King’s almond galette

During the whole month of January, most French families have
one favorite food ritual they can look forward to. The “Kings’ galette”.

It is originally made to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6th.
The tradition of the cake on that day is typically French and was instituted by
the church in the 13th century.
But contrary to a lot of countries
in the world where the Epiphany remains a very religious celebration, it has
become widely secular in France. 

Part of what makes this so fun, is the placing of a “fève”,
nowadays a small porcelain figure, inside the galette. This was an 11th
century Roman tradition of placing either a coin, or for the poorest, a dried
fava bean (fève in French) inside a
loaf of bread to determine the leader of a group (whoever got the piece of
bread with the coin or bean was the leader).

The celebration as most French families do it today is a
sort of hodgepodge of these two traditions. A “fève” (it is now mostly a small
porcelain figure) is placed inside the almond galette. The tradition says it is
to be cut into the number of guests plus one, the portion “for the poor” (to be
given to the first poor person passing by – I remember my mom telling me about
the “for the poor” piece, and how it made me realize as a young child that some
people out there may not have enough to eat.) A napkin is placed over the
galette, and the youngest member of the group goes under the table and designates
to whom each piece is to be given. The one who gets the piece with the fève is designated the “king”, and gets
to choose his queen (or vice versa).



We know how rituals in general are good for young children
especially. They are landmarks in their life, something expected that makes
them feel safe, something fun to look forward to, whether it’s the bedtime
ritual, or the Sunday morning ritual, whatever that may be for each family. When
we go through a ritual, we are in the moment, engaged, centered. When I think
ritual, I think: comfort, slow, reassuring, mindful, grounding. I think as adults in this busy 21st century
life pulling us in all directions, we need our own rituals just as much as our children
do. (I recommend this great post on Food Loves Writing on this topic, by the way).

So of course, you may not be surprised to hear some of my
favorite rituals are food rituals. Cooking and enjoying family meals, are some of the rituals that help keep me grounded every day.

Food rituals are a big part of the approach to food in France. I grew
up with all kinds of them, whether it was the placing of a
fork under the plate for the vinaigrette to eat artichoke leaves, or the tapping of the soft-boiled egg
and the dipping of the
mouillettes, or the cutting of a radish into a flower to
insert a sliver of butter in it, to be devoured with a sprinkle of salt.
A ritual means you are taking the time to do something of value, and you are mindful of what you are doing, you are engaged in it, with mind and body. Food rituals are a great opportunity to teach, and learn, this mindfullness in an organic way, as they make food fun, they make the eating experience special and pleasurable. They create a positive association, all wonderful
things, all part of the education of taste.


This galette is definitely one of the most beloved food rituals for French kids. It is usually an opportunity for the whole family to get together and share a playful moment. Usually families have the galette a few times throughout January, an excuse to get together with friends and relatives they may have missed during the holidays. It’s a wonderful moment where all generations get together, to be all about the galette, and the fun of waiting to find out who gets to be king or queen.

Now, if you will allow me to go on a tangent here, for the
sake of contrast.

I have started taking Pablo to a toddler art class at a
well-known national kids’ activity center. And to my great amazement (aka inner
cringing), at 9:50am, the toddlers are offered a snack! And not only that… but
the snack consists of a good ¼ cup of goldfish (cringe cringe). And not only
that… but the goldfish is to be eaten while the teacher reads a story!


So I kindly said we “didn’t do snacks” in our family, let
Pablo have 3 goldfish so he didn’t feel completely excluded, and that seemed to
work fine. I have three major issues with this, one of which I’m interesting in
exploring here:


    1. I don’t
      think a snack is warranted at 9:50 in the morning. Pablo has a good
      breakfast around 8am, and then eats lunch at 12pm.

 

    1. If
      there must be a snack, does it
      have to be a high sodium processed food like goldfish, seriously? How
      about some grapes, or slices of apple?

 

    1. But
      most importantly, are we conditioning our children to be unable to listen
      to a story, or watch a movie, or do any activity requiring to sit still
      and pay attention, without munching on something? Talk about teaching
      mindless eating, which can have such terrible health consequences later on.
      And when we eat, must we be doing something else? Precisely I am teaching Pablo
      to focus and savor his (good quality) food, listen to his body, and enjoy the
      moment.

 

So at the far opposite side of the spectrum of mindless
goldfish eating, the celebration and savoring of the galette as a multigenerational
group experience, where everyone is in the moment, not doing anything else than
enjoying the galette and each other’s company in a playful way, is a fantastic
food ritual creating so many wonderful associations in our minds.

So why not give it a try with your loved ones? Start the new year by creating a new tradition, a new family ritual, by experiencing a moment of togetherness with the ones you love, sharing a playful moment of connection where children and adults are on the same plane.

 

Every bakery and supermarket sells galettes starting January 1st, but I’ve started making it myself in the US out of necessity, and it is very easy and just delicious homemade.

As far as the crust, let me just say it: I am scared of making puff pastry! But that won’t stop me from trying some time this year, I promise. But for this one, I did what most French do, I bought the frozen puff pastry, and it works just fine (I got mine at Trader Joe’s, it was very good).

