The Feast of the Epiphany, known as Three Kings Day or Twelfth Night is a Christian celebration of the revelation of the birth of Jesus to the wider world. It is celebrated on January 6 — 12 days after the birth of Christ.
The date marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas and the new season of Epiphany.
Mexico, France and countries all around the world celebrate The Epiphany (familiarly known as Theophany) with feasts, customs and traditions. One tradition that is looked forward to every year is the king cake.
During February, it is common to see in our local bakeries and grocery stores a cake decorated with colorful sugars of yellow, purple and green and topped with a trinket of a baby that represents the baby Jesus. The cake is usually round in shape and flavored with cinnamon. A good one is really quite delicious. The cake described is the Louisiana version of the king cake. It is usually associated with Mardi Gras and thousands of them are consumed in New Orleans during the Carnival season.
Various countries have different cakes, all known as king cakes, and while the traditions are similar, the cakes are often different in taste, texture and in decoration.
The cake known as "roscon de reyes" in Spain or “rosca de reyes” in Latin Americais traditionally eaten on January 6, the day when children get presents from the Three Wise Men. The cake has an oval shape to symbolize a crown. For decoration, people sometimes use dried and candied fruits such as figs, quince or cherries. The fruit symbolizes the many jewels that a crown would have.
Yet another version of the cake is the French galette des rois. This cake is commonly served in northern France, Quebec and Belgium. Known for its pastries, this French creation consists of flaky puff pastry layers with a dense center of frangiapaneor apple. Its flavor is almond.
Central Market located at Lovers Lane and Greenville Avenue has been baking a delicious Louisiana-style king cake for Mardi Gras for years, and this past week they were offering the French cake as well.
I purchased one and took it to AutumnLeavesRetirementCenter on WhiteRockLake for the residents to enjoy at lunchtime while celebrating the King’s Day tradition. The cake came with crown and trinket and the resident who was served the piece of cake with the trinket got to wear the crown.
Vickery Place residents Wally Bettesand Kathy Harris have hosted a Three Kings Party ever since they moved to their Lower Greenville neighborhood home. Each year, the couple selects a theme and carries it out on the food buffet.
This year’s theme was England, where Epiphany or "Twelfth Night" was the last opportunity to make merry before a return to the usual toil of the workaday world. The traditional Yule Log was kept lit until Twelfth Night in order to bring blessings and good fortune throughout the upcoming year.
Harris served Welsh rarebit, coronation chicken, roast beef sandwiches and shortbread cookies along with a variety of English cheeses. Coronation chicken salad was created by Constance Spry for the 1953 Queen’s Coronation. Harris’ adaption of the dish was delicious and the recipe follows.
A king cake is always served at the Harris/BettesThree King party and the recipient of the trinket is crowned by last year’s king or queen. However, with that honor comes the obligation of bringing the cake to next year’s party.
If you are considering a Three King party next year the following recipe for a galette des rois is less intimidating than some and utilizes the convenience of frozen puff pastry.
Kathy’s Coronation Chicken
2 tablespoons of your favorite mayonnaise.
½ teaspoon of mild curry powder.
1 heaping tablespoon of mango chutney.
2 cups cold, cooked white meat chicken, (chopped or shredded into small pieces).
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Combine mayonnaise, curry powder and chutney together until you’ve got a smooth sauce. Add the cooked chicken and the raisins to the sauce. Top with sliced almonds.
Place the mixture into a lidded container in the fridge and chill for 1 to 2 hours. Serve on sandwich bread, croissants or crackers.
Galette Des Rois
1/4 cup almond paste
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1 (17.25 ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 dry kidney bean
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar for dusting
- 1. Place the almond paste into a food processor or blender with about half of the sugar, and process until well blended. Add the butter and remaining sugar using and process until smooth, then blend in 1 egg, vanilla extract, almond extract, flour and salt. Set aside.
- 2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper, and set aside.
- 3. Roll out one sheet of the puff pastry into an 11-inch square. Keep the pastry cool, do not knead or stretch. Use a large pie plate, cake pan or frying pan to trace an 11 inch circle onto the dough using the tip of a small knife. Place the circle of pastry onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry. Refrigerate both sheets.
- 4. Mound the almond filling onto the center of the pastry that is on the baking sheet. Leave about 1 1/2 inch margin at the edges. Press the bean or feve down into the filling. Place the second sheet of pastry on top, and press down the edges to seal. Beat the remaining egg with a fork, and lightly brush onto the top of the galette. Use a knife to make a crisscross pattern in the egg wash, and then prick several small slits in the top to vent steam while baking.
- 5. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Do not open the oven until the time is up, as the pastry will not fully puff. Remove from the oven, and dust with confectioners' sugar. Return to the oven, and cook for an additional 12 to 15 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- 6. Lay a golden paper crown gently on top of the cake. This will be used to crown the person who finds the bean or favor that you have inserted into the cake. Serve warm or cold. Make sure to tell everyone about the bean or favor and keep it away from small children who could choke.