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Posts tagged ‘Galette des Rois’

No. 129-130: Becoming a Fabophile and One Last Kings’ Cake

I told you if I had grown up in France, I would probably be one of those crazy cat ladies, who instead of collecting cats, would be an extreme collector of fèves. Alas, just look at me now with my first real Galette des Rois season officially winding down, not only did I manage to share seven cakes this month, approximately one every 4 days, I also found the fève four times, and got to be queen for the day, or at least the evening, once a week.


I consider this my first real Galette des Rois season, because prior to this January, I had no idea there was such a thing as a fabophile, or that there were entire websites and conventions devoted to this hobby. I come by this predilection honestly. My father, aka, the Grand Poobah, was a rabid collector of toys, and lived by the slogan, “The One with the Most Toys, Wins”. I think my maman would have been much happier if he only collected fèves. They take up a lot less room.

The Grand Poobah (and collector) with Kitcat, 1995

The Grand Poobah (and collector) with Kitcat, 1995

On top of the four fèves I won fair and square, I may also have purchased just a few (and been given some super tacky ones as a gift).

tacky féves

Okay. I’ll come clean. I spent 3 hours on a lovely, albeit, slightly fanatical, woman’s website exchanging franglaise messages about her collection. Obsessed with French pastries and pâtisseries, I finally decided on this delectable assortment of teeny tiny pastries. I paid a bit more than I should have, but my new friend, I reasoned, needed the money for a better set of fèves for herself.

féves pastries

They arrived tout de suite with a nice hand written note, and an extra surprise collection.

So, with one official fève season under my belt, I already have 20 little beans to use for my homemade Galette des Rois next year, as, bien sûr, I took another Galette des Rois cooking course last week.


This time we learned to make it with frangipane cream: almond cream plus pastry cream. It was the best galette I’ve had to date, better than the bakers, and a heck of a lot cheaper.

…the last Galette des Rois of the season...

…the last Galette des Rois of the season…

The only snag with this fine homespun galette was that we forgot to put a fève in it. Drat! It’s decidedly likely I would have come away with one last treasure to add to my burgeoning collection.

(Please check back in a couple of days for one last recipe for one last Kings’ Cake.)


fabophile: collector of fèves

fève: fève bean, broad bean; the prize inside the Galette des Rois

franglaise: French and English mixed

Galette des Rois: Kings’ Cake, eaten on Epiphany and throughout January.

pâtisseries: pastry shops

tout de suite: immediately

No. 112: Spéculoos

I don’t think Spéculoos originated in France, but for me it will always remind me of France because this is where I first discovered it. Even though it’s not at its height of popularity en ce moment, it can still be found everywhere, in all its various incarnations.


In case you have been living under a log, Spéculoos / Speculaas / Spekulatius is a thin and crispy spiced, shortcrust cookie, which was traditionally baked around Saint Nicolas Day in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Nowadays you can find the cookies year-round in your local grocery store. Spéculoos biscuits always have some sort of impression stamped on the front of the cookie, originally related to Christmas, but these days it can be a branding swoosh, an animal, a figure, or really anything your heart desires.

Speculoos Paris

How about some Spéculoos on Spéculoos?

The combination of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and white pepper, along with plenty of butter, I’m sure, is what makes these cookies so addictive. They are an excellent accompaniment to hot chocolate or coffee. Sometimes French cafés serve them, in lieu of a small piece of chocolate, when they bring your boisson chaud.


Relatively recently, a couple of companies in Belgium decided that the cookie itself wasn’t enough. They decided the world needed a Spéculoos spread. Apparently they were right…people seem to be crazy for it.

It looks like peanut butter and comes in a jar like peanut butter, but it tastes nothing like the good old American standby. It is literally a spread made from crushed cookies and vegetable oil. It’s super high in calories, and pretty darn delicious in small quantities or by the spoonful.

Adding Spéculoos cookies and Spéculoos spread to make desserts even more decadent seems to be the game. As well as flavoring different baked goods with Spéculoos, I’ve also seen savory meat dishes cooked with Spéculoos.

