We sing the song, and relish in raucously shouting the line “FIVE GOLD RINGS,” but many Australians would be surprised to learn that the classic Christmas carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” refers to the 12 days from Christmas Eve, not before it. What’s so special about the twelve days after? Well, this is the lead up a Christian holiday known as The Epiphany (6th January), which is still a public holiday in France and many other European countries.
Now, the French aren’t known for being particularly devout, but we do love a public holiday, and especially one with a special dish attached. For The Epiphany, it’s the “Galette” (or Gateau) des Rois, which translates to “Kings Cake”, in reference to the Three Wise Men who are believed to have visited the baby Jesus on this day.
I seriously doubt the Three Kings presented Jesus, along with their more famous gifts, a brioche-style, over-grown doughnut all those years ago, so I don’t quite know why we make “Galette Des Rois” in celebration of this event. What I do know is that it’s delicious and I’m sure Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus would have loved it as much then as I do today.
Galette des Rois are eaten from the 6th January until Mardi Gras (the Christian one marking the day before Lent fasting begins, as opposed to the Sydney version), and each one will often hide a little porcelain or plastic figurine somewhere in the dough. Whoever finds the figurine in their slice has certain privileges and responsibilities, which differ from country to country. Between countries there are also vastly different names and recipes for the Galette des Rois, even within France itself.
Today, I’ve chosen to share the recipe my Mum used to make for my brothers, and me, which is known as a “Gateau des Rois”.
- 300g strong plain flour
- 10g fresh yeast
- 20g caster sugar
- 6 pinch table salt
- 100g mixed peels
- 4 free range eggs
- 170g unsalted butter (soft)
- 2cl orange blossom water
- 2cl dark rum
- 1 lemon zest
- 30g glace fruit
- 30g orange marmalade
- 20 pearl sugar
- Tiny porcelain or plastic figurine of your choice (optional)
- Mix the flour, sugar and salt in an electric mixing bowl, like a Kitchen Aid for example. Mix the ingredients for a couple of minutes with the paddle attachment (the yeast can never be in direct contact with the salt as this would ‘kill’ it). Crumble the yeast and add it to the flour.
- Add the eggs, orange blossom water, rum, 80g of mixed peels and lemon zest and knead until you have a firm and elastic dough (about 5 minutes).
- Add the soft butter a little bit at a time and knead for a further 5 minutes. The sides of the bowl should be clean and the dough should be quiet soft.
- Cover the dough with cling film and leave to rest at room temperature for an hour or until it is doubled in size.
- “Knock back” the dough, that is, knead it for about 30 seconds and then cover it with cling film and place it in the fridge overnight.
- Place the dough on a floured surface and spread it using a rolling pin, just as you would do for normal dough. Fold it in 4 and repeat the process twice.
- Form a ball and place it on a flat baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Dip 2 of your finger in the flour and stick in the center of the dough all the way down to the tray to create a hole. Carefully widen the hole using your hands. Reform the dough so it has a circular shape (a bit like a giant doughnut!).
- Wrap a pastry cutter or a stainless steel ring a little bit smaller than the hole in greaseproof paper, and place it in the center. That way the hole won’t close as the dough proofs. If you want to place a figurine into your “Galette”, now if the time by simply pushing it into the dough. Make sure you let people know what they may find in their slice before they tuck in!
- Cover with cling film and leave to proof for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
- Brush the dough with egg wash (1 egg yolk mixed with 2 Tbsp water).
- Bake for 30 minutes. Then cover it with foil and bake for a further 15 minutes.
- Cool the “Galette” on a cooling rack until warm.
- Meanwhile, mix 2 tablespoon of marmalade with water and keep aside.
- Brush the “Galette” with the marmalade and sprinkle the pearl sugar and the remaining mixed peel on top.
- This delicious treat is now ready to eat for breakfast or for dessert. In French tradition, whoever finds the figurine in their slice has to make the next “Galette” to share!