What is a Galette?
A galette is a type of French pastry that is made with a rich, flaky crust, and traditionally served at Epiphany, on 6 January each year. Many bakeries also offer galettes year round, in both savory and sweet incarnations. In general, galettes are rounded and flat, and they tend to be very crusty because of the type of pastry used to make them. They can be made at home with minimal effort.
The term "galette" is used in some parts of France to refer specifically to crêpes made with buckwheat. In other countries, pastries that are made with more dense doughs are sometimes found labeled as galettes. Technically this designation is incorrect, especially if the pastry is left open on top, as is common, but the resemblance to the original galette can be seen. In most cases, a galette is too large for a single person to eat and is designed to be sliced before being served to individual guests.
Sweet or Savory Filling
Depending on the region and the chef, galettes might be made plain, but they are more often filled with something. The traditional sweet filling includes almond paste mixed with eggs and slivers of orange peel. This filling is often used for Epiphany galettes, to which the cook also adds small feves, or charms. An Epiphany galette is known in French as a galette des rois, or "king cake," and the consumer who gets the slice that has the charm in it is playfully crowned the king or queen.
Savory fillings and garnishes are also not unusual. Meats such as ham and sausage are sometimes served with Galletes. Apple slices, cheese such as Gruyère, and egg can also be used. Sometimes the filling is baked into the galettes, and at other times, the supplemental ingredients are placed on top. When ingredients such as cheese are placed on top of a galette, the dish usually is toasted so that the cheese will melt onto the galette.
How to Make Gallettes
To make traditional galettes at home, one can make puff pastry dough or purchase it frozen at the market. A cooking pan should be greased, and a circle of puff pastry should be laid onto it for each one that is being made. A mixture of almond paste, eggs and orange zest can then be spread in the middle of each pastry, stopping about 2 inches (5 cm) short of the edges.
If the cook intends to include a feve, it is added before he or she layers another sheet of puff pastry on top and crimps the edges. Decorations can be made on top by slashing with a knife or making shapes out of additional puff pastry and pasting them on with egg before baking the galettes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius) until golden brown and puffy. One should be careful when opening the oven to check on the pastry, because the pastry can collapse.
Did you know that the tradition of the galette des rois is based on the three kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to baby Jesus. Their journey took twelve days -- hence, the twelve days of Christmas -- and the twelfth day is Epiphany. This is why it's easiest to find galettes in January.
Some foods have more meaning behind them than I ever realized!
A galette sounds like a great party treat, especially, in the style of the galette des rois. Besides being delicious, I think it would be a lot of fun to see who gets the feve in their piece. I would love to try it, maybe for a theme party. Whoever finds the feve is the king or queen of the party!
I think that the galette is one of the types of French pastry less common in the United States, because I do not think I have ever even seen it before. If it is anything like other French pastries I've tried, though, I imagine it can be quite delicious.
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