So far this week, I’ve come across a Spéculoos apple tarte, a bacon-kiwi-Spéculoos pancake stack, a friend who eats oatmeal, bananas and Spéculoos before she goes running, Spéculoos covered popcorn, a Spéculoos macaron (bien sûr), Spéculoos ice cream, Spéculoos milkshakes, and the traditional moelleux au chocolat filled with melted Spéculoos instead of chocolate.

Of course Picard and a couple of boulangeries around town are featuring special Galette des Rois filled with chocolate and Spéculoos instead of frangipane.

I see the draw when it’s used in a dessert, but I think only the diehard fans will be inclined to order Stir Fried Chicken and Spéculoos Lettuce Wraps or Roasted Pork Fillets  drizzled with a Spéculoos Sauce.


bien sûr: of course

boisson chaud: hot drink

en ce moment: at the moment

Galette des Rois: Kings cake, a puffed pastry cake filled with almond paste and served on Epiphany and during January.

moelleux au chocolat: an individual-sized chocolate cake filled with melted chocolat; lava cake.


No. 105-106: Fabophiles and the Galette des Rois

Along with every other French-themed blogger posting today on Epiphany, the Twelfth day of Christmas (marking the Magi’s visit to the Christ Child), I too have a story to tell about the Galette des Rois (the Kings Cake).

Galette des Rois

As you may already know, each year on January 6, the French gather to share this special cake made with flaky puff pastry and dense frangipane, a sweet almond filling. They cut the Galette des Rois so that each person sitting at the table plus one extra guest receives a piece. (In the olden days, the extra slice was given to the first needy person to pass by your home.)

La fève, literally a broad bean, but these days a tiny porcelain or plastic charm, is hidden inside the cake. The lucky diner who finds it, (beware of cracking a tooth!), gets to be king of the feast or king for the day and sports a handsome paper crown.

Only a mild fan of the cake itself, I was interested in taking a broader look at the types of charms found inside these cake. In my three Epiphanies in France, I have only come across cheap plastic baby Jesus’s and mini, chipped royalty. It seemed to me that there had to be more.

And more there is. En fait, there is a pretty decent-sized blogosphere dedicated to “favophilie/fabophilie”.

In case you haven’t heard, a fabophile (or favophile) collects the beans and charms from the Galette des Rois. They call themselves “Fabos”.

photograph: isabelle-lottaz

photograph: isabelle-lottaz

The keenest Fabos seek out whole “series” of charms and, of course, those rare and hard to find models. From what I understand, there are three types of fèves: figurines, custom “beans”, and standard “beans”.

The figurines originally started out representing holy figures, the Christ Child, and royalty. Now it seems that anything goes—from religious icons to cartoon characters to celebrities.

Custom beans are the most valuable as they are limited additions, often brand marked, and sometimes quite expensive. For these beans the sky’s the limit—depicting cutesy animals to kitchen utensils to great works of art.

The standard beans are mass manufactured and sold to any-old-buyer (such as your local boulanger). These ordinary fèves are sold by the box and often repurposed by us homespun chefs who put them in our own cakes.

In addition to the three categories of fèves, there is another thing to look for if you’re thinking of becoming a Fabo: the finish, your choice: matte or glossy.

So if you are really gung-ho about collecting, you could in fact amass two sets of everything, shiny AND dull.

Truth be told, and actually quite scarily, had I grown up in France, it’s likely I would be a very serious fabophile, knee deep in tiny porcelain treasures and a good 10 kilos heavier from slogging through the Galette des Rois in search of my prize.

mes fèves so far this year...

mes fèves so far this year…

If you want to make your own fancy one at home, hop over to David Lebovitz’s blog for a fabulous but time intensive recipe. If you want the quick and easy version check back in a few days for Galette des Rois à la Rachel.


boulanger: baker

en fait: in fact

fabophile / favophile: a person who collects fèves; Febo for short.

favophilie / fabophilie: the act of collecting fèves

frangipane: a thick almond filling

Galette des Rois: the Kings Cake, eaten on Epiphany and throughout January; in the U.S. it is also eating during the lead up to Mardi Gras.

une fève: the tiny porcelain/plastic prize found inside the Galatte des Rois; also a broad bean or fava bean.