Galette Des Rois

Tomorrow is the sixth of January which means it’s Epiphany which means you should be eating Kings’ Cake or galette des rois as it is called en français. The significance of this day is that it commemorates the magi who journeyed to see the infant Jesus. Upon their arrival these three kings, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar, presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh which they had carried from afar. To express their gratitude, Mary and Joseph offered the wise men slices of a puff pastry dessert filled with frangipane and also a hidden trinket. The first wise man to find the charm got to wear a paper crown. Not really, but that’s what galette des rois is and it’s delicious. Traditionally, it is a puff pastry cake filled with almond cream but of course there are always variations on a theme. Raymond Blanc adds poached pears to his. Some people add chocolate. Others, apricot jam. I am partial to rum and orange zest. But I’ve been thinking. . . I bet it’d be really good with cherries. I guess I’ll have to make another to see. Until then, here is my recipe as it stands.

NB: You can use store bought puff pastry if you like (just make sure it’s all butter!) or you can make your own. I have a cheat’s way inspired by Nigella then made even lazier by me. But it works! So who cares? A little helpful heresy never hurt anyone.

Ingredients for the puff pastry:

250 g of strong white flour + a little extra for rolling

250 g of cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes (I chill mine in the freezer for 15 minutes)

a pinch of salt

6 tablespoons of ice water (or vodka that’s been kept in the freezer)

a squeeze of lemon juice


Method: Put the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor. Pulse only a couple of times. Pour in the water and lemon juice. Pulse again until just combined. Dump the dough onto a counter and bring it together with your hands. You should still be able to see small chunks of butter. The dough should look marbled with it. Form the dough into a disk. Wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.

At this point, remove it from the fridge. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Roll the dough into a long rectangle. Now roll it up like a chocolate log or a jelly roll. Cover it with plastic once more and put it back in the fridge for another half hour.

Then repeat this again. Believe me. If you do it correctly, you will get layers. You’ll see the lamination.


Ingredients for the frangipane:

80 g unsalted room temperature butter

80 g ground almonds

80 g icing sugar (this is powdered sugar in America)

1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk

1 tsp rum

1/2 tsp almond extract

the zest or 1 orange or 2 clementines


Method: You can whisk this by hand or use a mixer to combine the ingredients. The consistency you need is that of a thick paste. Cover it and put it in the fridge until it is needed.


Ingredients for the glaze:

1 egg + 1 yolk + 1 tsp of heavy cream. Mix thoroughly with a fork in a small bowl.


To construct the galette:

Take your puff pastry out of the refrigerator. Cut in in half. Roll out a large circle. Take a dinner plate and turn it upside on the pastry. Cut around it with a knife. Set this aside. Roll out a second circle and repeat. Set these two pastry rounds back in the refrigerator to chill for another hour.

Then take a large piece of baking paper. Place one of the pastry rounds on it. Spread your frangipane in the middle of it. Leave about a half inch to 3/4 of an inch of space at the edges. If you want to place a small metal or ceramic charm in the galette, now is the time to do so.


Paint a bit of your egg glaze around the edge.

Place the second pastry round on top of the galette. Press a finger around the circumference of the pastry to seal it.

Lightly paint the top of the galette with some more egg glaze. There is no need to use it all. This will just make it soggy.

Now, take the dull side of a knife and use it to pull the indentations you just made into scallop shapes. Lightly score the top of the pastry with a design of your choice. There are many. Google one. Personally, I’m keen on flowers but you can also make stars or chevrons. Once this is finished, place it back in the refrigerator for another hour. I know this is a lot of refrigerator time, but trust me. You do not want the butter to melt in your pastry dough. Those layers of cold butter create desired flakiness.

Preheat the oven to Gas4/180°C/350°F and put a pizza stone or the lid of a large Dutch oven on the middle shelf.

Once the oven is ready, remove the stone. Carefully place the baking paper with the galette on it onto the stone. Put this in the oven and bake it for approximately 45 minutes or until golden.

Don’t worry if you discover that your galette leaked butter. Mine often do. If this is the case, don’t fret. Turn off the oven. Then carefully transfer the galette to a wire rack and place it back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so. It will crisp.

Allow your galette to cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.  Serve with tea or strong coffee (or cognac) and enjoy.