So, are you willing to give it a try? Would you like to
institute new food rituals for your family? Which food rituals do you already
have and cherish? Please share,
 I really would love to know.

Kings’ Almond Galette

Prep time: 25 mn
Cook time: 35 mn

Serves 8

Age for babies: 10-12 months to be given a taste of almond paste and puff pastry (watch out if you put a fève of course, no whole almonds until they’ve got some molars).

2 sheets of frozen puff pastry
1 stick of unsalted butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
4.5 oz almond meal
2 eggs + 1 for the egg wash
1 tbsp milk
1 fève (an almond does the trick)

Take the puff pastry out of the freezer, leave it out to thaw, if soft enough, gently unroll onto a floured board.

In a large bowl, beat the soft butter and sugar together until combined. Add the almond meal and beat until combined. Add the two eggs, one at at time, mixing well each time.

Place one sheet of puff pastry on parchment paper. If it broke or crackled a bit, patch it together (but don’t make it a ball, patch it together flat). Use a large round pie mold as a cutter to make a circle.  Repeat for the second sheet.

With a brush, wet the edge around the crust, paying attention not to go over the edge.

Spoon and spread evenly the almond mixture in the center of the crust. If you wish, place the “fève” now, vertically so it’s easier to hide. I used an almond.

Delicately place the second circle of puff pastry over the first. With your fingers, press all around, turning the edges inward a bit to seal the galette. With a small knife, make small incisions all around the edge of the galette (without actually cutting through the dough).

In a small bowl, mix the milk with the remaining egg. Brush this egg wash onto the top of the galette, careful not to wet the edges, as it would keep the galette from swelling nicely.

Place the galette in the fridge and let it rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven at 450°F.

Brush the galette a second time with the egg wash. With a knife, let your creative spirit flow and draw a crown or anything you like on top (careful not to pierce through the dough though). I was particularly creative and just did straight lines….

Place the galette in the oven and bake at 450°F for about 10-12 minutes, until the top is golden. Then lower the heat to 350°F and bake for another 20 minutes.

While it’s baking, boil 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water, until sugar is dissolved. Let it cool.

When the galette comes out of the oven, brush sugar water on top and let cool, it’ll give it that nice shiny gloss on top.

Eat lukewarm. (Can be reheated in the oven for 10 min at 200°F.)

Marveling at rituals… and the artichoke

Even though artichoke bottoms (different from the artichoke hearts) are very good for baby purees at a young age, I must admit this is one vegetable I have been avoiding… It’s so much work! You have to boil it, peel all the leaves, then take out the “furry” part, to be then left with the small bottom, that saucer looking part. People compare the complexity of human character to peeling an onion, but I for one think we should switch that analogy to artichokes!

Only as an adult can you recognize all the trouble your parents went to in order to please you. As a kid, I only remember artichokes were fun because of the fork-under-the-plate ritual… The French commonly eat artichokes by dipping the leaves into vinaigrette. To facilitate this, you put your fork underneath the plate so the plate is tilted. The vinaigrette pools in the lower part, and the leaves to be eaten stay on the top part, without soaking in the dressing. Of course you pick up the leaves with your fingers, dip them in the vinaigrette, and rake the “meat” with your front teeth. And as one of those ingrained back-to-childhood links, as soon as I look at an artichoke, I picture that plate sitting on the fork.

Introducing Pablo to the artichoke and its ritual was a lot of fun. He certainly took to it, biting the leaves was perfect since he only has his front teeth. The bottom of the artichoke, diced, makes an excellent finger food. Or can be otherwise made into a puree.



In the process of documenting this photographically, I
realized just how beautiful and intricate an artichoke is! Every time you peel
one part, another color, or texture appears. How does nature come up with this
stuff?

Artichoke with vinaigrette

Age: Artichoke puree can be given at 6 months; as a finger food, around 8 months.

Health benefits: High in antioxidants and fiber, good for the liver and digestion, contains potassium, vitamin C and folic acid.

2 artichokes
Olive oil
Juice of a lemon

Cut off the foot of the artichoke, and put it in boiling water, covered, for about 30 minutes. Let it cool.

Peel off the leaves to be eaten dipped in vinaigrette.

Take out the furry part, and you are left with the bottom, to be diced or pureed.

Baby vinaigrette: Simply mix 2 tbsp of olive oil with the juice of half a lemon, add a bit of salt and pepper (optional).

Option 1: Cut it up to serve to baby as finger food (with or without vinaigrette)

Option 2: Make a puree. Steam ½ potato, mix it together with 2 artichoke bottoms. Should make about 2x 2 oz portions.

Other puree possibilities:

Artichoke-green beans puree (6 months and up): Steam a handful of green beans for about 10 minutes. Mix with one cooked artichoke bottom, and some milk to desired consistency.

Artichoke, peas & tomato puree (12 months and up): Steam ½ cup of frozen peas for about 15 minutes. Put 1 medium tomato in boiling water for 4 minutes. Peel the tomato. Mix together the steamed peas, tomato and artichoke bottom, add some milk to desired consistency.

Herb pairing for purees: Italian parsley, basil.