Some time back I decided to bake a king cake for Epiphany. Specifically, I wanted make a galette des rois, which is part of the French tradition and looks something like this:
With my extensive experience with French baking (please note the facetious use of the term ‘extensive’: I’ve made French bread and brioche, c’est tout), I was a bit concerned about the end result being palatable, but not too much. How hard could it be?
So with that said, I found a recipe online and got to work. The night before Epiphany, I assembled my ingredients in the kitchen. Task number one: make the pâte d’amandes, the scrumptiously sweet almond filling made primarily of almond meal, sugar, and butter. Thing is, I hadn’t been able to find almond meal, so I had instead bought almond slivers and thought I would just grind them in the food processor.
So I’ve got a bag of almond slivers that needs to turn from this:
But I couldn’t find the blade for the food processor. I couldn’t find the blade for the chopper. In fact, it seemed that everything that plugged into the wall and could turn almond slivers into almond meal had mysteriously lost their blades. The other parts of the appliances were there, mind, just not the blades.
Yeah, I didn’t understand it either. Still don’t, as a matter of fact. Fifteen minutes and serious interrogations of every living being in my house later, I still had no blades and a bag of almonds.
Well, okay, I thought. People ground nuts before Edison or whoever invented the food processor.
I thought a rolling pin might do the job tolerably well, so I dumped the nuts into a plastic bag and started crushing them with the rolling pin. And if I had been trying to create misshapen bits of almonds, this would have worked. Several minutes later when the almonds still looked like almonds, albeit abused almonds with grounds for a pretty successful lawsuit, I decided the rolling pin was a lost cause.
My next idea was to use a hammer. But I couldn’t find a hammer, so I resorted to the back of a Phillips screwdriver.
The screwdriver actually got the job done. I was impressed with myself for my ingenuity. Of course, the whole time I was banging the almonds with the back of end of it, I was convinced I was going to plunge the business end into my eye. But I didn’t.
Now I had a pile of almond “meal” and was ready to make the pâte. I should have realized this earlier, but the recipes called for orange flower water or “a liquor of your choice, such as Grand Marnier or rum.” I didn’t know what orange flower water was (still don’t), and I didn’t have a liquor of choice (and still don’t). I don’t even know what Grand Marnier is, and if they even sell rum in grocery stores. But if they do, it’s a moot point since they’d also card me.
But I noticed a bottle of orange extract in the cupboard. And lo and behold, the ingredients were orange oil and alcohol. Bingo, both options in one.
I happily blended and whisked and stirred, and then plopped the mixture into the refrigerator to chill overnight, as per the recipe.
The next morning I hopped out of bed, forgoing my usual routine of parsing Greek in favor of prepping pastry. I pulled out my box of pre-made puff pastry and rolled out the dough (I’ve heard rumors that mere mortals can make puff pastry, but it’s probably safer to leave it to the magic pastry fairies). Things were going swimmingly until I realized that I don’t have a pan large enough to bake the galette des rois. Again, one would think that I would think of these sorts of things earlier, but one would think wrongly.
I pondered, but then looked at the time, and saw it was time to dash out to meet some friends for sushi, thereby avoiding having to deal with the raw creation of dough and almonds currently residing in my fridge atop wax paper.
Thing about procrastinating though, is that you can’t eat sushi forever, and eventually you come home and the raw cake is still unbaked.
I finally decided to bake it on a piece of foil. It was a job getting it into the hot oven without it ending up on the floor or my fingers ending up on the oven rack, but I finally accomplished it.
Thus began one of the longest thirty minutes I have ever experienced. I was sure the pastry wouldn’t rise, or that the filling would be crunchy and disgusting, or that the cake would manage to ooze off the foil and end up a burnt puddle in the bottom of the oven.
To my utter astonishment, when the galette des rois came out of of the oven it looked like this:
And you know what? It even tasted good.
Long days and pleasant nights from the Tale-Weaver.