Finding ways to give, even after the holidays | Food column

Galette des Rois, or Kings Cake, is a popular French cake that celebrates the holiday of  Epiphany, held in January, the day when the three kings visited baby Jesus. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Galette des Rois, or Kings Cake, is a popular French cake that celebrates the holiday of Epiphany, held in January, the day when the three kings visited baby Jesus.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

Just because Christmas and Thanksgiving are over does not meant the season of giving is over.

Thurgood Marshall was an American jurist and the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Before becoming a judge, he was a lawyer best remembered for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown vs. the Board of Education. He was nominated to the court by President Lynden Johnson in 1967.

In Seattle we have an elementary school named Thurgood Marshall Elementary, where many great things are happening. Thurgood is the school that your elementary-aged child would attend if they tested into the highly gifted program. This is also a diversified public school with many different nationalities and religious beliefs all congregating in the same building to embrace education and equality. Our friend, Sophie, has a son who attends this school.

By January many people feel that giving is over, and are tired out, and many fundraising organizations are just starting up with their annual campaigns and auctions. Christmas, Kwanzaa and Chanukah are over. We are tired of putting away our holiday decorations, but not Sophie. She started a one-woman campaign: 12 months of giving with Thurgood Marshall Elementary. Sophie is no stranger to the act of giving. She and several other very strong-willed women started the library at the SJCC on Mercer Island and various other fundraising projects at the French-American School on Mercer Island.

Sophie’s children attend public school at Thurgood Marshall. While Sophie was standing with the lunch lady one Monday, she noticed that some children were taking two and three breakfasts. Sophie could not believe her eyes. She asked the lunch lady. “Why are these children taking so much food?” The reply was simply, “This is the first meal that these children have eaten since Friday lunch line.” Eighty percent of the student population at TGM receives free or assisted meal programs. Sophie could not believe that children would go home hungry for an entire weekend. While Sophie was being faced with such poignant and visual data, she knew that there had to be a solution. With the help of a school counselor and the kindness of the school custodian, a closet space was granted. After a trip to Home Depot and a few hours of assembly, they had “Tutu’s Pantry.”

On Friday afternoon each child who is on meal assistance receives a backpack filled with food to take home for the weekend. If the backpack is given to the child, there is a higher likelihood that the child and their family will actually receive the food. On Monday morning the child returns to school with the empty backpack ready to be refilled for the following Friday.

The question arose, “How do we stock the pantry shelves?” An internal rotation program was established so that each week a different class takes charge of filling the shelves the best that they can. The local food bank and private donations help supply the shelves.

Since Sophie is French, this very fitting recipe for January is a Galette des Rois — translated from French for “Kings Cake.” This is an almond-filled sandwich between rounds of puff pastry to make this splendid cake with a secret inside. This is a popular French cake that celebrates the holiday of Epiphany (January) — the day that the three kings visited baby Jesus. As part of the French tradition, a bean or small ceramic crown is hidden in the cake. The person who finds the crown is the king or queen for the day.

Galette des Rois (Kings Cake)

2 sheets of puff pastry (you can find this in the freezer section of your market)

½ cup of ground almonds

1/3 cup white sugar

1 egg

¼ cup softened butter

Several drops of almond extract (to taste)

Several drops of vanilla extract (to taste)

1 yoke of an egg to gloss

Small ceramic crown (if you do not have one, a broad bean will do)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Roll out one sheet of pastry dough to an 11-inch square. Keep the pastry cool; do not knead or stretch. Use a large pie plate or cake pan to trace an 11-inch circle onto the dough, using the tip of a small knife. Place the circle of pastry onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry. Refrigerate both sheets. Mix in a bowl all the ingredients — ground almonds, sugar, egg, softened butter and both extracts.

Spread the contents of the bowl onto the puff pastry; place the crown or bean. Leave a half inch around the edges of the pastry.

Moisten the edge of the pastry with a little water, then place the second sheet of puff pastry, making sure that you nip the edge to seal the two sheets together.

Pierce the top pastry with a couple of small holes to let out the trapped air as it bakes. Paint the top with the egg yolk diluted with a little bit of water.

Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Do not open the oven until the time is up, as the pastry will not fully puff. Remove from the oven; dust the top with confectioners sugar. Return to the oven, and cook an additional 12-15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Continue giving

If you would like to contribute to “Tutu’s Pantry,” you may do so through the PTA at Thurgood Marshall or contact Sophie at


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