Provence is world renowned for its superb food, the location of this French region is ideal for producing some of the best raw ingredients in the whole of France. Provence is also widely known for its traditional rustic cuisine and that is one of its best attributes. However, Provence can also produce some stunning dishes, especially desserts. And at Christmas the bar is really raised high and here are some of the seasonal specialties that this wonderful region produces.
This is a French classic and not just made in Provence but is one of the thirteen traditional desserts that usually are served on Christmas Eve. Strictly not a dessert, pain d’epicesis rather a bread and normally sold in loaves. Sometimes bakers make giant slabs of this traditional seasonal bread and cut squares off to their customers. What typifies this bread from any other is the additional liberal amounts of honey, which makes the bread not just sweet but succulent.
If you eat any candy in Provence around Christmas time, it has to be the marvelous Calisson. This treat made from ground almonds is packed with a fruit paste and the whole thing is covered in a delicate layer of royal icing. Similar to other marzipan sweets that are popular during the festive season, the flavors remind you of Christmas and the pleasure of giving and receiving presents.
Pate de Coing
Pate de Coingis basically a delicious paste made from quince. Quince is a famous fruit to eat at Christmas and is a sort of mix between apples and pears. There are several variations of this festive treat, some are set like a jelly whilst others are formed into squares and sprinkled with caster sugar. Pate de Coing is the perfect accompaniment to eat with dried fruits as it brings a tangy moisture to the often overly sweet candied fruits.
Fougasse a l’Huile
Sometimes known as pompe a l’huile this flat cake normally is the final dessert that is served on Christmas Eve. Fourgasse a l’huile is primarily made from olive oil, orange flower water, lemon and orange zest. The olive oil keeps the cake moist and traditionally the cake is torn by hand, actually it is bad form to actually cut it. The traditional accompaniment to this rich Christmas cake is a type of mulled wine, which the cake is first dipped into then gobbled up as fast as possible.
In Provence at Christmas every table will offer beggar desserts, which are simply nuts and dried fruits. The unusual name comes from the four orders of religious friars, namely Augustians, Carmelites, Franciscans, and Dominicans. And each order is represented by either a type of nut or dried fruit. In order they are hazelnuts, almonds, dried figs, and raisins. Why these foods represent these particular orders is quite a mystery but that is the fun of it all. All-in-all eating desserts in Provence at Christmas is quite a wonderful thing, and especially when you know the history behind it all.