Did you know that French people celebrate the Epiphany on the 6th of January? Here is why and how it's done!
Where does it come from?
The Epiphany ("Épiphanie" in France) is a tradition and gets its origin from the Bible. It represents the day Jesus was introduced to the Three Wise Men.
How is it celebrated?
Traditionally, French people eat what's called "La Galette des Rois" for the Epiphany, meaning "The Kings' cake" (recipe here). Inside this cake is hidden a "charm" and the person finding it in their slice will then become Queen or King (and get to wear the crown). To keep neutrality and impartiality, usually the youngest of the family would hide under the table while the person cutting the cake will ask them "Who gets this slice?".
In southern France, although the tradition remains the same, the cake is different. The Galette des Rois is replaced by "La Couronnes des Rois", meaning "The Kings' Crown" (recipe here). While the cake is made of an almond mixture, the Crown is a brioche.
The Galette des Rois (source: © French Moments Ltd https://frenchmoments.eu/galette-des-rois/)
- 2 round sheets of puff pastry
- 2 eggs
- 100g caster sugar
- 100g good quality unsalted butter
- 100g ground almonds
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg yolk
- 50g icing sugar
- 1 lucky charm
- Place one sheet of puff pastry on a greased baking sheet.
- Prepare the almond mixture: soften the butter and add the sugar.
- Beat strongly to obtain a smooth texture.
- Add the ground almonds, then the 2 eggs and the vanilla extract.
- Place the almond mixture in the centre of the round-shaped pastry and spread it evenly up to 2cm away from the edge.
- Add the lucky charm near the edge (if you add it near the centre, it might be easily discovered when cutting the cake!).
- Cover the base with the second round-shaped pastry and make sure the two pastry sheets are stuck down together, otherwise the almond mix may slip away from the cake when cooking. You may use a little water to join the two sheets along the edges.
- Make an egg wash with the egg yolk and a little water and using a pastry brush, brush all over the top.
- With a knife, carefully trace decorative shapes (diamonds, flowers or any other creative designs). Make sure you don’t press too hard in order to avoid piercing the pastry.
The Couronne des Rois (source: https://www.bbc.com/food/recipes/savoury_brioche_couronne_91468)
- 500g/1lb 2oz strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 10g salt
- 10g instant yeast
- 170ml/6fl oz warm full-fat milk
- 4 free-range eggs
- 250g/9oz unsalted butter, in small pieces, at room temperature
- 4 x 125g/4½oz balls buffalo mozzarella
- 8-10 slices prosciutto
- ½ handful fresh chopped basil
- 1 free-range egg, beaten
- pinch salt
- handful grated parmesan
If you have a food mixer with a paddle fitting, make the dough as follows: into the bowl put the flour, salt, yeast, milk and eggs and mix until the dough becomes smooth and shiny. Add the butter piece by piece as you mix well for a further five minutes, until all the butter has been incorporated into the dough. It’s important to add the butter very gradually.
If you do not have a machine, make the base dough by bringing the flour, salt, yeast, milk and eggs together in a bowl. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about ten minutes, or until the dough becomes smooth and shiny. Gradually incorporate the butter piece by piece into the dough, kneading as you go.
Tip the dough into an oiled 1 litre/1¾pint plastic container with a lid – it needs plenty of room to rise. Leave the dough to rise until at least doubled in (at least an hour, or overnight in the fridge).
Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, without knocking the air out of it. Roll it out to a thickness of just under 1½cm/¾in, in a rectangle that’s about 40-50cm/16-20in long. Have the long side facing you.
Cover the dough with a loose layer of ham. Break off large pieces of mozzarella and distribute them all over the ham. Scatter the basil over the top.
Roll up the dough from the long side furthest from you, into a long sausage shape. Cut the roll of dough in half down the length to expose the filling, leaving you with two long strips side by side.
Twist the two strips together, holding both ends of the dough and twisting your hands in opposite directions, to make a long rope that’s quite tightly twisted. Form the rope into a circle and join the ends together so that the dough becomes a ring – a ‘couronne’ or crown.
Put the crown onto the lined baking tray, and put the tray in a large plastic bag, big enough so that the risen dough won’t touch the sides. Leave the crown to rise for 1-1½ hours, or until it has at least doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. For this recipe you ideally don’t want a fan oven.
Whisk an egg with a pinch of salt and brush the egg over the crown. Finally top the couronne with grated parmesan.
Bake the couronne in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until golden-brown. Leave to cool slightly. Serve warm or cold.
Bon appétit !