Epiphany, and we remember Buddhist wise men. We remember stars and songs we learned as children. We retell stories of an innocent newborns and scheming kings. Some of us give gifts; others of us set intentions for the year. None of us can bear to give up the sweets from the previous few weeks. And so, we bake cakes. In particular, we bake a galette des rois.
We cut up plenty of butter for the puff pastry (which we’ve never made from scratch before).
We learn a new method, frisage, which seems to involve smearing the dough across a counter until all the ingredients are incorporated.We cream a mixture of ground almonds, sugar and (more) butter, the basis for any cake worth mentioning. Then we add the necessary flavorings (vanilla in this case) and eggs.We roll out our dough which has rested over night. We roll it out with trepidation, because we’re not sure how this puff pastry business will turn out. We whip some heavy cream with a blender, because, even though the recipe doesn’t call for it, fat in its airiest, fluffiest form never goes amiss. We incorporate the cream into the batter and then spread it onto our rolled-out piece of puff pastry, careful to leave a good centimeter around the perimeter. This will prove not to be enough when it all comes spewing out of its seems later. We do our best, though, and lay the second circle of pastry over the first and pinch the two edges together all around. We do an eggy wash and make a pretty design with our knife.
We bake it and sneakily scoop away all the custardy bits that have escaped their pastry confines and cooked into a cake on the pan. We eat this immediately. We take pictures of the finished product with clementines because there’s something about Epiphany that we will always associate with the smell of fresh citrus.And then we eat it and pretend not to notice that our puff pastry didn’t quite puff as it should have and that we forgot to hide la fêve. But for the moment, none of that seems to matter.
None of this has anything to do with books or bookstores, by the way. Except that the cake was inspired by the Epiphany story and that story has inspired me to write another story. Hearing it for perhaps the 100th time it struck me that King Herod gets a pretty raw deal in Matthew’s gospel. It doesn’t seem fair when historians agree that the killing of the innocents in Bethlehem probably never happened. Who was this guy, King Herod? Was he really as bad as all that?
I don’t talk much about my writing life on this blog, for no good reason except that I suppose I think of it as a bit private. For the sake of authenticity, I’d like to try and be more open with you all about my writing projects. The past couple days I’ve been exploring an alternative take on King Herod’s story, told in his own voice. It’s been good fun. There’s nothing so mischievous, so freeing for a write as an unreliable narrator.