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Brioche des Rois – A Provencal Epiphany

"Brioche des Rois"

Last week with the quince and pear frangipane tartelettes, I mentioned that I was inspired by the traditional "galette des rois", a creamy almond frangipane encased in between two sheets of puff pastry, that we eat to celebrate Epiphany on January 6th. Tradition is to enclosed a little ceramic figurine inside, and once sliced, whoever gets the said trinket becomes queen or king for the day. Nowadays, that little ceramic is looking very designer-ish, far from the days we would use a dry fava bean as prize.

My dad is always the one cutting and the youngest child in the family is always the one under the table calling the name of the next person to get a slice. Now, why under the table? No reason but they really can’t cheat and see who is getting the ceramic and it’s just more fun! Why my dad? Because he always cheats and gives it either to the patriarch, my grandad, or the guest of honor… and it’s just more fun!

Truth be told, we rarely wait for the actual day of Epiphany to start eating the galette in France. Just like Halloween here starts in August, the galette des rois starts being sold right after Christmas day. In my family, we traditionally gather on New Year’s day to share a couple with a glass of Champagne to toast in the new year as everybody is still on vacation, available for one last family gathering and still at the ready for a little extra butter and sugar.


I distinctly remember one year that B. and I were still visiting after New Year’s…no less than 10 galettes shared within one week. Everybody was trying to have us over one last time before our return to the US and dessert was inevitably the galette. And as the guest of honor B. was always king…not that he seemed to mind! On our last night, my mom made some of my favorites and when dessert came, she exclaimed "Allez, on tire les rois une derniere fois!", "Let’s pick the king one last time". I gave her that look of "I love frangipane and puff pastry but if I see one more galette, I think I might be sick". She knew what was coming and before I could speak my mind and she brought out my childhood favorite instead, the Couronne des Rois. A round brioche type cake adorned with candied fruits and pearl sugar to mimic jewelry on a king’s crown (yes, similar to the New Orleans king’s cake).

Growing up in Provence this is the one we would get first for Epiphany while grandma was waiting for us up North with the frangipane galette. I love both equally. I really do…So this weekend we had the brioche Couronne des Rois for breakfast and the frangipane galette for tea in the afternoon. I did not forget to put my little ceramic inside and cut slices for the two of us and B. was crowned king again…surprise, surprise…I am my father’s daughter after all…ehehe…

After making the brioche dough, I divided it in half, formed my two rounds and topped one with the traditional pearl sugar, candied red and green cherries and candied citron and topped the other with homemade candied kumquats and pearl demerara sugar (found by chance at the Whole Foods). Citrus season is here and I can’t stop eating kumquats, it’s like popping natural vitamins for me. The skin is so thin and the seeds so tiny that you can, have to eat the whole fruit, so yes, for some it is an acquired taste. A contrast of textures and flavors, tart and bitter all at once. Here, I took the time to take most of the seeds out but they usually fall while taking their sugar bath so no worries if you happen to leave some. If you think I am excited over kumquats, wait until I see blood oranges!!
For even more traditional King’s cakes and celebrations, check out Zorra’s event here.

"Brioche des Rois"

Brioche des Rois Recipe:

2/3 cup (150ml) whole milk
2 1/4 cups (280g) all purpose flour
1 packet (7gr) dry active yeast
1 egg
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange blossom flower water
5 tablespoons (70g) butter, at room temperature
egg wash: 1 egg+2 tablespoons milk whisked together
1/3 cup apricot or apple jelly
candied fruits, pearl sugar or candied kumquats to decorate

In a saucepan or microwave safe bowl, warm up the milk over low heat or 20 seconds in the microwave until lukewarm (no higher than 110-112F) and stir in the yeast with a wooden spoon to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the egg, sugar and salt until just combined. Place the mixture in a stand mixer, with the motor running on low, stir in the flour and orange water. As the flour gets incorporated start adding the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Let the machine run for another 8 minutes to knead. You can do this by hand but the dough is extremely wet and a stand mixer makes it easier to handle.
Place the dough in a lightly oil bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature, free of drafts for about 30 minutes. At this point, transfer the dough to the refrigerator for an hour. At this point you can leave the dough in the fridge for a day or overnight or proceed with the recipe.
Preheat oven to 350. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough into a ball (or divide in half and keep one part refrigerated as you work on the first one), stick your thumb in the middle and push it open to form a crown or large donut. You can also form rolls and gather them together in a round. Place the brioche on a parchment lined baking sheet and let rise for 30-40 minutes. To keep the hole open I place an empty jelly jar in the middle that I fill with water so it doesn’t crack during baking. Brush with the egg wash and bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool. In the meantime, heat up the apricot or apple jelly until bubbling hot and brush it on the brioche. Immediately stick the candied fruits and pearl sugar on the brioche.

