My own version of the 13 desserts of Provence this Christmas
The 13 Desserts of Provence
“The four beggars” or mediants/friars
- Raisins to represent the Domenicans
- Hazelnuts or Walnuts to represent the Augustines
- Dried figs to represent the Franciscans
- Almonds to represent the Carmelites
Pompe a l’huile – The Olive Oil Pump
Two types of nougat: black and white to represent good and evil.
Six remaining items of the 13 desserts of Provence
The six remaining items are made up of a selection of other fruits, nuts and pastries including any of the following items:
- Fresh fruit; white grapes, apples, pears, plums, mandarins, tangerines, orange (a sign of wealth)
- Quince paste or jam
- Green fleshed melon
- Dates or prunes, possibly stuffed with marzipan
- Candied fruits
- Light and dark fudge
- Calissons from Aix en Provence (a small diamond shaped marzipan pastry topped with hard icing)
- Biscotins also from Aix
- Pain d’epice or gingerbread
- Buche de Noel or Yule Log
- Casse-dents of Allauch biscuits (presumably hard as this translates as “break teeth”!)
A sweet dessert wine such as Beaumes-de-Venise would be served alongside the 13 desserts of Christmas.
Traditionally, an entire table would be heaving for a family to enjoy a little of each of the 13 desserts together; children are encouraged to name and taste all the items and might not be allowed to leave the table until they have done so. I have even read that the 13 desserts remain on the table for 3 days until December 27. However, my husband and I did not want to stuff ourselves silly on dried fruit and nuts so I have presented my version of the 13 desserts in a fairly minimal fashion, artfully arranged on a square plate alongside the fougasse. I feel this is more representative of the quantity one might feasibly eat after a large meal although it’s probably not in the spirit of having a burgeoning spread!
My version of the 13 desserts of Provence consists of (top to bottom, left to right):
1. Fresh clementine pieces
2. Quince paste (membrillo)
3. Four Almonds
4. Gingerbread studded with candied peel
5. Cumin and fennel seed sable biscuits
6. Date stuffed with marzipan
7. Grilled apricot decorated with star anise (you could splash these with Pastis too if you have any)
8. Dried fig
9. White nougat
10. Black “nougat”
11. Two caramelised walnuts
12. Raisins in milk chocolate infused with lavender
13. and of course the fougasse studded with dried cranberries
Many of these items require no more than an assembly job with the exception of:
- The raisins were melted in “New Tree” Lavender Chocolate available from Sainsburys. I apologise here for my uselessness at tempering chocolate;
- The walnuts were tossed in some palm sugar melted with a tablespoon or two of water;
- The fougasse, many many thanks to Claire at Things We Make (follow link for recipe)
- Black nougat, I struggled to find this and so melted down white nougat and added treacle and ground almonds.
- The gingerbread – as for the mini cupcake bases shown my previous post for gingerbread cupcakes.
- The sable biscuits are adapted from the Pistachio Sable biscuits in Delia’s Happy Christmas, recipe shown below:
Cumin and Fennel Seed Sable Biscuits
Makes around 25-30
Sable is French for “sand” and these yellow biscuits are made in both sweet and savoury versions. I have brought home tins of rosemary and thyme ones from biscuit “atelier”, Le Petit Duc in St Remy de Provence. These are flavoured with cumin and fennel after I read that savoury biscuits of this flavour were served as part of the 13 desserts.
15g shelled walnuts ground finely (I use a coffee grinder reserved for spices, seeds and nuts)
40g strong white flour, sifted
40g unsalted butter, diced
40g freshly grated parmesan
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
a pinch of salt
1. Tip all the ingredients in a medium size bowl and rub the mixture between your fingers in the same manner as if making shortcrust pastry. When well mixed into clumps bring the mixture together into an elongated ball.
2. Spread clingfilm across your worksurface. Roll your ball of sable mixture into a sausage shape around 20cm long and 5cm in diameter. Wrap the clingfilm around the sausage, this will help you form the shape without the mixture sticking to your hands.
3. Wrapped in film, chill the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 / 180c. After the log has chilled, slice it into discs around 3/4cm thick and spread them out well on a baking sheet. Keep them away from the edge though as they might burn there.
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until they start to go golden around the edges. When cooked, give them a few minutes to cool before transferring them to a wire rack. Store in an airtight tin. They might also be served with an aperitif.
Having enjoyed all these goodies, it is time to go to midnight mass in the little church at Les Baux de Provence by way of some further images from Jose Nicolas.
I will be taking a break from posting until the New Year. See you in 2010.
Chow and Chatter says
oh wow we stayed in Saint Remy a year ago and went to this town, and Arles its amazing there great desserts and wow I bet midnight mass would be awesome
Merry Christmas love Rebecca
This is outstanding, your collection of 13 desserts of Provence is wonderful. The photos are beautiful, St Remy is such a fabulous town.