Almond Cherry Crumble Tart


Though the French cherry season begins in May, British cherry season doesn’t really hit until July. Something for which I am most grateful. Because who doesn’t love an extended window of gluttonous opportunity?

The Brogdale Cherry Fair near Faversham, Kent is on the 16th of July and should you be in the area, I highly recommend it. I went a couple years ago and all I can say is that I left with the best stomachache ever. All those heritage cherries were so delicious. I couldn’t stop myself. Had I been a monarch of yore, a surfeit of cherries is definitely what would have done me in. But what a way to go!

Below is my recipe for an almond cherry crumble tart. I hope you like it. It never lasts more than a day in my house.



150 g plain flour

10 g ground almonds

1 tbsp icing sugar

1 tbsp caster sugar

120 g unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp flaked almonds


400 g pitted cherries


50 g marzipan/almond paste

30 g caster sugar

1/4 tsp almond essence

2 tbsp flour

1/4 tsp salt



Preheat the oven to Gas6/200°C/400°F.

For the pastry, pulse the first six ingredients together until just combined. Press all but 1/4 c of this mixture into a greased tin. Mix whatever remains with the flaked almonds.

tart base

Now, blitz the last 5 ingredients in a food processor. Then stir the cherries into the mix. Pour them into the tart base.

Sprinkle the reserved almond topping over the cherries.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling.

Allow to cool before serving.


Orange Almond Rhubarb Crumble Cake

My in-laws live in a country suburb in John Betjeman’s bucolic Metroland. It is a place where “knickers” with an exclamation mark constitutes a swear and on summer weekends village cricket reigns supreme.  The local church is more than 1,000 years old and the local watering holes have appeared in Richard Curtis films.  Spotting the forked tails of red kites flying high is a common occurrence as are bake sales, car boot sales, charity fun runs, bonfire nights, Scottish Association sponsored dance nights, and dogs in the pub.  It’s wonderful and on the weekends there is no other place I’d rather be.

This past Saturday, we didn’t stay the night though we did stay for elevenses and lunch.  Helena chased around Charlie cat while Henry read the papers and my mother-in-law tended to her garden.  It really is the most magnificent garden I’ve ever seen.  The flowers are abundant as are the fruits and vegetables.  For lunch, we had salad and cherries.  Afterwards, I made a floral arrangement for the house.

When it was time to leave, I took a bunch a rhubarb with me.  Which brings us to today.  I have just made the most delicious cake with said rhubarb and below is the recipe.  Because it is not that sweet it’s perfect for tea, morning or afternoon.

bucks bouquet

My floral arrangment

Gifts from the Garden of Eatin'

Gifts from the Garden of Eatin’



125 grams room temperature butter, unsalted

3/4 c caster sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 c flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp orange zest

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 c ground almonds

3/4 c milk

Enough chopped rhubarb to cover the top of the cake, for me this was 5 ribs

Crumble topping of your choice. I had leftover crumble in my freezer from Claire Ptak’s raspberry muffin recipe so I used that. Should you not have any on hand, crumble the following with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal: 1/4 c butter, 1/4 c sugar (I like to mix light brown, Demerara, and caster), 1 heaping tbsp flour, 1/3 c ground and flaked almonds.  Feel free to add some oats or desiccated coconut as well.


Preheat the oven to gas 4/180°C/350°F.

Prepare a 10″ cake tin by buttering it and lining it with paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale in color and fluffy.

Mix in the eggs one at a time.

Fold in the flour, baking powder, and almonds.

Incorporate the milk, vanilla, and zest.

Pour the batter into the cake tin.

Scatter the rhubarb pieces on top of the batter then sprinkle as much crumble as you like over that.

Bake for about an hour or until a skewer emerges clean when plunged into the cake and pulled out again.

Cool and serve.  Add Greek yoghurt or cream if you like.



Blueberry Crumble Bars

Corn.  Cattle.  Pella Windows.  Dutch letters.  Red covered bridges of Madison County (somewhere my initials are carved into one).  Elk Horn’s Danish windmill.  Butter sculptures at the the state fair.  Moths as big as birds.  Fishing in my aunt and uncle’s backyard.  The Hawkeyes.  The best writers’ workshop in America.  Glenn Miller, John Wayne, Johnny Carson, Donna Reed.  Electrical storms in summer.  Fireflies.  Farm life. These are a few of the things that come to mind when I think of Iowa.

