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French Epiphany cake

2014-01-18

kolac-1.jpgEveryday life of the French, their traditions and seasons are reflected in the windows of the bakeries and pastry shops "boulangerie-patisserie". As soon as the Christmas time is finished, the pastries in the shape of a tree log "bûches" are replaced by golden round cakes from the flaky dough and almonds filling, "les galettes des rois" (the Epiphany cake). 

Let’s try to count them. Each day of January in the offer of the work canteen, among the colleagues, with the class of your kids in the kindergarten, in the family cerclkolac-2.jpge during an evening tea time, with friends on the weekends. An average French will eat at least 15 pieces of this almond cakes in January. Adults like to accompany it with an apple cider or champaign, for children the most important part is to find the small porcelain figurine "fève", baked in each cake. Traditions around the "galette" cake vary in different regions of France, in each family they can be slightly different. The most frequent version is that the youngest family member hides under the table and tells the names of the persons for whom each piece of cake has been cut. The person who finds the porcelain figurine becomes a king, puts a paper crown on the head and according to various traditions he/she can give orders for the whole day, kiss a king or queen of his/her choice or to pay the next "galette".
 
History of the "galettes" goes back to the Roman celebrations. During Saturnaliakolac-4.jpg that were celebrated at the end of December and beginning of January, the Romans chose one slave to be the "king of the day". This change of roles was done with the purpose to blunder away the bad intentions of the god Saturn. During the banquet at the end of Saturnalia, in each big family, Romans used the "fève" (white or black bean) as an "election vote" to choose "Saturnalicius princeps" (Lord of Saturnalia or the King of disorder). This habit enabled to strenghten the relations with the servants and gave to the "king of the day" the power to fulfill all his desires during one day (for example to give orders to his Master) before being condamned to death or going back to his slavery life.
 
In the past, the "galette" used to be divided with one extra piece being cut. This piece of cake was called a "part of a good Master", "part of Virgin Mary" or "part of a poor" and was given to the first poor person passing by the house. In France the tradition of the Epiphany cake has been kept since the 17th century.
 
For those who do not like "frangipane" (almond filling) there are also the galettes with apple sauce or chocolate filling.
 
As soon as January turns in February, the "galettes" in the bakeries and supermarkets dissapear and are replaced by the Candlemas pancakes. 

Maria Danthine, Paristep

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Preview of picture in folder Paris Pastries | Paristep