A deliciously zingy, creamy topping for crepes or pancakes this February (Chandeleur & Mardi Gras). Part of the egg yolk recipe collection – keep the whites for macarons!
A typical French winter classic from Picardy and a favourite starter found in many Parisian brasseries & bistros. For National Pie Day (Jan 23).
Whether for your Scottish St Andrew’s Night (Nov 30th) or Burn’s Night menu (25 Jan) – or for a cosy gathering to chase away the winter chill!
Why the name, “Cullen Skink”?
The New Year parties may be over but there’s yet another gourmet celebration to enjoy in Paris this week. Just when it’s officially time to take down the festive decorations, trust the morale-boosting French to have a wonderful tradition of cutting “la Galette des Rois” (or king’s cake). Here are just a few of the best galettes des rois in Paris.
WHAT IS THE GALETTE DES ROIS?
A giant puff pastry dessert filled with frangipane (almond cream added to pastry cream), the galette des rois is traditionally served on Epiphany, the Feast of the Kings (Twelfth Night), on January 6th or the first Sunday in January. The Parisians have such a wealth of patisserie choices that the Galettes des Rois continues in the City of Light throughout the whole month of January.
Perhaps best appreciated as a family dessert, the Galette des Rois comes with paper crowns and is particularly exciting for children, as there is a fève (“bean,” although now a more elaborate trinket) hidden inside the cake. Whoever finds the trinket is crowned King or Queen for the day but, so there is no cheating, tradition has the youngest person present sit under the table to announce each person’s name in the room as the galette is cut by an “older and wiser” person above. This could be fun at the office!
2016 is no exception to the creative genius of Paris’s pastry chefs, who have once again produced a spectacular line-up. I can’t possibly mention them all, although my aim is to try and taste most of them – in between copious amounts of soup – until the end of January. In the meantime, here are just a few ideas of the choices available from many of our Paris favourites.
TRADITIONAL GALETTES DES ROIS
Most pastry chefs propose the classic version and many also offer other variants. Philippe Conticini (Pâtisserie des Rêves) loves going back to the classic gourmet tastes of childhood and takes the traditional frangipane route, with its classic hint of rum in a sticky puff pastry, as does Carette; I particularly love the trinkets with pyramids of macarons. Stohrer, the oldest pâtisserie in Paris, also simply goes classic and includes vintage metallic bean trinkets covered in gold leaf.
Breaking away from tradition, Gâteaux Thoumieux adds cinnamon and crunchy Speculoos biscuits (Biscoff cookies) as a topping instead of the usual sun-decorated golden pastry; while Jonathan Blot of Acide gives a mysterious dark look adding pecan nuts and adding a natural, non-refined sugar, galabé, from the isle of Reunion.
Not a huge fan of frangipane? Pascal Caffet just adds more of a hint of almond and presents his galette as a Couronne des Rois or crown, complete with a surprise pot of artisanal praline or chocolate spread for you to do some of the work too. For more on Pascal Caffet, see my post here.
FEVES, BEANS & TRINKETS
If it’s the fèves or trinkets you’re after– (my daughter Lucie keeps a collection of them, although not large enough to open the likes of the Loire Valley’s unique fève museum in Blain)– many patisseries have joined with designers to keep collectors happy and some patisseries sell the trinkets separately.
For queens who love to thread through a collection of porcelain trinkets portraying the flowers of Grasse used by the perfumery, Fragonard, Lenôtre have a flower galette which comes with a mini vaporiser of orange blossom water, to spray on the galette just as it comes out the oven to reheat.
More for the Petit Prince type of King, Christophe Michalak fills his with rocket trinkets and if you’re looking for a crown with a difference, try the super-hero mask instead.
Gerard Mulot goes for gold with his trinkets designed by Simlucide in all of his six varied galettes.
For the curious gourmet, Cédric Grolet of Le Meurice surprises us with notes of coriander and the trinket is even in the form of a coriander’s outer shell.
Pierre Hermé adds candied citrus peel on top a fine layer of rice pudding for something a little bit different. Arnaud Larher adds a touch of lemon; Fauchon adds zesty lime as well as apple compote all in the form of a holly leaf…
Who said the galette should always be round? This year Dalloyau has a malted puff pastry encasing an almond cream elaborated with peanuts and cinnamon-poached pears. Also square and with orange notes is by Christophe Roussel, whose galettes are so popular, the queues at his Montmartre boutique are always out the door!
Actress Catherine Deneuve is also the queen of caramel: the result of her influence on Hugo & Victor is a svelte caramel layer to the inside frangipane.
Sadaharu Aoki fills his galettes with an ample amount of frangipane which, for me, adds to its perfection. This year he adds a caramel and hazelnut version to his traditional almond galette, and I’m happy he has also continued with his famous Japanese-inspired Macha green tea signature delicacy.
CHOCOLATE GALETTES DES ROIS
For the chocoholics among us, it’s no surprise that La Maison du Chocolat continues with their chocolate galette, but others such as Jacques Genin propose a chocolate ganache filling and chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin also tempts us with a Brazilian Grand Cru version hinting some candied chestnut. Chestnut being one of the signature Mont-Blanc pastries at Angelina, their galette also includes dark chocolate chips.
HOMEMADE GALETTES DES ROIS
As if these aren’t enough, don’t forget you’ll find Galettes des Rois in many French supermarkets. Although Monoprix has an organic galette filled with open-book trinkets that could have you winning a diamond, I spotted many ready-made puff pastry rounds with Calimero trinkets to make your own version at home.
This is a recipe where I like to cheat and see nothing wrong with using good quality ready-made puff pastry; just ensure you use pure butter pastry. I have included a detailed step-by-step recipe for a Pistachio and Griotte Cherry Galette des Rois in my new book, Teatime in Paris but here’s a basic traditional galette recipe. The Galette des Rois is normally served slightly warm. Just reheat it for a few minutes in the oven before serving.
