THE GALETTE DES ROIS: A TRADITION CELEBRATED AROUND THE WORLD
The Galette des Rois tradition is very much alive in France, where it is a popular family celebration... Around 30 million Galettes are sold during January every year, two-thirds of which are filled with frangipane. While this almond cream version may be the bestseller, it is considered to reflect the tastes of Northern France. In the south, on the other hand, the brioche is preferred.
It is a busy period for pastry chefs, for whom the Galettes can account for up to 20 % of daily sales1. However, there is stiff competition from industrially produced Galettes. So, while it is essential to offer the traditional version to your customers on their first visit, it could be a good strategy to tempt them with innovative recipes and exotic flavours. The dough, the filling, the decoration... all of these steps represent opportunities for you to show your artisanal savoir-faire.
It's a cake for sharing
The origin of the Galette des Rois goes back to the ancient festival of Saturnalia, that was held to celebrate the winter solstice in Roman times. Over the course of a day, roles were reversed, in honour of the god Saturn. A bean was hidden in a cake and lots were drawn for a slave who became “king for a day”, and all his wishes were granted. As pagan ritual of sharing and feasting, the idea was to relive and celebrate a past Golden Age.
It was only in the 13th century that the Galette des Rois became a religious custom, associated with Epiphany. The tradition of sharing a cake commemorates the arrival of the three wise men from the East to Bethlehem, to honour the baby Jesus and offer him gifts. The Galette des Rois thus came to be made in various shapes and flavours, depending on regional and local customs. Today, Epiphany is still celebrated on 6 January in all Catholic countries and communities. Perhaps more sweet-toothed than others, the French for instance consume Galettes des Rois during the entire month of January...
Galettes des Rois from the East
Tempt your customers with a Galette des Rois inspired by the traditions in Lebanon, where Epiphany has long been celebrated. In the East, the preparation of sweet pastries, delicately flavoured with spices, is an ancient art. Galettes des Rois are given an exotic twist with exquisite combinations of flavours and textures.
- Galette des Rois with creamed dates: particularly delicious with its date paste and delicate orange blossom flavour.
- Galette des Rois with rose water: typically Eastern, this version is flavoured with rose water and decorated with crystallized flowers.
- Baklava-style Galette des Rois with pistachio: for this cake, the traditional puff pastry is replaced by filo pastry and glazed with acacia honey, while the filling is a generous pistachio cream with a hint of cinnamon.
Galettes in Latin countries
The Galette des Rois tradition is also widely celebrated in the countries of Southern Europe: Portugal, Spain, Greece… all offer further gourmet variations in a more Mediterranean style!
- Vassilopita from Greece: a very light, airy cake made with citrus fruit, it is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve.
- Roscón de Reyes from Spain: It is made of a brioche-like sweet dough, in a large ring shape, and is decorated with pieces of crystallized and candied fruits and almonds.
- Bolo rei from Portugual: this irresistible dessert in the shape of a crown is garnished with nuts, candied fruit, quince jelly and port.
What more proof could be required of the infinity variety offered by the Galette des Rois! We hope you will feel inspired by these traditions in other parts of the world to reinvent some of your recipes and invite your customers on a voyage of discovery in your shop.
(1)Figures for France, reported in the media: