“We’re having an Epiphany dinner.”
“You’re going to Tiffany’s for dinner?”
“No, an EPIPHANY dinner!”
“Do they have Tiffany’s in Paris?”
“No, an E-PI-PHA-NY DIN-NER!”
“That’s so cool! I didn’t know you could have dinner at Tiffany’s?!”
“Never mind! I’ll send you an email…”
That is how my conversation went with my friend back in San Francisco the other day as I walked down rue Mouffetard garning many stares and glares. I don’t know what I did before cell phones and have become so dependent on them (like email & internet), that when they don't work I am near incapacitated (more so than usual). I guess that says more about me than the technology. Bad cell phone reception is one of my (many) pet peeves—have you tried having a conversation while driving down Hwy 280 in the Bay Area? How is it that there is no cell phone coverage in an area that is home to 90% of the world’s technology??? No wonder the bubble burst! Sorry, you got me started, back to Epiphany…
Here is the email I sent my friend in San Francisco after our above mentioned conversation. Imagine her disappointment upon realizing that she couldn’t have dinner at Tiffany’s…I won’t print what she wrote back!
There are so many wonderful traditions and customs I have learned since landing on the southern shores of France eight months ago and Epiphany is one of them. Having been raised Catholic, I vaguely remember it was a “Holy Day of Obligation” which I guess means your ‘obligated’ to go to church… something inherently wrong in that concept to begin with but anyways… As you know, my parents were C&E Catholics, Christmas & Easter Catholics—Christmas and Easter being the only time they set foot into a church other than my First Communion and Confirmation, so I didn’t have a firm grasp of all the rules of the church… and regardless of the fact that we went to Catholic schools… I never associated Epiphany with a special celebration, must less a lovely, flaky, buttery, almondy cake.
To ensure that I didn’t incur the wrath of my pastor by publishing some garish mis-information, I did a quick google search, and as it turns out it is a good thing I did, but please correct me if I am wrong anywhere along here. Epiphany celebrates the 3 Wise Men (or Magi) arriving in Bethlehem to bring gifts to baby Jesus. (I thought they arrived in Dec 25th!) Epiphany is also known as the Three Kings’ Day…makes sense so far. These Wise Men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts. Gold, I’d be psyched about, but frankincense and myrrh is nothing more than incense made from resin or tree sap mixed with spices. Good think Jesus was a baby and didn’t know any different! If I were Mary, I’d be rather annoyed. This is after all the Messiah, the Savior of the World! Now this is where Tiffany's would have come in handy as something in a little blue box with a snow white ribbon would have been much more appropriate...but I digress…
My google search also turned up a Christian web site that states: “Epiphany is the climax of the Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are counted from December 25th until January 5th.”
Two things popped into my atrophying brain: 1—I am surprised that, given the outcome of our recent presidential election and subsequent (and ongoing, unfortunately) efforts to mingle church and state, a Christian site would use the word “climax”. Perhaps “culmination” would have been more apropos? I’m sure once someone points this out to said site, it will be removed expeditiously. Where are those red state people when you need them? and 2— Forgive my abject stupidity (see above mentioned C&E parents, Catholic school and atrophying brain) but…..that is where the 12 Days of Christmas comes from?! Did you know this? And to think that all this time I thought it was just a cute Christmas carol… Oy vey! I am certainly going to hear about this when I get back…
Another wonderful aspect to this Epiphany, not Tiffany, tradition and the main reason it is such a BIG DEAL in France is the Galette des Rois, or Cake of the Kings. On a French cooking site it was translated as the Twelfth Night Cake. I am learning so much, I love it! When you buy them in a store they come with a gold paper crown, like the kind they used to give out at Burger King. I know I am dating myself again… and YES, I have eaten at Burger King. I have usually regretted it afterwards, but I have eaten there, however not since reading Fast Food Nation, thank you Eric Schlosser! Sorry, back to the Galette des Rois…
It is a flat, round “cake” made from puff pastry (pâte feuilletée ~ pat foi-TAY) and filled with almond paste or frangipane (FRON-ji-pan), kind of like an almond croissant, but I am sure that is considered blasphemy here. Carefully placed inside the frangipane is a little trinket, or "fève" (fava bean) as my roommate Pierre informed me that that was the first trinket used, and whomever gets the trinket in their slice of galette is the designated king or queen for the day and allowed to select their own queen or king.
I am living in Paris but had to read about it in the New York Times (I really must improve my French!) that there is an intense competition here for Paris’ best galette. François Vacavant, from Pain et Passion (Bread & Passion) bakery, took home the coveted prize after finishing 19th last year. I’ll have to stop by there after the crowds subside as last years’ winner said his business doubled after he won. Another little tidbit I gleaned was that people for some odd reason collect these little trinkets and one person, a former train conductor, actually admitting to having over 60,000! My my... I am at a loss for words...for once...so on that note, Happy Epiphany, not Tiffany!
Galette des Rois
1 lb (approx 500 g) puff pastry divided in half
(or...buy 2 rolls of pre-made puff pastry dough!)
½ lb (approx 250 g) frangipane
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water
1 trinket or “fève”
1 gold paper crown
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF /175ºC /#5
2. roll out half of the puff pastry into a circle, or simply unroll pre-made puff pastry dough.
I know I am a disgrace to my profession but if you want to spend 2 days making puff pastry, knock yourself out. I am all about ease and fun while cooking so it’s pre-made puff pastry dough for me!
3. spread frangipane on dough leaving about 1 to 1-1/2 inches around the border.
once again, if you want to make frangipane from scratch knock yourself out…
4. roll out second half of the puff pastry into a circle (same size as the first), or simply unroll second pre-made puff pastry dough.
5. lay it on top of the dough with frangipane. trim the edges to make it even and as circular as possible (not necessary if you bought the pre-made dough!) and press down on the sides around the border to seal.
6. whisk the egg and water and brush on top of the pastry.
7. bake until golden brown. check the bottom (with a spatula, gently lift up from the edge) and if it’s not cooked and the top is getting too dark simply lay a sheet of foil loosely over the cake and continue to cook until done. Let it cool before serving.
8. place crown on head of person who finds trinket. select king or queen.
or... you can skip step 1. through 7. and buy one complete with crown, like we did! :-)
By the way, "Patisserie Pur Beurre" at the bottom of the box means 'pure butter pastry'. You don't see that too often in the US! God, I love this country!
Bon Appetit and Happy Epiphany, not Tiffany!