Candied Kumquats:
1/2 cup (125ml) water
1 cup (100gr) sugar
2 tablespoons (40gr) light corn or glucose syrup
1 pint fresh kumquats, washed, patted dry, and cut in 1/8 inch thin slices

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, sugar and corn or glucose syrup and bring to a boil over high heat. Let the mixture reach 234F. Add the kumquats, being careful not to overcrowd your pan and let the fruit become translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and place it, separating the slices, on a piece of parchment paper or silpat. Use as desired.

Note: Tartelette travels to Oregon…well no not really…I just wanted to thank Danielle for including my work in The Oregonian’s "What we like to read, watch, click on" column today. The more I read about this region the more I want to move! Thank you!

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K and S January 5, 2009 um 9:03 am

what a lovely tradition!

Anonymous January 5, 2009 um 9:14 am

Wonderful post, so warm and familiar. It was just what I needed to read and see on such a cold day.

Rosa's Yummy Yums January 5, 2009 um 9:16 am

Your brioche looks very pretty and absolutely delicious!



Anonymous January 5, 2009 um 10:07 am

gorgeous helen! happy new year!

Marija January 5, 2009 um 10:11 am

Such a warm, beautiful post. Brioches are wonderful!

Chocolate Shavings January 5, 2009 um 11:22 am

I would gladly enjoy one of these for breakfast right now! Happy new year, all the best for the year to come. I’m looking forward to your new baking adventures for 2009!

Chocolate Shavings January 5, 2009 um 11:22 am

I would gladly enjoy one of these for breakfast right now! Happy new year, all the best for the year to come. I’m looking forward to your new baking adventures for 2009!

Cannelle Et Vanille January 5, 2009 um 12:20 pm

yes, this galette and some champagne would do right about now. that’s what i call breakfast with style, just like my grandfather would do. beautiful helen!

Anonymous January 5, 2009 um 12:39 pm

beautiful food as always!!

The kumquats look lovely, must try that out.

Anonymous January 5, 2009 um 12:45 pm

I had galette des rois a few days after Christmas *LOL* Just love it!
The brioches are coloruful 🙂

Anonymous January 5, 2009 um 1:13 pm

January 6th is our "little Christmas" and is celebrated with the appearance of La Befana..the nice witch who brings presents! We also have cenci or honey cakes!

I love your epiphany cake. Very pretty and your photos are gorgeous as usual 🙂

Anonymous January 5, 2009 um 1:13 pm

What a fun tradition. Those brioches look delicious and I don’t mind some with tea right now!

Manggy January 5, 2009 um 1:16 pm

Aww, I just love it when you share these memories! Thanks for sharing… cheater! Heh heh heh 😉
The crown is lovely in its bejeweled-ness. Much more colorful than the original paper one for the galette!

Rachael Hutchings January 5, 2009 um 1:50 pm

Oh yum, yum, yum! And can I say that I just LOVE story time chez Tartelette? Is there anything I could substitute in place of the orange blossom flower water?

LizNoVeggieGirl January 5, 2009 um 1:51 pm

Love the memories and history!! And I love the Brioche des Rois as well, of course 🙂

Aparna Balasubramanian January 5, 2009 um 2:01 pm

First of all, A very happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year to you.

King cakes were something I discovered sometime last year and I was astonished at the variations!
Your brioche is something I haven’t seen before.

Sara January 5, 2009 um 2:16 pm

Beautiful as always! I usually get pounds and pounds of kumquats from my grandmother’s tree during the winter, I’ll have to candy some of them.

kayenne January 5, 2009 um 2:20 pm

i envy the kumquats! they look so enticing!

