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Sweet Traditions

Posted on 28 July 2015 by

Sweet Traditions

Home of gastronomy and great restaurants, France also has dozens of sugary specialties. From candied chestnuts to Calissons we take a tour of France’s top ten traditional sweets and find out where to taste them.

1/ Salted Butter Caramels

This classic caramel sweet made with lashings of the creamy local butter, has been popular with Breton families for generations. Seasoned with best quality fleur de sel, which is the finest quality salt creamed from the top of the region’s salt pans, modern recipes include the addition of chocolate, vanilla or walnuts.

Best place to taste? Try La Maison d’Armorine (maison-armorine.com), a charming vintage store facing Quiberon’s seafront that’s been selling these treats for decades.

2/ Candied chestnuts

Best French Desserts - candied chestnuts

Since the Ardeche region is famed for its forests full of chestnut trees, it’s no surprise to learn that France’s famed marrons glaces (candied chestnuts) were invented here. Notoriously difficult to make, the original recipe for these sugar-syrup-coated chestnuts was brought to France by soldiers returning from The Crusades, but the current recipe is generally credited to 19th century engineer, Clément Faugier.

Best place to taste? In business since 1907, Marrons Glaces Sabaton (www.sabaton.fr) is the best place to sample marrons glaces and other chestnut delights.

3/ Berlingots from Nantes

These cylindrical sweets made of boiled sugar, and flavoured with everything from blackcurrant, to mint or coffee, are said to have originated from an Italian recipe for a caramel sweet called a berlingozzo.

Best place to taste? Visit the Berlingot factory, then take a tour of the workshop and sample a wide range of different flavours at Confiserie Bonte (www.confiseriebonte.com)

4/ Sugar-coated Calissons

The best desserts in France - sugar-coated Calissons

A scrumptious blend of ground almonds and candied fruit topped with a layer of sugar-glazed pastry, the almond shaped Calisson was first made in the town Aix en Provence, but the recipe is thought to have originated in Venice in the 13th century.

Best place to taste? The Confiserie du Roy René (www.calisson.com) has been making these traditional sweets in Aix en Provence since the 1920s

5/ Nutty Nougat

The best desserts in France - nutty nougat

Said to derive its name from the French expression ‘tu nous gate’ meaning ‘you spoil us’, traditional nougat is made with honey, roasted nuts and egg whites. Brought to France from the Middle East, this creamy white speciality became popular in Montélimar in the 18th century when local farmer Olivier de Serres used almonds instead of walnuts to make it.

Best place to taste? In Montélimar, there are countless Nougatiers plying their ancient trade, but one of the best is Nougat Arnaud Soubeyran (www.nougatsoubeyran.com)

6/ Apple Sugar

Born from the region’s abundance of apple orchards, Rouen’s celebrated sweet made with sugar and apple puree dates back to the 16th century. Adored by Emperor Napoleon’s second wife, the Empress Marie Louise, these treats were originally shaped into sticky bars, but now they are sold as transparent sweets.

Best place to taste? Make a beeline for Boule de Gomme (www.bouledegomme.net/magasin) in Grand-Quevilly and fill your bags with apple sugar and other traditional local sweets.

7/ Cocon de Lyon

Designed to resemble the cocoons of worms bred to make the city’s silk, Lyon’s legendary Cocon sweets celebrate the history of this charming city which was once known as The Capital of Silk. Invented by local chef Jean Auberger in the 1950’s, these fluffy sweets are rolled in marzipan and stuffed with a nutty praline, and a dash of Curacao liqueur.

Best place to taste? An old fashioned sweet shop countless traditional local sweets, Vilolette et Berlingot (www.violette-berlingot.com) make the best Cocons in town.

8/ Candied Angelica

Brought to France by the knight’s Crusaders in the middle ages, the versatile angelica plant was used for centuries for therapeutic medicine and was even thought to cure the plague. Nuns who moved to the town of Niort brought the recipe for candied angelica with them and it rapidly became popular with the region’s sweet makers.

Best place to taste? Candied angelica sweets, as well as a wide range of liqueurs and other treats, are available at Angelique Niort (www.angelique-niort.com)

9/ Sweet Violettes

The pretty violet flower, which blossoms in spring, has been grown in the Midi region for centuries, but it wasn’t used by sweet makers until the 19th century, because it was so difficult to crystallize.

Best place to taste? Master sweet makers Michel Belin (www.michel-belin.com) are renowned for their Violettes de Toulouse.

10/ Vichy Pastilles

The best desserts in France - Vichy Pastilles

Named for the famous spa water that’s used to make them, Vichy pastilles were originally created by a French chemist in 1825 to cure tummy upsets. Famed for their octagonal shape and Vichy name, these days the flavoured pastilles are amongst France’s most popular sweets.

Best place to taste? For the ultimate Vichy experience, visit the pastilles factory (www.pastille-vichy.fr) in the heart of Vichy town, where these celebrated sugar candies have been made for more than a century.

Picture credits:

Salted chestnuts copyright: Margouillat Photo/Shutterstock.com | Sugar-coated Calissons copyright: Anna_Pustynnikova/Shutterstock.com | Vichy Pastilles copyright: Foodpictures/Shutterstock.com | Nutty Nougat copyright: AnjelikaGr/Shutterstock.com

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