Sunday, January 10, 2016

Pittsburgh Pretzels or French Galettes?

Gontran Cherrier,
If there's one thing that Paris and Pittsburgh can agree on, it's cake and parties.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
While Pittsburgh has its New Year's pretzel, here in Paris we feast on "galette des rois" – King's Cake – starting on the Epiphany, officially speaking. But any day in January is an excuse!

On the face of it, the galette is different than the New Year's pretzel, which I remember from my days working at Karhut's bakery in Mt. Oliver (a little enclave in Pittsburgh that never managed to incorporate itself into the city).

This special pretzel is a huge coffee cake twirled into a pretzel shape, laced with icing and sprinkled with candied fruit.

The galette is wheat taken to an extreme. Think of a round croissant with almond custard filling.

There's a lot of speculation about the origins of the French galette and the New Year's pretzel. My theory is that they have one common European ancestor. A lot of butter left over from Christmas and a few more days of vacation!

Seriously, as you move down to southern France, the cake becomes more breadlike, looses its middle and looks more like a crown, and is iced and dotted with fruit. You'll find similar holiday cakes from the shores of Portugal to the northern reaches of Sweden.

What makes the galette even more fun, however, is that buried inside each one is a prize or “feve” (literally bean) but these days a small porcelain figurine. The idea is that whoever receives the slice with the bean inside becomes king for the day. And the king chose a queen--and might even steal a kiss.

We love this game, as you can tell from our huge collection of feves.

Any way you cut it, the galette and the pretzel are great ways to party in the New Year and enjoy every one of the 12 days of Christmas.
Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home."

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