Paris Pâtissier Offers a Diamond for Epiphany

This New Year could prove a jewel for some lucky punter who gets in line for a very special Galette des Rois (Epiphany pastry) on sale at Olivier and Isabelle Guérin’s Paris boulanger-pâtissier (Boulangerie de la Gare, Andrésy, Yvelines 78700).

Paris pâtissier bakes in a 2000 euro diamond to celebrate Day of the Kings this New Year

For, determined to celebrate the pastry shop’s third and toughest anniversary in style, the enterprising couple have baked a Galette where the traditional fève or bean is replaced by a diamond worth €2200 supplied by the bakery’s jeweller partner in the promotion the nearby Parrenin Bijoutier (Rue Maurice Berteaux, Conflans-Sainte-Honorine).

The Guérin’s told Le Parisien that in the one of the 400 or so galettes they will put on sale at their bakery over the January 8th-9th weekend – the traditional date for the Epiphany celebration — will be a marker entitling the lucky buyer to a 0.5 carat diamond valued at more than two thousand Euros.

The couple said the glittering lucky bean could be in any of the wide range of different sized Galettes they bake, from the €5.40 two-portion Galette to a family-sized 8 portion pastry costing €21.60.  “People say for any new business, the third year is the toughest. So we wanted to thank our loyal customers this Epiphany. First we thought about offering a small gold bar in a pastry, and then we thought some more and decided a diamond baked into a Galette was unheard of. We approached our neighbours the Parrenin Bijoutier who were happy to partner us in this promotion,” the baker said.

And for those who don’t like the marzipan and puff pastry delicacy? Well says Olivier Guérin we value all our customers so those who don’t want a Galette des Rois can take part in a lucky draw — with no obligation to buy a Galette — and the prize will be a 0.10 carat diamond worth €270.

Epiphany, a Christian feastday falls on January 6 or, in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, on the Sunday between January 2 and January 8.  On January 6 , the (Day of Kings as it is known across the strongly Roman Catholic Iberian peninsular), the French tradition is to bake a marzipan pastry in different sizes which is traditionally eaten to celebrate the day. Epiphany marks the arrival of the Magi – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar who, as the Christmas story tells, came to Bethlehem, guided by a star. Melchior brought gold, Balthazar myrrh and Caspar frankincense. On the Twelfth Night after Christmas when in some countries Christmas decorations and cards are supposed to be taken down lest bad luck befall, the Galette des Rois in which the bean is hidden, offers the finder the opportunity to be styled King of the Feast day with the right to choose his Queen (or vice versa).

In other times the pastries contained porcelain and precious metal beans (these appeared in 1870) an echo of the gifts from the Magi. These beans have become true collectors items for “fabophiles”.

Collection of porcelain beans at Musée de la Fève in Blain

There is also a special collections of beans and cribs in the municipal museum at Blain between Saint-Nazaire and Nantes  —  Musée de la Fève et de la Crèche à Blain (Museum of the Broad Bean, the Crib and Popular Traditions, 2 Place Jean Guihard, 44130 Blain Tel: 02 40 79 98 51). Unsurprisingly the tradition has pagan origins, and in the 16th century, the Catholic Church condemned the pagan festival. Indeed Louis XIV outlawed the celebration which he saw as lese-majeste! However once the Concordat was enacted in 1801 the feast day of Epiphany was again restored to January 6 enabling the marzipan pastry tradition to flourish.  
See video account in French and the baker’s shop here.

Meanwhile what is New Year without champagne and for the discerning, champagne requires the proper accoutrements.

On ice for the New Year, but do you know which glass to choose? Photo credit: Domaine Chandon

So should you sip your champers in a flute or a glass?  The flute is too narrow say some sommeliers and results in the bubbles tickling your nose so masking flavours.  The normal wine glass is too wide, letting the bubbles escape on each side of your nose. So to taste champagne  professionals recommend instead a specially created champagne glass, a tulip-shaped vessel elongated like the flute, but rounded in the middle.

For the Swede Andreas Larsson, voted (to the chagrin of La France) best sommelier in the world in 2007: “the best glass is a kind of flute with a slightly wider body and a narrow opening that enhances the taste and aroma.”
Philippe Jamesse, sommelier at Crayères, a gourmet restaurant in Reims, the champagne capital of Europe, has developed four specially crafted types of champagne glass made specifically for the restaurant by a glassworks in the region.   Jamesse told AFP, the French news agency, he favours a rounded glass that will allow the bubbles to follow a pathway towards the nose — the “path of the excitement” that starts from the bottom of the glass.  The middle part of his special glass is as wide as a wine glass to “develop the aroma”.  These flavours need to be “re-concentrated at the surface of the nose”.

Thus  properly to appreciate your New Year champagne you should know that it is “the effervescent excitement that carries the true champagne flavours and these follow the contours of the glass itself”

For this New Year to be special you will of course now ensure you serve your champagne in something that is a “compromise between a flute and a wine glass”, or, in silence, suffer real ignominy!

Story: Ken Pottinger

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