I took a trip back to Blighty after Christmas to visit ma belle-fille. On such a slight explanation, I would forgive you for wondering if this was my daughter-in-law or my stepdaughter. The French do not differentiate, so I leave you to ponder. She had loads of exciting projects for 2024 and was eager to get Christmas out of the way. There was an awkward conversation with my son on New Year’s Eve. This gentle reader is when you have your epiphany and surmise that she is my daughter-in-law. In the French language, context is everything. She wanted to take down the Christmas tree; we all thought it premature. Having made the mistake of discussing this first, she gave way. Early the following day, the tree came down while the rest of the family was still getting dressed. It’s easier to obtain forgiveness than permission.

The English take Christmas decorations down on January 6th. In France, Épiphanie is better known as la fête des rois, and the locals are more concerned with baking galettes des rois. These are delicious puff pastry and almond tarts decorated with une couronne. Hidden inside the almond paste filling is a small porcelain figure. Traditionally, the representation is baby Jesus, but it’s equally likely to be a Disney character. If your slice of galette des rois contains this tooth hazard, they crown you king or queen for the day.

Couronne bordelaise. Bordeaux crown — a circular loafI like baking, but pâte feuilleté (puff pastry) is too much faff, so I make a couronne bordelaise, a tear-and-share loaf shaped like a crown. Use your usual bread roll recipe. After the first rising, divide your dough into equal roll-sized portions and set all but one aside. Roll this one out until it looks like a mini pizza base. Slide a small egg cup under the rising cloth and drape your flattened dough over it. Arrange the remaining rolls around it in a circle so each dough ball rests on the edge of the circle of dough. Now comes the fun bit. Take the sharpest knife you can find. I use my trusty opinel. Cut the dough from the centre to a joint between two dough balls. When you have done this all around, peel back the little triangles of dough and press them onto the dough ball with a wet finger. Leave for the second rising, then bake.

  • Belle-fille. Daughter-in-law or stepdaughter. This ambiguity extends to other relations, such as belle-mère.
  • La fête des rois. Epiphany, January 6th.
  • Galettes des rois. Sweet pastry made with puff pastry and marzipan. Eaten on January 6th.
  • Couronne. Crown.
  • Couronne bordelaise. Bordeaux crown — a circular loaf.
  • Pâte feuilleté. Puff pastry.
  • Opinel. A folding knife.