Catherine Wilkinson January 5, 2009 um 2:42 pm

Kumquat love! They are sorely misunderstood! Little jewels and great photos. I love them!

Char January 5, 2009 um 3:03 pm

Living in Alabama, I’m quite familar with the King’s cakes but never ones as lovely as these. My mouth is watering as I think about a lovely slice with my morning coffee.

Clumbsy Cookie January 5, 2009 um 3:06 pm

We have a very similar Brioche de Rois here in Portugal, it’s traditionally eaten tomorrow and besides candied fruit it has dried fruits and sometimes candied eggs on top. It also used to have a small gift and the fava bean. Whoever got the bean should buy the next cake. But food authorities have forbideen both couple of yeas ago. Bummers! You’s look beautiful!

Joyce January 5, 2009 um 3:48 pm

A very wonderful post and a beautiful brioche! Hugs…

Lori January 5, 2009 um 3:59 pm

Despite not liking kumquats, I find myself wanting to reach into the bowl of candied kumquats and have a bite! Why? Because you are the grande food enticer! Beautiful Helen!

montague January 5, 2009 um 4:29 pm

they look so amazing!! and i love those little candied kumquats!

Snooky doodle January 5, 2009 um 4:34 pm

wow these look so so nice! I really like them 🙂 I love the candied Kumquats too 🙂

Cookie baker Lynn January 5, 2009 um 4:38 pm

Beautiful and fit for a king! I love the candied kumquats.

Happy New Year!

Anonymous January 5, 2009 um 5:03 pm

Tes photos sont superbes, ta manière de raconter absolument géniale et je suis sûre ta brioche délicieuse. Je vais d’ailleurs faire ta recette dès ce soir. Merci, c’est un vrai plaisir de te lire.

Rita January 5, 2009 um 5:24 pm

The brioche de rois is lovely, I see them in pastry shops in Brazil. Sometimes they make it in a ring shape too. We celebrate Kings day on Jan 5.

cindy* January 5, 2009 um 5:51 pm

what a fun post helen. everything looks lovely!

The Short (dis)Order Cook January 5, 2009 um 6:24 pm

I like the idea of actually eating something like this on Dec. 6. It extends the holiday season a bit.

Anonymous January 5, 2009 um 6:51 pm

The Kumquats are lovely. 🙂 You could also use them to make tea. It is good when catching a cold.

Helene January 5, 2009 um 8:29 pm

Thank you everyone!

FM: you can use orange juice instead.

To clarify things: we do it this on January 6th…but tomorrow I won’t be around to post and friday I had some extra time to work on yeasted dough so I made the brioche.

Yes, kumquats are good in all sorts of things, tea for sure but more so if you infuse the leaves with the water and fruit.

PAM January 5, 2009 um 8:58 pm

I love traditions and you write about yours so well. I have a kumquat tree in my back yard and picked all the fruit off a couple of days ago to candy them too. Love em plain or candied!!

NOT SO VANILLA January 5, 2009 um 9:32 pm

Love the brioche! i found the first blood oranges where I live yesterday in the store. I cannot wait to use them. I thought marmalade but perhaps now I might brainstorm some more. If you have any ideas I would soooooooo appreciate it!

Anonymous January 5, 2009 um 10:03 pm

So beautiful! And wonderful to learn about other cultures' traditions. I have a Mexican version of King’s cake rising right now.

That Girl January 5, 2009 um 10:16 pm

It’s nice that B gets to play King once a year.

Cakebrain January 5, 2009 um 10:54 pm

Oh! how beautiful! those do look like jewels on a crown!

Cakebrain January 5, 2009 um 10:54 pm

Oh! how beautiful! those do look like jewels on a crown!

Cakebrain January 5, 2009 um 10:54 pm

Oh! how beautiful! those do look like jewels on a crown!

Dewi January 5, 2009 um 11:09 pm

Aaaah, it’s always inspiring every time I visit your blog, Helen!

Anita January 5, 2009 um 11:57 pm

so pretty! I made galette de rois once, but it was so much work! And nervewracking to cut the spiral pattern on top correctly! I think these brioches may be more up my alley!

Barbara January 6, 2009 um 12:42 am

What a charming tradition. Happy New Year Helene.

Anonymous January 6, 2009 um 2:18 am

Delicious and beautiful! I love reading about the tradition and lovely memories.

