(Editor’s Note: This cake was made by the editor’s seven-year-old grandson using a recipe he received in his Little Passports: World Edition installment for France. Little Passports (www.littlepassports.com) was a Christmas gift from his uncle and aunt in California, and Beckett has been learning about a different country each month since. His grandparents recommend that you check it out as an enjoyable and educational gift if you have children or grandchildren).
Beckett’s Galette des Rois (King Cake)
½ c. sugar
½ c. ground almonds*
1 package puff pastry, thawed
1 t. almond extract
1 egg yolk
½ stick butter, softened
1 T. water
Mix the sugar, almonds, almond extract, and butter in a bowl. Add the egg and continue mixing. Set the mixture in the fridge to chill while you use a knife to trim two sheets of puff pastry into circles on a jelly roll pan (in case the filling runs out of the pastry) lined with parchment paper. Spread the chilled filling over the center of one circle of pastry, leaving about an inch around the circumference. Place the second circle of pastry over the top of the filling so the circles line up. Seal the two sheets of dough along the rim, making sure to seal the dough very well by pinching firmly with your fingers or pressing with the prongs of a fork (wetting the bottom rim with water first will help the pieces seal, important to keep the filling from running out). Whisk the egg yolk and water together and use a pastry brush to coat the top of the dough with the mixture. At this point you can use a knife to make a crisscross or other pattern in the egg wash, and then prick several small slits in the top to vent steam while baking. Preheat the oven to 450o while you chill the cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Bake the cake for 20 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350o and bake for another 20 minutes. The cake is done when it is golden brown.
Note: This cake is traditionally served in France at Epiphany, a holiday celebrated twelve days after Christmas, and it’s customary to hide a whole almond, dried bean, or little toy figurine inside before baking. The person who finds the toy while eating is declared king or queen for the day and is believed to have good luck the rest of the year.
*If you don’t have ground almonds, you can make your own by first blanching a little less than ½ c. unsalted whole almonds, removing the skins, and then processing (carefully) in a food processor (if you go too long you’ll end up with almond butter!).