Nougats Silvain Sweet Treats in Provence
Anyone who knows me will tell you I have a sweet tooth, the fridge always has a few little treats in it, there’s inevitably a great supply of chocolate in the house and of course, ice creams in the freezer. I have been known in the family, as ‘the fridge monster’, as nibbles and chunks regularly disappear from anything on the shelves, as if there is a little gremlin, hiding behind the healthy stuff, intent on keeping its sugar levels up! Continue reading here for more on Julie’s visit to the Silvain Nougat Factory in Saint Didier.
SILVAIN Paysans Nougatiers (website)
4 Place Neuve,
Open daily 10h-12h and 14h-18h
The Nougats Silvain company story is also a family story. Six generations of this Provencal family farmed continuously near Saint Didier, where the primary crops included grapes and almonds, and beehives for honey. Market demands (or lack of) in the 1980s necessitated a change of direction, and the family commercialized their great-grandmother Henriette’s recipe for black nougat (nougat noir). Using local almonds and honey they created their signature nougat similar to versions produced in Montelimar further north in Provence.
The product line has expanded and includes both white and black nougat, honey, chocolates, calisson and energy bars. If you are in Sant Didier, visit the factory and tea room.
Christmas 13 Desserts
Following midnight mass on Christmas Eve, it is time for the 13 desserts. The amount has nothing to do with a baker’s dozen but is equal to the number of participants around the table at the Last Supper; Jesus and his 12 apostles. The exact make-up of les treize desserts is not prescriptive. However, the sweets generally fall into four categories: dried fruit and nuts, fresh seasonal fruit, fruit preserved in sugar syrup and sweetened bread.
Several religious orders of monks (Augustin, Carmelites, Dominicans and Franciscans) were prevalent during the Middle Ages in Provence. “The four beggars” are represented by dried fruit (figs, raisins, apricots) and nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts).
Two kinds of nougat (black and white) are typically found in the dessert mix to symbolise good and evil. The black nougat is made with local almonds and honey and tends to be quite hard. The white version has hazelnuts and pistachios; it is generally softer but sticky. As a note, these delicious sweet treats can be rough on your teeth, so small bites are a reasonable precaution.
Candied fruits may include the Calisson d’Aix (a local speciality with candied melon and almonds a little like marzipan), fruit preserved in syrup or fruit jellies and pastes.