Almond cream filling hidden between buttery layers of puff pastry… I’m talking about the galette des rois! And not any galette! The easy version! It can be hard to find time to bake during the holidays. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy a homemade galette!
The almond cream can be prepared in less than 5 minutes and you can just use store-bought puff pastry! This recipe does require a lot of chilling time for best results, but the effort involved is minimal.
Galette des rois, or king cake, is traditionally served on the 6th of January for Epiphany. That is when the three wise men, also known as the three kings, visit baby Jesus. A small trinket (fève) is hidden inside the galette and whoever finds it is crowned king or queen.
The galette is essentially composed of two main parts: the almond cream and the puff pastry.
What Is Almond Cream?
Almond cream is traditionally made using equal amounts of butter, almond flour, sugar and eggs. Some recipes might include a little bit of thickener such as cornstarch or flour depending on the final use. It is also possible to add heavy cream, for more richness and flavorings such as rum.
Almond cream is always baked and can be used as a filling in tarts such as the Bourdaloue tart (French pear tart), in cakes and in breakfast pastries. It is also used to make frangipane cream, which is another popular filling for a galette des rois.
What Is Frangipane Cream?
Frangipane cream is a combination of two basic recipes: pastry cream and almond cream. The frangipane is generally composed of two parts almond cream to one part pastry cream. But you could use more pastry cream if you prefer. The more pastry cream you use however, the milder the almond flavor will be.
Almond Cream Ingredients
- Almond flour: I find it best to use whole almonds and grind them just before baking. You don’t need to roast them although you can if you want to. I personally prefer using raw, blanched almonds. It is possible to use other nuts if desired, such as hazelnuts.
- Butter: The butter should be very soft, but not melted. You should be able to mix it with the other ingredients very easily and quickly. If you overmix the almond cream, you’ll incorporate too much air which will cause your galette to puff up too much in the oven.
- Sugar: I use powdered (icing) sugar but it is possible to use granulated sugar.
- Eggs: The eggs should be at room temperature so the almond cream doesn’t curdle. The amount of egg used can vary between 1-2 eggs (50-100 g) for 100 g of almond flour.
- Flavorings: I love using Amaretto, a liqueur with a wonderful almond flavor. I’ve bought a miniature 5 cl bottle which is perfect for the small amounts needed for baking. If you can’t find one and don’t want to invest in a large bottle, you can omit it. You can add some almond extract to the almond cream if you’d like. Just go easy with it so you don’t up with a bitter flavor. I personally skip it. You could also add rum for a nice kick. Other options include lemon or orange zest, orange blossom water, rose water, vanilla extract etc.
How To Make Almond Cream, Step-by-Step
Almond cream has a tendency to curdle if the ingredients aren’t at room temperature. I have found that the easiest way to make almond cream is by using a small food processor. If you don’t have one, use almond flour (instead of whole almonds) and just mix by hand using a wooden spoon as explained in the recipe notes (found in the recipe card).
- Place the almonds and powdered (icing) sugar in a food processor bowl. Pulse several times in 1-second increments until the almonds are finely ground. If you like more texture in your desserts, stop mixing when there are still small pieces of almonds left. That’s what I did in the pictures below but everyone preferred the galette with a smoother texture.
- Add the egg and softened butter and process again until combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.
- Mix in the amaretto liqueur (if using) or flavoring of choice, then transfer to a piping bag (without cutting the tip). Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. I usually prepare the almond cream the night before.
Before we start assembling the galette, let’s take a minute to discuss what can go wrong when making almond cream.
Troubleshooting Almond Cream
The almond cream split
If the almond cream looks curdled, there was most likely an issue with the temperature of the butter or the eggs. Use room temperature ingredients. If you forgot to take the butter out, cut it up into small pieces and heat it in the microwave a few seconds at a time, until softened. There shouldn’t be any melted spots though so be careful not to heat it too long.
- Use a food processor: I would recommend mixing the ingredients using a food processor. I haven’t had any issues since I started doing it this way.
- Use an immersion blender: If you tried to mix by hand but ended up with curdled almond cream, a quick mix with an immersion blender should give you a nice smooth cream.
- Warm the cream up: Dip the bottom of the mixing bowl in a bowl of hot water for about 20 seconds. Then try mixing the cream again.
The almond cream is runny
Runny almond cream will be hard to pipe (spoon) onto the puff pastry. You might find that it starts to leak towards the edges. This will make it impossible to seal it in with a second layer of puff pastry. To avoid this, you can do the following things:
- Prepare the cream in advance: A cold cream will be easier to handle. You can prepare it the night before or up to 3 days in advance and keep it in the refrigerator, well covered.
