The best text message I got after midnight on January 1, when the French text each other like mad with New Year messages, was from my 84 year-old friend Stanley: “Happy New Year and above all good health. The rest is EZ.”
I love the message because it’s about the essential. And while we aren’t in total control of our health, we are in more control of it than most other things in the world. So, I think the message from Stanley – a very energetic and politically engaged person – is this: Do what you can, eat well, love well, exercise enough…the rest is EZ.”
Happy New Year to you all, and may this year bring much love, appreciation, satisfaction, prosperity, adventure and enough contentment to keep things in perspective.
I leave you here with these wishes and a recipe for Galette des Rois because it is the season. I’ve added apples to give it a Norman fillip.
KINGS’ CAKE WITH APPLES – GALETTE DES ROIS AUX POMMES
The Galette des Rois honors Epiphany on January 6, and the gifts of the magi. Its origins are said to be in a monastery in Burgundy where monks used the occasion to elect their director, baking a cake with a bean in it. Whomever got the bean became director. Today the “feve” (which literally means bean), is a fanciful little object, the galette des rois a puff pastry confection in the north of France, a brioche-based cake in the south. The filling is almond cream. It’s a delicious dessert or goûter, and when served among family members, the youngest gets under the table to say who gets which piece, to avoid favoritism. The lucky winner wears the gold paper crown which accompanies the galette purchased at the bakery and is king (or queen) for the day.
ASTUCE: if you can’t find almond powder/flour, simply grind ½ cup of almonds with about 1 tablespoon of the sugar called for in the almond cream recipe. Then, measure out the mixture – you should have just the right amount!
Be sure to warn your guests that there is something hard inside the galette so teeth don’t suffer!
For the pastry:
1 pound (500g) puff pastry
For the almond cream:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick;60g) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup (65g) vanilla sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 or 5 drops bitter almond extract, or to taste
½ cup (75g) finely ground almonds (also called almond flour or powder)
For the apples:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 medium apples (about 13 ounces;400g), peeled, cored, and very thinly sliced
For the egg glaze:
2 teaspoons water
- Roll out the puff pastry to a very thin (1/8 inch; 1/4 cm) rectangle. Cut out one 10-inch (25cm) round and one 10-1/2 inch (26.25cm) round. Place them on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Reserve the scraps for another use.
- Prepare the almond cream: in a medium-sized bowl, whisk the butter with the sugar until it is soft and well combined. (If you’ve used some of the sugar to grind whole almonds into powder, whisk in the remaining sugar with the butter). Whisk in the egg until the mixture is light, then whisk in the all-purpose flour, the vanilla extract and the bitter almond extract until thoroughly combined.
- Stir in the almond flour gently until it is blended into the mixture.
- Whisk together the egg and the water, for the egg wash
- While the pastry is chilling, heat the tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is frothing, add the apples and stir, coating them with the butter. Cook, stirring and shaking the pan, until the apples are golden and almost tender through, about 7 to 10 minutes. Reserve.
- Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).
- Assemble the galette: Remove the pastry rounds from the refrigerator. Place the cream in the center of the smaller round, and spread it out, leaving it thicker in the center, until it is about 2-1/2 inches (6-1/2 cm) from the edge of the pastry. If you’re going to place a fève in the galette, now is the time. Cover the almond cream with the apple slices, in a single layer. Top with the second round of pastry, lining up the edges with the bottom round of pastry.
- Brush the galette with the egg wash then, using the blade of a very sharp knife, score the top of the galette, going nearly all the way through the pastry. Using the back of a knife blade (the dull edge), press it into the edges of the galette at regular intervals to make a scalloped edge. This helps the pastry rise evenly.
- Bake the galette in the center of the oven until it is golden and puffed, and baked all the way through, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.
Serves 6 to 8