Christy January 6, 2009 um 3:12 am

You eat kumquats whole??!!! I thought they were supposed to be sour and bitter!! Well, I suppose it is as you say, an acquired taste. But they look so cute it’s quite tempting not to eat them whole, eh? I know how you feel…

Those brioche…couronne des rois is a very new term for me—I heard it about 2 minutes ago while reading through your post, but I sure can get used to it!!

Hayley January 6, 2009 um 3:29 am

Looks great! I love love love brioche!!!

Manger La Ville January 6, 2009 um 4:32 am

I went to a French school and La galette de rois was such a big deal. who ever got the trinket was the king and queen for the day but got to a pick another person to rule with. Lots of gossip. I have such fond memories of almondy goodness

Elle January 6, 2009 um 4:42 am

They do look like jewels! Great way to celebrate the last day of the Christmas season.

Beachlover January 6, 2009 um 4:59 am

we chinese love kumquats especially chinese new year,believe it’s bring properity and your photo as always..Happy New Year to you and family!!

Mallory Elise January 6, 2009 um 6:06 am

pretty pretty pretty. you’re so revolutionary. TONIGHT i made a boring old regular galette des rois for my favorite ignant americans, after the macarons ive been shoving down their throats i received many comments of "hmmm, seems the french like to bake with almonds a lot, it’s all you ever use!"

Sunshinemom January 6, 2009 um 9:59 am

Divine as always! I really enjoyed this post for the information about your traditions. This was new to me!

Anonymous January 6, 2009 um 10:00 am

Oh woooww brilliant!!! Your brioches look divine and heavenly yuummmmmm. Happy eating in 2009!

Anonymous January 6, 2009 um 12:17 pm

Hi, I sent you an email on 29 dec i had a question about the chocolate yule log but i do not receive any news from you do you get it?

Deeba PAB January 6, 2009 um 1:00 pm

Beautiful tradition & gorgoeus post…eye candy, as always!! Thank you Helen!

Helene January 6, 2009 um 2:14 pm

Anis: I just checked my inbox and it does not look like it made it. If you don’t mind sending it again, I’d be happy to answer.

Aimée January 6, 2009 um 2:42 pm

Beautiful tradition, Helen. These look superior to any brioche I have had! I can’t wait for blood oranges, either!

Anonymous January 6, 2009 um 3:07 pm

Just went to read the column…bravo! Right above Mark Bittman…now that is something, ahahah!!!

The brioche looks divine! Honey, B. knows he is the King of his castle…no need to repeat that!

Bonbon Oiseau January 6, 2009 um 5:45 pm

oh! these are just so pretty helen! love anything candies…happy new year to you and thank you for your never-ending support!
xoxo, deb

zorra January 6, 2009 um 5:58 pm

Thank you for letting us no your family tradtion and for the wonderful Brioche des Rois!

Anonymous January 6, 2009 um 6:04 pm

Ah la brioche des rois….on en a mange une ce matin. La galette c’est aussi tres bon mais rien ne vaux une faite maison!

Anonymous January 6, 2009 um 6:46 pm

sure i don t mind please find hereafter the text of message " splendide!!! a little question please if you prepare the chocolate log in advance at what time do you pour over it the dark chocolate icing and once done can you return it back to the freezer will it remain shiny? thanks a lot in advance for your kind answer

Mike of Mike's Table January 6, 2009 um 9:39 pm

That’s a great tradition and this brioche is a real beauty! I’ve been meaning to give kumquats another chance and this seems like a great way to enjoy them

Suzana January 6, 2009 um 10:41 pm

Happy Epiphany Day! As much as I like Galette des Rois, this Couronne sounds perfect for the VERY cold days we’re having around Europe – wonderful with a cup of tea!

Have a gorgeous year, Helen! 🙂

Unknown January 6, 2009 um 11:10 pm

hi, there. I’ve never commented before but I love your blog. I love it so much that I nominated it for a 2009 Bloggie award:)

CY Phang January 7, 2009 um 2:45 am

THanks for visiting my blog. Your pictures in flickr have been inspiring too…Love your baking!

