King cakes: a January treat in France

It’s now officially the time to eat a galette des rois (January 6, Epiphany), a date my kids start to look forward to in December. However, at my house we consume them all January long. The traditional version consists of puff pastry stuffed with almond paste, though there are various other versions available (chocolate, apple).

Considering that, for us, these galettes — or, as I’ve just learned, “king cakes,” in English (horrible translation, I think, but I’m at a loss to offer a better one) — are just a delivery method for the little surprise “feve” inside, they can seem a bit expensive when you buy them in a bakery. (The feve, or bean, was originally a real bean, but now are ceramic or plastic trinkets baked inside the cake — little animals, dolls, Minions, etc.).

At our local bakery, we just paid 27 euros for a galette that could serve eight people — just. In this article in Le Monde, that offers some of the galette picks, prices range from a fairly reasonable Thierry Marx traditional-style galette (frangipane in a puff pastry casing) for 25 euros to 60 euros for a pear-chocolate galette at the Maison du Chocolat.

If you’re wondering why they’re so expensive, when you can get a frozen one at Picard and bake it up yourself for under 8 euros, it seems to boil down to a number of things: labor costs (making puff pastry can be time consuming), ingredients (good organic butter can be three times more expensive than a run-of-the mill butter) and good ol’ markup (which one bakery admitted to Le Parisien was greater for galettes than for other products).

As we have few guests during these dark times, we probably won’t be buying many 60-euro galettes. But I will be loading up my cart at Picard for their different versions all month long. By the way, for a funny, honest take on one woman’s love of France’s temple of frozen food, here’s another link. Like her, I have become dependent on Picard for both staples and treats. Though Picard is snobbed by some food writers, there’s nothing better than a freshly baked butter croissant that required no effort other than popping it into the oven.