January 06, 2015 Lebanon Middle East

Galettes des Rois: Seven Cakes, One Verdict!

It has become something of a tradition that I head down the streets of Lebanon in search for the best Galette des Rois out there, during this time of year. Surely I can’t try everything and everyone, but I can pick and choose a few places each year, until I cover the whole lot in the years to come, hopefully. This year, I decided to go for the mid-range Galette de Rois out there that cost between 30,000LL and 40,000LL.

Yes I know there are so many places who may have amazingly good Galette des Rois, like Noura, Cannelle or La Mie Dorée, but these names are not part of this contest and are obviously not from the same range I chose to target this year. With my family and some friends, we all gathered around after dinner to taste different Galette des Rois.

Tonight and tomorrow, comes the King Cake or what we refer to as Galette Des Rois - a round golden crunchy puff pastry cake enjoyed during the festival of Epiphany, which takes place on January 6.

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions532015-01-06-08-19-15

Let's start by giving you some history to understand more the idea behind this cake, its ingredients and ways of preparation.

Epiphany: A celebration which traditionally falls on January 6, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Western Christians commemorate principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Baby Jesus, and thus Jesus' physical manifestation to the Gentiles.
Galettes des Rois: A king cake is a type of cake associated with the festival of Epiphany in the Christmas season in a number of countries, and in other places with the pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras / Carnival. It is a popular food item during the Christmas season (Christmas Eve to Epiphany) in Lebanon, France, Belgium, Quebec and Switzerland. The cake has a small plastic baby, said to represent Baby Jesus) inside (or sometimes placed underneath), and the person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket has various privileges and obligations.

The French King Cake, produced in Lebanon is a cake traditionally celebrating Epiphany in France and Quebec sold in most bakeries during the month of January. Two versions exist: in northern France and Quebec the cake called Galette des Rois (which can be either circular or rectangular) consists of flaky puff pastry layers with a dense center of frangipane.

The cake filling: Frangipane: A filling made from or flavored with almonds. This filling is used in a variety of ways including cakes, tarts and other assorted pastries. Originally designated as a custard tart flavored by almonds or pistachios it came later to designate a filling that could be used in a variety of confections and baked goods. Frangipane is one of France's many traditional foods associated with Christmas celebration. It is normally made of butter, sugar, eggs, and ground almonds.

Let’s try some Galette now…

The French Bakery

  • 22 centimeters round 
  • Price: LBP 28,000
  • Sold in a normal carton box
  • The thinnest of all, it's not heavy and is homogenous in color and shape
  • Includes a generic crown
  • Too sticky and not too appetizing
  • Includes a generic crown

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions322015-01-06-08-18-08

Stop and Shop

  • 25 centimeters round
  • Price LBP 39,000
  • The brand name is Kay
  • It's the most expensive, but heavy maybe justifying the price paid for the generous filling
  • Well rounded, thick and decorated with a circular sugar powder circle
  • The box is transparent revealing the content
  • They also have a special edition, a square one with apple wich I didn't try
  • Includes a generic crown

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions302015-01-06-08-18-00

Moulin D'Or:

  • 30 centimeters round, the largest of them all
  • Price LBP 35,000
  • A special box for the occasion
  • Thick, crafted and showing the content by transparency
  • It’s the heaviest of all
  • Includes a generic crown

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions262015-01-06-08-17-48

DeliFrance:

  • 27 centimeters round, yet looks more like an oval UFO
  • Price LBP 35,000
  • Very thin, very large and looks different on all fronts
  • A special box for the occasion
  • It's the only one I bought warm, baked a la minute
  • Includes a special custom-made crown 

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions232015-01-06-08-17-38

 Pain D'Or:

  • 23 centimeters round
  • Price LBP 35,000, which I would say is the most expensive considering it’s size
  • A special box for the occasion
  • Its look too commercial and unappetizing
  • A first impression: It looks like its stuffed with chocolate
  • Includes a generic crown

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions212015-01-06-08-17-33

Al Mandaloun Pastry Shop:

  • 35 centimeters round
  • Price LBP 38,000
  • The only one among all wrapped in nylon instead of a box
  • They do have a special version with chocolate
  • Golden border, thick and uneven and dark on top
  • Includes a generic crown

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions442015-01-06-08-19-07

Wooden Bakery:

  • 27 centimeters round
  • The one that left me with a great first impression
  • Price LBP 25,000 - the cheapest of all with this price tag
  • The only one with a rich aromatic scent
  • A special design box for the occasion with a nylon top to see the Galette inside
  • Round and beautiful to look at. It has a star in the middle
  • Includes a generic crown
  • If I had to choose, judging by it’s looks and first impression, the winner would be this one

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions392015-01-06-08-18-38

Let’s Taste…

  • French Bakery: Very crunchy, aromatic, airy, adequately sweetened but why add the oranges or lemons or whatever is used in it? It's way too sticky and soacked in sugar syrup. Although not your conventional one, it is still interesting.

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions342015-01-06-08-18-23

  • Kay by Stop & Shop: Filled with pastry cream, the envelope is unpleasantly thick. The filling is way too sweet, too lemony and acidic. It lacks the crunchiness you would expect. A big no! It's way too expensive and not even tasty.

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions542015-01-06-08-19-20

  • Delifrance: No way! Badly presented, torn apart and doesn’t fit the box it’s placed in. It is empty from the inside, too chewy, bready, condensed and buttery. A big no! A huge big no!

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions502015-01-06-08-19-04 

  • Pain D'Or: Very commercial and looks dull, cheap with no dedication. When grabbing it from the bottom, it's one of the few that's not painted with sticky jam. The puff pastry is fresh, light and airy. A black line around which looks like chocolate is nothing but a burnt filling. Even though it’s not crunchy enough and a bit stingy in filling, it is good... But not wow enough to make it win.

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions372015-01-06-08-18-28

  • Moulin D'Or: It’s bulky, very commercial, the cake for the mases... yet interesting - It is thick and generously filled with almonds. It is very commercial but flavorful. But it lacks that certain finesse.

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions272015-01-06-08-18-05

  • Al Mandaloun: This is the finest in shape and production. I enjoyed its color and flavor. I loved the subtle salty aftertaste, juicy heart, crispy envelope and the well-crushed almonds. It's the only one with a long lasting flavorful aftertaste. THis is the only one with a finesse and French touch.

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions472015-01-06-08-18-54

  • Wooden Bakery: Loved the star in the middle. The winner for sure and by far. The only one with perfect sweetness, crunchy borders, crunchy almonds, fresh aroma and an overall interesting mix I'll definitely remember. And most importantly it's only for LBP 25,000. Bravo!

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions452015-01-06-08-18-48 

The Result:

  • My preferred one this year is surprisingly the one from Wooden Bakery for its taste and great value for money.
  • Quality vs. Taste in a classy galette, Al Mandaloun's comes in second place. Just for your information, their Nutella galette is a must try. Really exquisite, even though not in the competition.

galette-des-rois-king-cake-epiphany-lebanon-nogarlicnoonions582015-01-06-08-19-32

The winners:

  • The lowest in price: Wooden Bakery
  • The tastiest: Wooden Bakery
  • The Classiest: Al Mandaloun
  • The best looking: Kay by Stop&Shop
  • THE WINNER: Wooden Bakery

I tasted three Galettes last year, and seven this year, I hope to continue on discovering one after the other until the finest is found... Until next year... Send your suggestions...

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