Helene January 7, 2009 um 3:40 am

Anis: for the chocolate log, I’d recommend pouring the icing the same day you plan to serve it or the day before and keep it in the fridge. If you wish to freeze the log, the icing will remain shiny if you let it freeze uncovered first, then once really hard, cover it with plastic and remove the plastic before you let it thaw. I would not keep it in the freezer longer than 3 days as moisture will start attacking the glaze.

test it comm January 7, 2009 um 3:48 am

The brioche looks good. I like the colourful toppings.

CY Phang January 7, 2009 um 3:54 am

Just also like to let you know that I’ve "borrowed" your blog name’s style(Tarlette), with two photos on the left and wordings in the middle. Check my blog title…

Hope it’s okay…thanks!

Half Baked January 7, 2009 um 3:55 am

what a lovely post! your brioche is gorgeous! I’ve got some kumquats I need to use. Now I think I know what I’ll be doing with them:)

Amy Esther January 7, 2009 um 5:49 am

That looks so pretty! All traditions that involve yummy food are a-okay in my book!

Anonymous January 7, 2009 um 5:59 am

Thanks for sharing. We were in Provence just last fall…still daydreaming about it. What an inspiring place!

Helene January 7, 2009 um 6:07 am

CY: yes! It is more than ok!! You crack me up! Your header is beautiful!

carolina @ patagonia gifts January 7, 2009 um 12:41 pm

Beautiful post, darling! Hope you had a wonderful Epiphany with those delicious brioches!

Anonymous January 7, 2009 um 1:10 pm

love your post :-)! … lol! Candied cumquats .. your too creative :-)! yum yum …

pigpigscorner January 7, 2009 um 1:27 pm

Nice tradition. The brioche looks really good!

Susan @ SGCC January 7, 2009 um 1:51 pm

Your Brioche des Rois look so lovely! The fruits do, indeed, look like little jewels. I will have to try making some candied kumquats. My little tree is brimming with them.

Catherine January 7, 2009 um 3:05 pm

Oh, they are beautiful with their glistening jewels! The kumquats are adorable- like doll sized oranges! Hopefully I’ll sumble across some this year, they look delicious and I bet homemade candied kumquats would be infinitely better than shop bought candied peel in this years christmas cake! (How can I be thinking about next christmas already?!)

Nic January 7, 2009 um 5:06 pm

I love reading about the old traditions. You have done this one proud with those beautiful brioche.

Anonymous January 7, 2009 um 7:16 pm

The pictures are so much fun with that play of black and white! The brioche are so tempting…yum!

Vera January 7, 2009 um 8:49 pm

Beautiful brioche, Helen!

Cakelaw January 7, 2009 um 10:49 pm

These are so cute! Love the fruit on top.

Audax January 8, 2009 um 12:32 am

Brioche and kumquats I love the combination and as always some of the best photos on the net. Happy NY to you from Australia and me (Audax)

Celeste January 8, 2009 um 2:59 am


Anonymous January 8, 2009 um 12:13 pm

many thanks for the answer with all these details

Anonymous January 8, 2009 um 6:34 pm

They look wonderful! I’ve been thinking about trying to make brioche. Your food photography is also really nice–I love the feel.

Anonymous January 9, 2009 um 1:52 am

Thank you so much for the recipe fot the candied kumquats. I can’t wait to try them out, a perfect garnish for winter!

Eileen January 10, 2009 um 2:00 am

How lovely, Helen. Beautiful photos.

Anonymous January 10, 2009 um 3:13 am

Those kumquat photos are stunning. I love your blog. I am now subscribing. Thanks for visiting Frolic!

Nat January 11, 2009 um 10:48 am

It looks great! I have featured them on my blogs' weekly baking round up. A lovely story too!

Susan from Food Blogga January 11, 2009 um 3:21 pm

Yay! It’s kumquat season, again! These are so precious, Helen. I only wish I had one with my hot mug of coffee right now.

limonana January 12, 2009 um 4:18 am

you never fail to amaze me with your amazing creations…

Rémy Robert January 30, 2009 um 2:42 pm

I LOVE galette des rois. I recently wrote a blog entry on a truly fantastic one I bought here in New Orleans at a French bakery. This brioche version looks yummy… although try as I might, I can’t bring myself to even remotely enjoy candied fruits.

Anonymous February 24, 2009 um 9:03 pm


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