Well, that and bars.  By which I mean bar shaped baked goods–the treats that make the Midwest go round.  Iowans love them.  I love them.  And as a woman with strong family roots there, I felt it my duty to finally post about them.  Most tend to be of the chocolate variety, but mine are blueberry.

This morning at the greengrocer’s my four year old chided me.  “Blueberries aren’t in season, mommy.”  I trained her too well.  “That’s right, darling.  In England they’re not, but lucky for us they are in . . . (I picked up a carton and read the label) Spain.”  “Morocco too.”  I needed a few more cartons and the Spanish ones ran out.

Below is my blueberry bar recipe.  It’s a crumbly one with notes of almond and fresh lemon.  As the sky was so blue today and the sun so warm, it felt like the most appropriate bar recipe to bake.  I love it as much as my Grandpa Jim loved the Hawkeyes.  My hope is you do too.

where corn is king


Butter sculpture

Me at my Grandmother's

Me at my Grandmother’s


Great-Grandma Evelyn and Great-Grandpa Herman Warren

Great-Grandma Evelyn and Great-Grandpa Herman Warren

The Sorensens

The Sorensens

My grandfather is the boy in the sailor suit.

My grandfather is the boy in the sailor suit.

My aunt and uncle's backyard

My aunt and uncle’s backyard

mama in iowa

at coco's downtown harlan

james warren

Grandpa Jim



For crumble:

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 cup flour

3/4 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

125 grams unsalted butter

1 egg


For filling:

4 cups blueberries

1/2 cup caster sugar

juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon cornflour



Preheat oven to Gas 4/ 350F/ 180C.

Lightly butter a small ceramic dish and set aside.  The measurements of mine were 8×12 inches.  If you like lots of crumble, use a smaller dish.  8″ x 8″ would be perfect.

Mix all the ingredients for the crumble, except for the egg, in a large bowl with your fingertips.  Combine until it resembles a fine meal.  Then incorporate the egg.

Place 2/3 of the crumble in the bottom of your dish.  I use my knuckles to push it into place.

Then in another bowl mix the lemon juice, zest, sugar, and cornflour.  Gently stir in the blueberries and coat.

Pour the berry mixture on top of the crumble layer.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of the crumble on top.

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Allow the bake to cool completely before cutting into it.  This will give you a better set bar than just a lot of crumble.

baked crumble

blueberry crumble bar

Greedy Summer Squirrel Pie

Photo on 2013-06-19 at 13.15 #3

I’m greedy.  Greedy like a fat fluffy-tailed squirrel.  Especially when it comes to pie.  One of the things I love most about summer is the abundance of berries.  I take to the bushes like my spirit animal and take home bags of these sweet fruit.  Some of them I turn into preserves.  Some I freeze and save for fall crumbles.  Some I turn straight into pie.

Here is my favorite blueberry pie recipe of the moment.  Perfect for staining summer whites and best served orchestrated to the plnokety plonk of Thelonious’ Blue Monk in Newport, circa 1958. What I love most about it is the frangipane at the bottom.  I hope you do too.


half the pâte brisée recipe

600 grams (2 1/2 cups) fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained

100 (0.4 cups) grams ground almonds

100 grams (0.4 cups) sugar

2 egg whites

powdered sugar (icing sugar)


Put a baking tray in your oven and preheat to 400ºF/200ºC/gas6.

Roll your pâte brisée to fit a fluted tart dish approximately 10 inches in diameter.  Trim the edges and save the pastry for decoration.

In a bowl, blend the almonds, sugar, and egg whites with a mixer.

Spoon the mixture into the base of the tin.

Now carefully tip the blueberries on top of the almond mixture and spread as evenly as possible.

Using your extra pastry, roll out a shape with your favorite cookie cutter.  Place it in the center of your pie.

Spoon some powdered sugar into a sieve and sprinkle evenly over your pie.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the edges of your pie are golden brown and your blueberries are starting to sink.  Do not let them bake until they are mush.

Cool completely and serve with crème fraîche, Greek yogurt, or your favorite vanilla ice cream.