December 26, 2016
Noël in Provence: 13 desserts
My favorite Christmas tradition here is the Provence 13 desserts de Noël. Anyone from around here knows which desserts make this list. They assemble the desserts together for the Christmas feast. We dedicated a table to them. I had been gathering them and planning for a few weeks in advance.
The 13 desserts are made up of an assortment of:
* Dried fruit and nuts: raisins, hazelnuts, dried figs, almonds, dates
* Fresh fruit: clementines, apples, melon
* Biscuits from Aix
* Pompe à l'huile (a sweet cake or brioche made with orange flower water and olive oil)
* Gibassier (a galette made with fruited olive oil, spiced with anise)
* Candied fruit (here melon and red peppers!)
* Calissons d'Aix (a marzipan-like candy made from almond paste and candied melon);
* Bûche de Noël (tradition chocolate yule log cake)
* Black nougat
* White nougat
There are whole markets dedicated to these desserts. People often order the cakes, biscuits and bûche from their local boulangeries. In the next town over, we found a divine boulangerie (if you are in the region: La Biscuiterie de Rognes: 6 Avenue d'Aix, 13840 Rognes). Full of beautiful things to eat (all year-round), more like lovely crafts than food. I ordered a few of the desserts from here and went to pick them up on Christmas Eve morning.
I love the tiles that lead into the bakery.
Another Christmas tradition in Provence: le Blé de la Sainte-Barbe. Xavier's cousin's wife, Karine, who lives in a nearby town and who has become a close friend, told me about many of these traditions and came over one day with two little bags of wheat seeds. To be planted on December 4 - the day of Sainte Barbe - the day that opens the advent season for the French. The seeds are to be planted and grown in cotton and placed on the table the day of Christmas festivities. They are symbolic of prosperity and if your grass has grown tall and green, your year will be a bountiful one.
The girls planted our seeds. This is the grass a few days after planting (fully grown in the windows below).
Getting the table ready (love our tablecloth gift from John). It was a good Christmas feast - we fed 13 people!