A new year, a new me. That’s what we all say to ourselves, right? I’m actually not one for making resolutions, at least not with the turn of a calendar page. As I told Isabella recently, every moment of the day offers a chance to resolve to be the best version of yourself. Being a teenager, she replied with an eye roll, but I think deep down she knew what I was getting at with my perspective on resolutions.
And yet, I do feel differently this month. It’s my seventh year greeting a new one without Michael, and while I miss him, there’s a peace I’ve not felt in a long time. The growing divide between my time with him, and my time trying to live without him provides a buffer, a perspective of sorts. I can see so clearly the different choices I wish I’d made, and yet I don’t see them as mistakes.
Wouldn’t we all do something a little differently if we could? I mean, that move to Maryland. I don’t even know where to begin. The experience, though, gave me deeper insight into what I not only want, but need. Acceptance for all I am—the quirky parts, annoying parts, sad parts. Acceptance that Michael may be gone but I will always love him.
Going through my old posts as I do at the start of a new month to do that little recap below can be a bit of a mind game. Words become a time machine, recalling memories of a life that often feels like it belonged to someone else.
Seven years ago I wrote about homemade yogurt with nary a clue that the following January I’d be at the beginning of a most formidable journey. And who knows what was going on three years ago because I wrote not one single post here. How bizarre is that?
This month marks ten years I’ve been writing in this space. There’s no record of that first year because it was a different site back then, called The Mama Chronicles. I think someone else owns that name now.
Ten years is a long time to be writing online this consistently, and lately I feel an air from some folks that is rather judgemental, not towards me necessarily. But, one person, a friend of a friend on Facebook recently commented “why does every recipe need to start with a personal story”? I just unfollowed the conversation, but it’s still been on my mind.
Why would anyone bother reading a blog if they just want a recipe? There are so many other places you can go to for that? I’m not quite sure there’s any purpose to what I’m even writing right now. It’s more a stream of consciousness I’m sharing. All I know is that it feels good to be back here after a little break to recharge my mind, my heart, and spend the holidays with my girls.
It feels right to be here, sharing my life, and the way food grounds me, makes me happy, and makes the people I love feel happy, too. So, new year, new me? Yes and no. I feel differently. Heaven knows I’ve aged a little in these last ten years, too.
And yet, the heart and soul of why I continue to share here is the same. It’s so natural to feel isolated in our own human experiences. If my words here make someone else feel less alone, and they get a recipe for what I think is the best peanut butter pie ever, realize you can indeed make a deeply satisfying soup from tinned tomatoes, or recreate a childhood favorite recipe for devil dogs in the process, well that’s simply the prize inside this cracker jack box of life.
Oh, a little word about this cake. January 6th is the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings’ Day, when the wisemen supposedly arrived bearing their gifts for newly born baby Jesus. I say supposedly not to offend anyone, simply because I’m at a spiritual crossroads. Funny how you can go your whole life doing something, creating traditions without really thinking about why or how. And sometimes even when you’ve thought about the why, there’s still deeper to dig than you realized. A post for another time (maybe, or not?).
Regardless of any religious beliefs, there’s cake involved, so sign me up (sorry Monsignor Del Vecchio). I usually make this galette des rois, also known as a pithivier, an almond creme filled puff pastry based “cake”. The kids love cutting into it to find the hidden fève (read more about it here), eat the puff pastry, then promptly scrape the very expensive-to-make almond filling in the trash. Last year we tasted a brioche version of galette des rois, more common in the south of France, and we all loved it. So, that is what I’m making this year (we’ve already worked our way through two of them—calories don’t count in January, right?).
Three Years Ago: Hard to fathom, but I didn’t write any posts here in January 2015!
Galette des rois briochée
- For the levain
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup) milk, warmed to 100ºF (38ºC)
- 20 grams all-purpose flour
- 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast
- 4 grams granulated natural cane sugar
- For the brioche
- 215 grams all-purpose flour, divided
- 25 grams granulated natural cane sugar
- 2.5 grams fine sea salt
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- Freshly grated zest of ½ lemon & ½ an orange or whole clementine
- ½ teaspoon orange blossom water (also called fleur d’orange)
- ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped (tuck scraped pod into a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar, or discard if you prefer)
- 100 grams good quality butter, softened & cut into 12 pieces
- To finish
- 1 egg, preferably small or medium (if available) lightly beaten with a splash of water
- 35 grams candied fruits (orange, lemon or lime peel, or cherries)
- 50 grams pearl sugar (see here for an example)
- Prepare the leaven: Combine the milk, flour, yeast, and sugar in a metal mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve the yeast, and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes until it blooms (puffs up into a sponge).
- Prepare the brioche dough: Add 165 grams of flour to the leaven mixture, along with the remaining sugar, salt, egg, zests, orange blossom water, and vanilla bean seeds. Using the dough hook attachment, mix until it forms a rough dough, 3 to 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high, and mix for 2 minutes more.
- Add the butter, one piece at a time, while the mixer is on medium-high, making sure each piece is fully blended into the dough before adding the next piece. The dough will start to break down after a few pieces, sprinkle some of the remaining flour (10 grams) into the bowl to help form a more solid dough again. Repeat as needed until all the butter has been incorporated. It should take about 10 minutes to add the butter completely, and you might not need all the flour.
- Cover the mixer bowl with a piece of plastic film, and let the dough rest at room temperature until doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Place the dough on the pan. Lightly dust top with flour, and flatten into an 8-inch (20-cm) circle (it’s okay to use a rolling pin for this so long as you don’t apply too much pressure).
- Use your finger to poke a hole in the center of the dough. Pinch the dough in the center, and fold it outward. Proceed gradually, so as to widen the central hole very gradually until you have a wreath-like circle. Make sure the folded sides are tucked underneath. If you want to include a fevé (bean or trinket) in the cake, now is the time to do so (be sure it’s tuck in tightly so no one sees it).
- Cover the cake loosely with plastic film. Let is sit in a warm, but not hot, spot for 45 minutes, to proof until puffed quite a bit.
- Preheat your oven to 325ºF (160ºC).
- Brush the top with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the pearl sugar on top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until deep golden.
- Remove the cake from the oven, and while still hot, decorate the top with the candied fruit. Let cool completely before serving.