Thank you for stopping by and I wish you and your family a wonderful Merry Christmas!
i have been drooling over your food photos since i came across your blog yesterday. lovely!
Kitchen Butterfly says
Fantastic job Sarah….and loved the history too. Thanks for also telling us about 'in the bag'! Lots of love, have a blessed holiday. Take care
faithy, the amateur baker says
Wow Sarah! thanks for all these information! I have absolutely no idea there are such a thing as 13 desserts of Provence, but now i know. 🙂 Wishing you & your family a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! I'll be missing your posts in the mean time..:(
What a lovely concept and interesting context! Too late for me to do this year, but noted for next…
Have a wonderful Christmas, and a fab 2010 – and I'll see you very soon!
Sarah, Maison Cupcake says
@chowandchatter St Remy is my favourite place on earth!
@bonjourromance Thank you, I am glad you stopped by
@kamana Welcome! Hope to see more of you here soon.
@kitchenbutterfly it is my first "in the bag", are you going to try it?
@faithy I'd not heard of it in all my visits there but then I've never been at Christmas! I'll be back in New Year, possibly on WordPress if I can sort it out.
Tracy @ Sugarcrafter says
Wow, each and every one of those desserts looks amazing! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!! 🙂
Deeba PAB says
What a wonderful post Sarah…it's so happening & intriguing. Love the 13 dessert line up, and love the idea of the savoury sables. WOW!
Happy holidays to you & your family my friend!
Nithya Praveen says
Awwwww wat a beautiful one:).First time here and i loved it.Each n every dessert looks fantastic.Happy Holidays to u n Merry Christmas:)
Sarah, Maison Cupcake says
@aforkful Definitely recommend you try it out, there's so much you can pick and choose from the list of stuff that can be included.
@sugarcrafter Happy Christmas to you too!
@DeebaPAB Thank you, I like the idea I have been intriguing!
@nithay Welcome! I hope you enjoy coming back for more in the new year!
Kitchen Butterfly says
I did turn my recipes to 'In the bag' so thanks for letting me know!
Morwenna Ellis-Philips says
Wow Sarah, this is a truly fantastic post! Thank you for introducing me to these wonderful traditions, all of which make me want to visit Provence even more! I felt as though I was about to nibble the desserts and then trundle off to the village for midnight mass! Thank you 🙂
Wishing you and your family a very merry Christmas
Barbara Bakes says
What a wonderful tradition and a great way to bring the true meaning of Christmas home! Enjoy your holidays!
Heavenly Housewife says
Beautiful post. Its so nice to see how people in different parts of the world celebrate tho holidays. I have never been to provence. Maybe next summer… hmmmm… this is a good idea…
Lovely recipies. I totally want that fougasse! I bet its amazing fresh out of the oven.
Anyway, wishing you and your family a wonderful and happy holiday.
Really interesting post Sarah, I've learnt a lot.
Merry Christmas, have a lovely time 🙂
Paris Pastry says
My, my, it's going to be hard picking a dessert!! I think I would choose the white & black nougat; I love nougat and I have never had black nougat before! Merry Christmas to you to!
Sarah, that's very interesting sharing about Provence and all the lovely desserts. I think I would choose all of them 😛
I love the look of the selection of deserts. The original 'taster plate'. I could quite fancy a sable biscuit now too. Glad you liked the Fougasse. I hope the dough wasn't 'too' sticky! Merry Christmas to you and the family. ClaireTweet x
Daily Spud says
Oh well done Sarah – I had no idea about the tradition of the 13 desserts and it looks like you've done a fine job on same. Have a lovely Christmas and will see you back in these parts in the New Year.
Lovely post Sarah, I like your 13 desserts of Provence! Wishing you and your family a very happy festive season.
All of these desserts look wonderful. Absolutely stunning. I hope you had a wonderful holiday!
These look incredibly good, and what a great idea for the 'In the Bag' challenge! Thanks so much for entering.
Julia @Mélanger says
I just love the sound of these 13 desserts. Wonderful!
Wonderful post and I learned so much. I love your choices of nibblies to make sure you get everything in. The fougasse is stunning!
I am in awe of your gorgeous collection of 13 very delicious desserts!! Presented beautifully.
I've never heard of the 13 desserts before. This is quite impressive!
I adore Arles – I went in 2002 and spent the most awesome 3 days around the town with two good friends. It still sticks out as one of the best places I've ever been.
Rosa's Yummy Yums says
What a gorgeous post! Everything looks lovely!
Best wishes for 2010!
I'd never heard of this idea of 13 desserts before – wonderful! And you were right – the sheep pictures are enchanting (as are the sable biscuits!). All the best for a fabulous 2010!