Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Frangipane galette for a vegan Epiphany

Apple King Galette

I have a cooking almanac. That way, I can plan my cooking year and follow traditions. I started a cooking almanac not because I am a compulsive planner but because every year, I would forget a really cool holiday. I would suddenly realize "Oh! Yesterday was la Chandeleur (Candelmas)! And I forgot to make crepes!" I really wanted to share this part of my culture with my friends and family here, and there's no one in California to remind me of the French holiday food calendar, so I had to take matters into my own hands.

I am far from being a traditional person but I love following some traditions, provided they don't involve cruelty or narrow-mindedness. And if they do, I take what I like and leave the rest to make them more karma friendly.

There's not much bad karma involved in one of my favorite French tradition, the "Galette des rois", or Kings' galette, which celebrates the Christian holiday Epiphany, the day three wise men from Persia followed a star and brought exotic gifts to a baby in a barn. At least that's the fable I grew up hearing.

This is what Balthasar, Melchior and Caspar
could have brought baby J.
(And guess who just discovered a new tool on Photoshop...)

In France, the tradition is that you get together and eat a cake called a galette des rois, a kings' galette. There are two types of cakes. One is a crown-shaped brioche with dried fruits. It is typical in the South of France, and I have never had it. What I've had is what people in the Northern part of the country eat: a pie made of puff pastry and frangipane (crushed almond paste).

What those galettes have in common is a "fève", a type of bean, hidden inside the layer of frangipane. The tradition has evolved and the bean is now a tiny porcelaine figurine. But the game remains the same: whoever finds the fève in her or his slice becomes queen or king. For the serious galette des rois purists, and in order to avoid any cheating (the stakes are high...), there is another custom: the youngest of the party hides under the table and calls out, once a slice is cut and set on a plate, the name of the person who gets served next. The king or queen receives a paper crown (and gets to buy or make the galette the following year!).

Pâte sablée, frangipane, apples: my version of the traditional galette.

I am not a baker (I'm learning!) and I got intimidated by the puff pastry making. (Plus, it takes forever). I was really craving the frangipane, so I decided to make something with an almond filling. It turned out to be an apple pie on a pâte sablée (litterally: a sandy crust) with a thick filling of frangipane in between (in which I'd hide the bean!).

Crust: vegan pâte sablée
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ cup salted Earth Balance, *cold*
(or 3/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup+2 tablespoons cold unsalted vegan butter)
4 to 6 tablespoons ice water

Filling : vegan frangipane
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 tbsp Earth Balance (I like the salted version)
1/2 peeled apple, pureed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 tbsp all purpose flour

2 peeled apples, sliced

Pâte sablée: In a food processor blend or pulse together flour, sugar, salt, and Earth Balance until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 2 tablespoons ice water and toss with a fork or pulse until incorporated. Add enough remaining ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing or pulsing to incorporate, until mixture begins to form a dough. On a work surface smear dough in 3 or 4 forward motions with heel of hand to slightly develop gluten in flour and make dough easier to work with. Form dough into a ball and flatten to form a 1-inch-thick disk. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Frangipane: in the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the sugar and Earth Balance. Add the pureed apple and the vanilla extract. Mix. Add the ground almonds and mix until it forms a crumbly paste.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.

Wearing an old-fashion apron is key
in the making of a great pie.

Galette making: When the crust has chilled, place it on a lightly floured surface and roll it with a rolling pin. Fold it (so it won't break when you lift it) and transfer it into a round baking pan. Fit the dough along the bottom and sides of the pan. Spread the frangipane on the crust. Top with the apple slices.

Bake for one hour.

Once the galette is done, don't forget to hide a fève inside! Half of the pleasure comes from the game (and from the youngest guest getting under the table to call out the names, especially if he or she is an adult). If you don't have a porcelain figurine, just insert a bean in the frangipane, under a slice of apple, and make sure it doesn't show.

Apparently, people eat King Cake in New Orleans too -but for Mardi-Gras. It is crown-shaped and the fève is a plastic baby!
More info about King Cake around the world here.

Credits: I used several recipes for this pie. The crust was an adaptation from a recipe found on here, on Epicurious. The frangipane is the veganized version of a Joy of Baking recipe.

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