Last Sunday, R. and I had a few friends over for galette des Rois. Originally a culinary marker of the Epiphany, a Christian holiday that celebrates the Magi's visit to the baby Jesus, our galette des Rois was more a small-e epiphany of the epicurean variety.

We were first introduced to galettes des Rois a few years ago, in Paris, when they started popping up in bakeries all over the city in early January. But king cakes, as they're called in English, have a rich and varied history around the world. In keeping with northern French convention, I filled two discs of puff pastry with rich almond paste—a homemade crème d'amande rather than the usual frangipane—to make a cake of sorts. Lacking a porcelain figurine and finding only small white beans in my pantry, I used a whole almond for the all-important fève (more on that here).

Pastries like this one aren't normally my first pick of desserts, but the tradition's timing won me over. It was a chance to revisit puff pastry while my new year enthusiasm for ambitious baking projects is still intact and an excuse to gather friends for a little fun before the post-Christmas doldrums set in.

And, wouldn't you know it, I drew the fève. Happy new year to me. 

Galette des Rois

500 grams all-butter puff pastry
1 porcelain trinket, dried bean or whole almond

Crème d'amande:
125 grams unsalted butter, softened
125 grams white sugar
130 grams finely ground almonds
8 grams cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon rum or Grand Marnier
drop of almond extract

Egg wash and glaze:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon icing sugar

Several hours before you plan to construct and bake your galette des Rois, prepare the crème d'amande. In a medium bowl, beat the butter until creamy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, ground almonds, cornstarch and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter and mix until smooth. Beat in the almond extract and liquor, followed by the eggs, one at a time. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

When you're ready to construct the galette, prepare the egg wash by whisking together the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water. Set aside.

Divide the pastry into two equal balls. Roll the first ball out into a circle that measures at least 30 centimetres in diameter, then trim to tidy. Repeat with the second ball, creating a slightly larger circle (approximately 31 centimetres in diameter).

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the smaller of the two pastry circles on top. Brush the outer 1-inch of the circle with egg wash, careful not to wet the edge of the dough.

Spoon the crème d'amande in the centre and spread it evenly within the egg wash ring. Place the porcelain trinket, dried bean or almond on top, near the outer edge, pressing it lightly so that it's even with the top of the filling.

Lay the second, slightly larger, pastry circle on top. Smooth it over the top of the crème d'amande to eliminate any air bubbles, then press the edges together to seal.

Use the back of a knife—the dull side—to draw a decorative pattern on top. Lightly brush the top of the galette with egg wash. Poke five holes in the top, one in the centre and four evenly spaced near the outer edge, to ensure an even rise.

Chill the prepared galette for at least one hour.

Preheat your oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the galette for 30 minutes until puffy and golden (mine took closer to 45 minutes).

In the final few minutes of baking, mix together 1 tablespoon of icing sugar and 1 tablespoon of hot water. Brush the nearly baked galette with the glaze and return it to the oven for a few more minutes.

Remove the galette from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack. The puff pastry will settle as it cools.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, according to the conventions described by Clotilde.

Sources: Homemade galette des Rois on Chocolate & Zucchini and classic puff pastry on Not Without Salt.

Note: The puff pastry recipe will make roughly double the amount of pastry you need for one galette.