Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dessert Epiphany

Today is Epiphany in the Christian church calendar, the day the wise men arrived to see the baby Jesus.  The meaning of 'epiphany' is 'the sudden realization of the essence or meaning of something'.  What I've suddenly realized is that in France, epiphany means you eat galette des Rois, a frangipane (almond paste) filled puff pastry that has been appearing in every single patisserie window for the last several weeks.

This is a problem. I love puff pastry.  I love almond paste.

I have been really, really good.  I've refused to buy one, but even now, in late afternoon of Epiphany, I'm hoping that our hosts for dinner tonight will have one for dessert, so I don't have to buy an entire one tomorrow, which I would eat, all by myself.  Yes, I would, I admit it.

So instead I've been contenting myself with taking pictures of the prettiest ones.  The one above is huge, filling the entire front window of a patisserie in the 7th arrondissement.  More typical is this one, which is said to feed six.

There are individual ones, but it seems kind of sad to get one for yourself, since the ritual around eating them is a communal one.  Into each galette is baked a fêve, nowadays a little ceramic figurine, but originally a bean, hence the name. Whoever gets the fêve in his slice of galette become king or queen for the day and gets to wear the crown that typically comes with the galette.


The fêves are kind of tacky nowadays, cartoon figures or the like, but charming older ones with traditional iconography can be found at flea markets and are collectibles.

Of course you can get a couple of little individual galettes, just in case you don't get a big enough slice for yourself.  Or if you really want to add to your collection of fêves.  Or because you really love puff pastry and almond paste.

Although frangipane is traditional, other flavors are occasionally available.  Here's a cacao flavored version.  The prices are all over the map.  The lower priced ones run about 12E to 18E for a full size galette.  This one from Fauchon was nearly 30E.

If I break down and get one I may not eat it all myself.  If Gene asks really, really nicely.  But I want the fêve.  Traditions have to start somewhere. That's the way it's going to be in our family. 


Alisa said...

if you are going to eat the calories, go get one from Pierre Hermé. Soooo worth it!

Anonymous said...

Love reading your blog today, my husband and I are retired, and have just begun to search for a Paris apartment for a year. Any advice for us?

Melanie said...

There, signed into Google so you could find me...

Shelli said...

Melanie, I can't find you since Google Blogger says you're not accessible. Are you the Anonymous asking about apartment hunting?

Alisa, luckily there was galette des Rois for dessert. Saved by the magi.

Melanie said...

yes, that is me, Melanie looking for an apartment

Andrew said...

A very interesting blog. Does anyone know why they began putting the bean inside the cake? Was it to symbolise the gifts of the three kings? Oh, and I think you should just go ahead and eat one... it's only once a year!

Seine Judeet (Judith) said...

Well, Shelli & Gene, I don't know how on earth I have managed to miss your wonderful blog up until now, but I won't continue to make that mistake! You have such great Paris photos! They really bring it to life and make me feel transported. I love your adventures. (I clicked over here after reading your comment on Ken's Saint-Aigan blog this morning.)

May I ask in what coin de Paris you live?