There are more than yule logs to enjoy this time of year. The many corners of France also have their own delicious, customary desserts. This sweet tour goes off the beaten path to whet your appetite for the festivities to come.
"Cougnou" in the North
What lurks behind this odd name is an oblong brioche that is also known as a "coquille" or "Jesus loaf", studded with raisins or chocolate and topped with pearl sugar. In the pastry tradition, it is frequently enjoyed in the morning, especially on St. Nicholas Day or Christmas, with a mug of hot chocolate. Unless you're the last one out of bed...
Another region, another specialty. In eastern France, these dainty sugar cookies are sold at all the Christmas markets. Flavored with green anise, butter, almonds, cinnamon, hazelnuts... the many varieties are legion. In truth, there are as many recipes as families, as each passes down its special tricks so that, come November, they can turn out batches of homemade "bredele" to store in vintage cookie tins. A delight!
Pink praline tart from Lyon
Whether a Lyonnais for a day or for life, it would be inconceivable not to savor this tart shell filled with a mixture of crushed or chopped pink pralines and finished with a dollop of crème fraîche. The result is "tarte aux pralines roses", a stunning bright pink dessert whose crisp but yielding texture is addictive.
"Rézules" in Savoie
Bugnes, chichi, merveilles, oreillettes... France has plenty of names for its artful fritters. In Savoie they are called "rézules" or "rissoles". These are small hand pies made with flaky pastry dough and traditionally filled with pureed pears, prunes, apples or quince before they are fried (or "rissoler" in French, hence the name), then sprinkled with powdered sugar to be enjoyed warm.
The 13 desserts of Provence
In a culinary nod to the Last Supper of Christ with his 12 apostles, the tradition of 13 desserts lives on in the towns and villages of Provence. During the holidays, meals conclude with a parade of white, black and red nougat (made with rose and pistachio), candied fruits, fresh dates, watermelon, dried figs, walnuts, almonds, raisins, Aix calissons (a treat featuring candied fruits and almonds) and a loaf of brioche scented with orange blossom water known as "pompe à huile". What a sweet way to usher in a new year!