If you’re in Paris for Epiphany (4-5 January), then head to St Germain-des-Prés, where the annual event is La Galette du Coeur. Top pastry chefs sell their galettes in aid of charity, so munching on frangipane and all sorts of fancy galettes is for a good cause.
Wishing you a happy Epiphany, many Galettes des Rois this month, and enjoy being King or Queen for the day – although no cheating who’s the youngest at the table!
A version of this article was originally published for BonjourParis.
It happened again. I recently caught myself wincing at a teatime menu’s English version. This time it was in one of Paris’s most elegant and prominent tea salons in Place Vendôme, where the famously stylish Parisian “macaron” was translated as “macaroon”.
I know, it’s not one of the world’s first problems but please, get it right.
While Macarons and macaroons perhaps sound alike, they are both totally different.
Macarons vs Macaroons
This confusion with an extra “o” is nothing new; it happens frequently, whether it’s on a top tearoom menu in Paris or on high-end supermarket packaging around the world. Even a UK bookshop snootily turned down stocking my first book, Mad About Macarons, simply because the title read “Macarons” and not “Macaroons”. It’s a subject that has been raised often, but the same mistake continues like a couple of crêpes on deaf ears.
I’m perhaps mad about macarons, but if you’re just as infatuated with Paris’s Ambassador of Pastry, with its smooth delicate meringue-like shells sandwiched together with chocolate ganache, jam, curd or buttercream, its name needs to be defended. I’m not being posh or trying to show off I can speak some French after 24 years of living here – it’s just that the term, macaron is the right word to use to describe these little filled rainbow-coloured Parisian confections.
Over the last four years of guiding pastry tours in Paris, I’m still surprised by the recurring question: “So what’s the difference between macarons and macaroons?”
Food lovers are evidently still puzzled. How on earth can two deliciously dainty confections create such mystery?
The only similarity between the two is their gluten-free mutual ingredients of egg whites and sugar; a macaron includes ground almonds (almond flour), whilst a macaroon is made with coconut.
So let’s get it straight with the simplest answer: the macaron is meringue-based and the macaroon is coconut based.
But there’s more to it than that.
What is a Macaron?
Macarons date back to the middle ages but we have a better idea of its history during the Renaissance – first cited by French writer Rabelais – when the Venetian macarone (meaning a fine paste of something crushed) of ground almonds, egg whites and sugar was brought to France by Catherine de Medici and her chefs when she married the future King of France in 1533, Henri II. It was a meringue-like biscuit but a much rougher looking type of confection, predominantly tasting of almonds and looking rather like an amaretti biscuit.
In France, the macaron’s super-model upgrade wasn’t made famous until the 1900s. This is the modern smooth, coloured macaron as we know it today, that’s now creating the confusion, known as the Parisian or Gerbet macaron. Ernest Ladurée’s second cousin, Pierre Desfontaines takes the credit for inventing these sandwiched confections – although this calls for yet more delicious, historical homework. Most importantly, a macaron is not a Parisian macaron unless it has a ruffled, frilly foot underneath that smooth, shiny surface.
French Regional Macaron Varieties
But even the macaron can be a confusing term today, as there are also many French regional varieties using the same ingredients as the Parisian macaron but the proportions are completely different. Each resemble more the original Italian macaron introduced by Catherine de Medici and many date back to around the French Revolution. Each region adds its own twist and, as a result, they all look so different (check out just some of the variations here).
For example, in Picardy, the Amiens macaron speciality adds marzipan, fruits and honey.
Other prize-winning French regional macarons continue today in Boulay, Chartres, Cormery, Le Dorat, Joyeuse, Montmorillan (more like an round almond cakes – see above. Here there’s also a Macaron Museum!), Nancy, Saint-Émilion, Saint-Croix, Saint-Jean-de-Luz (created for Louis XIV’s wedding in 1660) and Sault.
What is a Macaroon?
Simpler and quicker to prepare, the coconut macaroon is also known as rocher coco or congolais in French. Sometimes the macaroon confection with shredded or flaked coconut – either star or cone-shaped – is dipped in chocolate.
It’s not clear when macaroons came on the scene but one thing is for sure: it was added to this gluten-free treat around the 1800s when coconut was brought from the East.
Just pronouncing macaroon makes us want to roll the “r” like we do in Scotland – and it’s no coincidence that us Scots are proud of the Scottish Macaroon bar: it’s particularly sweet since the fondant inside is primarily sugar and potato (trust the Scots to think of that one!) and coated with a thin layer of chocolate and coconut. I wonder if Catherine de Medici’s successor, Mary Queen of Scots as French queen brought it in her year-long reign as Queen of France?
Last Christmas I adapted the large traditional sugary bar to make these mini Scottish Macaroon bar snowballs. If you want to see the real thing, head over to Christina Conte’s recipe at Christina’s Cucina.
To puzzle us further, there’s yet another exception to the rule of almonds and coconut: there are plenty of macaroon recipes outside of France which use pie crust or pastry as a base and the macaroon reference is a mixture of coconut and/or almond toppings. For example, see this recipe for macaroon jam tarts.
Macarons vs Macaroons
So before the confusion spreads any further between such differences between macarons and macaroons, let’s nip it in the bud. In all their varying forms, the macaroon refers to the coconut confection; the macaron today – unless a regional version is mentioned – refers to the Parisian or Gerbet macaron – the shiny, dainty version. Just don’t forget its frilly foot, otherwise it’s not a Parisian macaron.
Now it’s over to you to spread the word.
A version of this article was originally published for BonjourParis.com
Not to be confused with coconut and egg white macaroons – or macarons – but these retro tarts are a taste of Scotland!