down to 350 F/180 C and bake an additional 15 – 20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool. Serve at room temperature or slightly warmer.
*Note: The nut-free brand of puff pastry that I used is Wewalka. It’s found in the refrigerated (not frozen) section of many grocery stores in the US. You can use any puff pastry – homemade or store-bought. (Not sponsored.)