Galette des Rois! because it's time for Mardi Gras !

"Allons mes cheries!  Laissez les bons temps rouler!  C'est la fête de Mardi Gras!"  

{Let's go my dears.  Let the good times roll.  It's the festival of Mardi Gras!}

These are the common phrases that are sung this time of year in the deep south of Louisiana.

Louisiana is famous for celebrating the start of the religious time called "Lent" with a festive series of parades, parties, and signature dishes that package quite the indulgent punch before the quiet stretch towards Easter.

Randol's Cajun Restaurant, Lafayette, Lousiana

P. and I had a weekend away and were able to catch some of the pre-celebration fun of Mardi Gras.

Randol's Cajun Restaurant is well known in the south for having a dance floor that attracts all varieties of serious feet shuffling cajun two-steppers.

The night that we dined at this famous restaurant, a "krewe" of revelers gathered together to step out on the dance floor in exquisite Mardi Gras style.

The mood on the dance floor was electric with joyful celebration and anticipation of a night full of good food, good friends, and fabulous cajun dancing.

While we were in town, earlier that day, I popped into my favorite southern bakery, Poupart's to see what goodies they had in store for the Mardi Gras festivities.  I wrote about and featured Poupart's Bakery here if you want to take a look at their deliciousness.

There was the usual "King's Cake" slathered with white frosting and sprinkled with purple and green sprinkles.  But off to the side, sat a more humble "Galette" that attracted me to its more classic style.

Between my taste buds being so tempted by the Mardi Gras offerings at the pastry shop and the exuberance of the wonderful cajun two-steppers on the dance floor that evening, I was ready to embrace the magic of this festive celebration.

I was completely enthralled with the evening's reveler's on the dance floor.  The energy was so contagious that I was transported somehow right onto the dance floor!  They welcomed me with open arms and I was enchanted by their hospitality.

This is a group of friends that celebrate Mardi Gras several weeks before the official holiday.  They are serious cajun two-steppers and the dance floor swished and swooned with their knowledge of historical cajun dances.

After joining in the fun for awhile, P. and I indulged in fried crab claws and a huge dish of boiled, seasoned, spicy crawfish.

Yum!  Is all I can say as every spicy bite was enjoyed with an icy cold beer.

I didn't buy one of the King's Cakes in Poupart's Bakery that morning.  Not that I didn't come away with a bakery box full of our favorites:  tiny blackberry and fig tarts, petit fours, and jars of delicious jams.

But, I knew I wanted to try out one of those more classic Galette des Rois myself.  

The tradition is to bake a small bean or oven proof token in the cake.  The youngest child gets to go under the table and call out who should receive each slice as it gets passed around.  The person who finds the token in his cake, is the wearer of a toy crown and is titled "King or Queen for the day".

I must admit, it took me three attempts to get this recipe right.   I didn't use enough puff pastry on the first attempt.  I also didn't pinch it sealed well enough around the edges, so the filling ran all over the oven.  

The second attempt, I accidentally turned the oven on the wrong temperature {too low} so the entire galette didn't {puff}, thus I faced yet another failure that slid into the trash.

Finally, P. stepped in to give me a helping hand.  He adores a kitchen challenge and between the two of us we created a success.  

And it was worth the frustration.  It was delicious.  The puff pastry was so warm and crispy.  The frangipane filling was so subtly sweet, nutty, and creamy.  

We spooned some cherry preserves into the filling and the slight fruitiness just finished off this beautiful dessert so well.

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Galette des Rois
(adapted from 'Life's A Feast' blog)

2 ½ oz (70 g) sugar (1/3 cup)
2 oz (60 g) (2 TBS) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
1 large egg
2 ½ oz (70 g) (2/3 cup)ground almonds or pistachios
¼ tsp vanilla
1 Tbs rum
2 Tbs cherry jam or preserves, optional
Egg wash (1 yolk whisked with 1 tsp cold water)
Icing/powdered sugar for dusting the top of the Galette

3 boxes of puff pastry sheets

Prepare the Frangipane filling:
Beat the sugar and butter together until fluffy. Beat in the egg, the ground almonds or pistachios, the vanilla and the rum. Add more vanilla or rum to taste, if desired. Place the filling in a small bowl covered with plastic wrap or in a lidded plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use. It needs to firm up before assembling the cake.

To prepare the Galette des Rois:
Roll out the puff pastry to a thickness of ½ inch (1 cm) and not less than 3/8 inch, long and wide enough to cut out two 8 ½-inch (21 cm) discs. {Snippet's Note:  this was my first mistake.  I didn't get the puff pastry thick enough.  It took us 3 boxes of puff pastry sheets} Using a cake tin or plate of about 8 ½-inches (21 cm) diameter and using a very sharp knife, trace and cut out two discs. Place each disc carefully on parchment-lined baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). {Snippet's Notes:  When we make this again, we are going to raise the temperature to 450˚F to get the puff pastry to puff up}

Remove prepared rounds of puff pastry. Choose one to be the bottom of the cake and gently press the edges out a bit with your fingers to enlarge the circle slightly. Remove the chilled frangipane from the fridge and, if desired, swirl a tablespoon or two of cherry preserves through it and then mound in the center of the bottom disc of dough. Press it flat and out, using the back of a soupspoon, leaving about 1 ½ inches (4 cm) border of dough free around the edges. Press a fève, a ceramic charm of some sort, or even an old-fashioned dried bean or a coin into the almond cream.

Paint this wide edge of the dough around the frangipane filling lightly with the egg wash (too wet and the top disc may slide during baking). Gently place the second disc of dough on top of the filling placing the top and bottom discs edge to edge (so the edges meet all the way around), gently stretching the top disc if needed so the edges line up. Press to seal tightly. {Here goes my second mistake:  really be sure the two discs are sealed because the filling will ooze out...yep...big mess}

Place a bowl upside down on top of the discs – the bowl should come up to ½ to 1 inch from the edges. Using a sharp knife held perpendicular to the table, cut into the dough to create a scalloped edge to the cake. Now carefully carve a design into the top of the cake (not too deeply into the dough). Cut a small circle in the center of the top dough disc and insert a chimney (make a chimney out of parchment or foil or, as I did, use an upside down aluminum pastry bag tip).

Brush the top and sides of the dough with egg wash. Place in the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown. If you think the pastry is 
browning too quickly, simply lay a piece of foil over the top

Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C) and continue baking for an additional 25 to 30 minutes until the sides of the pastry are also golden and crisp and the pastry is well risen.

Remove the Galette from the oven and move the rack up one notch. Protecting your hand with an oven mitt or kitchen towel, gently and carefully lift out the chimney. Generously dust the entire top surface of the Galette with powdered sugar (using a sieve or sifter) then place the pastry back in the oven. Now bake for around 5 minutes until the sugar has turned to a golden and very shiny glaze. Stand next to your oven and watch because it turns to the perfect glaze very quickly then in the flash of an eye burns! You must watch so you can pull it out of the oven just as the last of the top turns a gorgeous deep golden and not leave it one second longer.

Remove the Galette from the oven and slide the parchment paper off onto a cooling rack. Allow the Galette to cool before slicing and serving.

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