- Don’t melt the butter: The butter should be very soft but not melted. If you use the microwave to soften it, heat it in 5-second increments, stirring in-between. Stop as soon as it is soft and easy to press with a spoon.
- Weigh the eggs: It’s best to make sure you are adding the correct amount of eggs. If you add a bit more than needed, you might end up with a runny cream.
- Add thickener: Some recipes call for a little bit of flour or cornstarch. I personally prefer to increase the amount of almond flour and refrigerate the cream to get to the right consistency.
Assembling The Galette Des Rois (King Cake)
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you refrigerated the almond cream overnight, take it out of the refrigerator now so that it warms up a little while you prepare the puff pastry.
Tip: Place the trinket/almond on the parchment paper before starting so you don’t forget to add it later on!
Cut out two circles of puff pastry
- Take the puff pastry sheet out of the refrigerator and place it on your work surface. If the puff pastry you have is rolled up and you notice that it starts to crack as you unroll it, it’s probably too cold. Let it warm up at room temperature for a few minutes before trying again. I have also noticed it is easier to unroll the dough when I hold it upwards, perpendicular to the work surface, instead of trying to keep it horizontal. If you find it sticky and hard to handle at any point, chill it again. Tip: If the dough cracked a little, gently patch it together using your fingertips. You could also use a rolling pin to gently smoothen the surface, if needed.
- Using an inverted cake pan as a guide, cut out an 18 cm (7 inch) circle. Use a sharp knife and don’t press on the dough with the pan so you don’t ruin the puff pastry layers. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
- Cut out another circle which is slightly bigger than the first one, about 20 cm (8 inch), so that it is large enough to cover the filling. You can just use the same pan and eyeball it. We’ll cut off the excess dough later on. Set it aside. If your kitchen is very warm it’s best to refrigerate the dough until you use it.
Don’t throw away the scraps! You can fill them with some cheese (I use feta) or sausages and make a lovely breakfast. If you’ve got kids, they’ll probably love filling them and sealing them with a fork! If you want to store the leftover dough for later, fold the scraps over each other. Don’t roll into a ball.
Pipe the almond cream onto the puff pastry
- Snip off the tip of the piping bag and start piping the cream in a circular motion, starting from the center and stopping about 2-3 cm (0.8-1.2 inches) from the edge of the pastry. If the pastry cream is too firm (i.e. too cold) and hard to pipe, let it warm up at room temperature for a few minutes before piping.
- Spread the almond cream a little with the back of a large spoon, if needed.
- Place an almond or trinket (fève) in the cream. I tried putting 5 tiny smarties in one place in one of my attempts. Not a good idea! They completely melted and we only noticed them because there were little brown chocolate spots in the cream.
- Using clean fingers or a pastry brush, lightly wet the puff pastry border (which isn’t covered in cream).
Brushing water on the edges of the puff pastry will help seal the galette and prevent the cream from leaking out.
Seal the galette des rois
- Cover the cream with the second puff pastry circle. Tip: To make sure you center the puff pastry correctly before it sticks onto the cream, you might find it helpful to first fold the second circle of puff pastry in two. Place it on one side of the galette, then gently unfold it to cover the rest (pictured right, above).
- Lightly press down around the cream to seal the edges.
- Use the cake pan as a guide one more time to cut off all the excess dough, if needed. Refrigerate the galette for 1 hour.
- Optional: Carefully turn the galette upside down. To do so, carefully pull one side of the parchment paper upwards and hold on to the galette with your other hand. Then gently place it upside down. Why? The cream will even out a little and you’ll get a galette with a flatter surface.
- Seal the edges of the galette: Place your forefinger and middle finger on the edge of the dough. Then, gently bring the back of a knife between your two fingers, creating a semi-circle on the dough. Repeat until you’ve sealed the galette completely (pictured right below).
As a side note, in the picture below, I had accidentally applied egg wash before sealing the edges, which made it quite difficult to hold the dough.
Brush with egg wash and decorate the galette
- To make the egg wash, simply stir together in a small bowl the egg yolk and cream/milk.
- Brush the galette with egg wash. Optional (but recommended, for a galette that rises more evenly): Refrigerate the galette again for 1 hour then apply egg wash one more time.
- Using the tip of your knife, draw a pattern on the surface of the puff pastry, being careful not to rip it. Use the back of your knife if it is very sharp.
