Epiphany and the Galette des Rois

Hello friends,

Gourmet Girl Denise here from Le Petit Saint Barnabé in the Pays de Loire, France.

The 6th of January or Epiphany (an awakening or realization) has just passed; a long tradition that was instituted by the Catholic church here in the 13th century. Epiphany celebrates the visit of the three kings or magi, Balthasar, Melchior, and Caspar (sometimes referred to as  Gaspar), who followed a bright star until they arrived at the birthplace of Jesus, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The 6th is also the last of the 12 days of Christmas, a day to take down those decorations, the last peck as the mistletoe is removed, and the last gorging on a Twelfth Night cake, or Galette des Rois before the grind of proper winter.

The Galette des Roi or King’s Cake is a flakey pastry filled with frangipane that is sold by the thousands during the twelve nights after Christmas. A small ceramic figure is baked inside the cake, and whoever finds it in their slice becomes king or queen for the day. Some families serve this cake each night between Christmas and January 6th, and the person who finds the figure in their slice must bring the cake the following night.   Here is one I served on New Year’s Eve.

It comes with a gold crown! And it’s delicious!

Speaking of a ‘proper winter’, the temperature is rapidly dropping here in the Loire and nights are spent huddled in front of the fireplace. It is my second winter in north-west France and this California girl is still trying to get used to the sub-freezing temperatures. My dining room fireplace has become my best friend!

My friend Bernard gave me a great tip for making homemade fire starters from wine corks. This is a great tip for all of you fellow campers! Fill a mason jar or any jar with a tight fitting lid with old wine and champagne corks, then fill the jar with rubbing alcohol. Make sure to cover the corks completely. Put the lid on, give it a shake to make sure the corks are saturated, and let stand overnight. When you are ready to start your fire, place one or two of the corks under your kindling and light them up. They work really well! And the corks get a second use and don’t end up in the landfill. I add corks to the jar constantly (hey! This is France and there is no lack of wine corks here!) to replenish my supply of fire starters.

We Gourmet Girls hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. What are your family holiday traditions? Let us know here.

Denise, Gail, and Lindsey



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