As it happens a lot nowadays in France, we do not limit eating la galette to only 6th January. You may well end up eating some for the whole month and maybe even until Mardi Gras. I found that out in my last year of high school in France when each day of January after the 6th, whoever had found the trinket the day before would bring a new cake to share in the classroom the following day. I know! What a hard student life!
I love eating la galette in its brioche version, and my favourite brioche type is challah bread (a Jewish braided bread) which I discovered when living in Australia. At the time, I would often long for French baked goods that were hard to find such as a good brioche that I could slice, toast and lather with butter for breakfast (the region where I am from in France, la Vendée, is famous for its amazing brioche so I do really miss it at times).
Eventually, as E. was rehearsing for a role in a play in Melbourne, we ended up learning about Jewish food traditions thanks to the lovely lady coaching him with the Yiddish words pronunciation. This led us to the wonderful Glick's bakery (they have a few bakeries in Melbourne) and also created a delicious addiction to challah bread for me as it became my new found brioche (oh and their potato blintzes are quite great too!).
So, for my galette des rois this year, I made an attempt at filling my challah bread crown with dark chocolate and pieces of spiced poached pears. And it worked pretty well! I tore a big chunk out (for tasting you know... it's important!) and it made for a delicious breakfast. After that, I eventually headed out to go and share it with friends before something would happen to the galette des rois (and by something, I do mean ending up all in my belly!). I could not find a trinket so we did without. My Irish friend had also made a galette des rois, which was really lovely (a puff pastry one filled with cinnamon apple and frangipane, miam!).
The recipe for this delicious spiced pear and chocolate challah bread is below. It has many steps but be patient, it is all worth it at the end!
Ingredients (make one large loaf, approximately 20 slices)
For the challah bread dough
250ml lukewarm water
7g active dry yeast
600g plain flour (plus extra to add if needed)
50g caster sugar (plus an extra pinch for the yeast mix)
2 teaspoons salt
2 free range eggs
1 free range egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)
60ml vegetable oil (plus extra for oiling the bowl)
For the spiced poached pears
1 litre water
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
4 tablespoons honey
2 peeled pears
For the chocolate spread
80g chopped dark chocolate (I used Lindt 80% which is dairy free)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Optional: sesame seeds for sprinkling
1. Put the lukewarm water in a jug. Mix in the yeast and a pinch of sugar and let it stand for a few minutes until a thin frothy layer forms at the surface (if it doesn't, your yeast might have expired - it might also not happen if the water is too cold or too hot).
2. Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large baking bowl. Make a well in the centre, add in the eggs, egg yolk and vegetable oil and whisk with a bit of the flour. Pour in the yeast mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is too thick to stir.
3. Transfer the dough on a floured large flat surface. Knead for 10 to 15 minutes, adding more flour one teaspoon at a time if the dough is too sticky. You should end up with a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and set aside somewhere warm until it has doubled in size (about 1 and a half to 2 hours).
Poach the pears (while the dough is rising, or could be made ahead the day before)
4. Put the water in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it starts boiling, reduce to a simmer. Stir in the honey and add the star anise and cinnamon stick. Place the pears in the saucepan and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until tender (check with a thin skewer, if it pierces through, it is tender). You can turn the pears on their other side half way through cooking if they stick out of the water a bit.
5. Take the pears out of the liquid, drain and let them cool down completely in a small sieve over a bowl. Cut the pears in small dice (discard the core) and set aside. (Note: you can continue cooking the poaching liquid until it has reduced by half to get a delicious syrup).
Prepare the chocolate spread (just before rolling the dough)
6. Fill one third of a small saucepan with water. Put over a low heat and bring the water to a simmer. Transfer the chopped dark chocolate and a teaspoon of vegetable oil into a heatproof bowl (it should be slightly bigger than the top of the saucepan). Place the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. This method for melting chocolate is called 'bain marie'.
8. Flatten each rope with a rolling pin so it is about 20 to 25cm wide (see 4th photo above). Divide the chocolate spread between the two pieces of dough (leaving some space around so it does not go everywhere when rolling) and divide the spiced poached pear pieces between the too (see 5th photo above). Roll each piece of dough delicately back into a long rope (see 5th photo above, rope on the left), pinch the dough together at the top and ends and make sure no filling peeks out.
9. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof baking paper. Place the two ropes side by side on the large flat surface (safely turning them so that the closed pinched side is down). Pinch them together at one end and twist the ropes together delicately. At this stage, you can choose to transfer to the large baking tray in order to turn your twisted challah dough ropes into a crown (because it is for la galette des rois you see!). Pinch the ends together so it forms one big closed crown (see 6th image above). Sprinkle a little bit of flour over the crown, cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
10. After 45 minutes in the rising time, preheat the oven to 180ºC. Prepare an egg wash by whisking the egg white and a teaspoon of cold water in a small bowl.
11. When the challah crown has risen, brush it all over with the egg wash. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on the top (optional). Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes (I use an electric oven so time may vary a bit depending on your oven), until it is golden brown and cooked through (check with a skewer). When cooked, transfer the challah crown onto a wire rack and let it cool down completely before serving.
- During the cooking time, some chocolate and pear pieces might ooze out of the bread in the centre. It's alright and delicious all the same!
- For serving, you can either tear out some pieces from the crown if you feel like eating one big chunk for yourself (it's fine by me!) or cut some thin slices to divide between a big group of friends.