Bake the galette
- Poke 5 holes in the dough (hidden in the design), one in the middle and one in each corner. This will allow the steam to escape and your galette will rise more evenly.
- Return the galette to the fridge while you preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F), convection setting (or 200°C/392°F, conventional setting).
- Bake on the middle shelf for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown and puffed up nicely. If you notice that the galette is rising more on one side during baking, rotate it 180° (front to back).
- Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Optional: Brush the galette with syrup (for even more shine and sweetness) as soon as you take it out of the oven.
I tried a different design (pictured right, above) and sealed the edges with a fork. The galette didn’t rise very evenly. I’m guessing it’s because I pressed too hard with the fork in some spots and stuck the puff pastry layers together.
Troubleshooting The Galette Des Rois With Almond Cream
The puff pastry didn’t rise
- The oven temperature was too low: If you didn’t preheat the oven or if the oven temperature is too low, the puff pastry won’t rise properly. Try baking at a slightly higher temperature next time. If you have a convection setting, I would recommend using it.
- Too much egg wash was used: When applying egg wash, don’t put on the edges or the puff pastry layers will stick together and won’t puff up properly.
- The puff pastry was too warm: If the puff pastry warms up, the butter will melt causing the layers to stick together. Make sure the puff pastry is cold. If using frozen puff pastry, it’s best to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight rather than leaving it out at room temperature.
The puff pastry rose too much or unevenly
- The assembled galette wasn’t chilled before baking: For a flat, even surface, make sure you chill the galette for at least an hour before baking it.
- The puff pastry wasn’t handled properly: The puff pastry layers will get damaged if you apply too much pressure on them when cutting the dough or when sealing the galette. As a result, they won’t rise properly. Solution: Use a sharp knife when cutting the puff pastry circles to avoid damaging the puff pastry layers. It’s best not to use a plate to serve as a guide, as it would put too much pressure on the puff pastry. Use an inverted cake pan, a cake ring or a pot lid for example and gently place it on the pastry while you trim it.
- The almond cream was overmixed: Too much air was incorporated into the almond cream which caused the puff pastry to rise. Solution: Make sure the ingredients are at room temperature and slightly heat the butter in the microwave if needed until very soft (not melted). Mix the cream just until combined.
- No holes were made for the steam to escape: To get a flat, even top, poke 5 holes in the galette so the steam can escape. One hole in the middle and one on each side of the galette. Do this after you’ve brushed the galette with egg wash and created the design, not before. This way you won’t cover the holes with egg wash and you can hide them within the design.
The design on the king cake isn’t visible after baking
- Don’t use the back of the knife if it isn’t sharp: I did not have any success using the back of my knife as most recipes recommend. Use the tip of the knife to draw the design. Be careful not to cut too deep so you don’t tear the dough but don’t be too shy either!
- Don’t apply the egg wash after creating the design: If you want the design to be visible, it’s best to apply the egg wash first. If you cover the design with egg wash, it will fade out a little during baking.
The almond cream leaked
- The galette des rois wasn’t sealed properly: After you’ve piped the almond cream over the first disk of puff pastry, lightly brush the edges of the puff pastry with water (not egg wash). Then cover with the second sheet of puff pastry and gently press around the cream. If you don’t seal the puff pastry properly, the two sheets will separate during baking and the cream will leak out.
- Too much almond cream filling was used: If you are a bit too generous with the filling, the galette might burst open and release the filling!
- The pattern drawn on the puff pastry was too deep: When drawing a design on the surface of the galette, you should be careful not to rip the dough. If there are large cuts, the filling will come out of them when it expands during baking.
- The almond cream wasn’t cold enough when piped onto the puff pastry disk: If the almond cream isn’t cold, you might find that it spreads and extends towards the edges when you cover it with puff pastry.
- You didn’t leave a gap (without filling) around the edges of the puff pastry: It’s best to leave about 3 cm (1.2 inch) around the filling. This way, if the puff pastry does open up during baking, the filling won’t necessarily leak. If you really don’t want the edges to be without cream, then leave a smaller gap (I wouldn’t recommend less than 2 cm/0.8 inch). Be sure to seal the galette well, but don’t press too hard on the puff pastry so you don’t damage it.
And that’s it! I hope you found these tips helpful!
More Desserts With Nuts
Gilles, C. (2009). La Cuisine Expliquée. Editions BPI.
Pfeiffer, J. & Shulman, M. R. (2013). The Art of French Pastry. Alfred A. Knopf.