Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Christmas Sweets and Treats – Sugared Almonds

Sugared Almonds may have been the first sweets in history and were a favourite of the Romans. Almonds are the seeds of a tree closely related to the peach and the plum. They were first cultivated in Europe by the Greeks and are mentioned frequently in the Old Testament. In France the towns of Metz, Nancy, Paris, Verdun and Toulouse are famous for their sugared almonds. In the 15th century, Marguerite of Burgundy, distributed sugared almonds to the common people at her wedding to Guillaume IV.

The typical sugared almond is made up of an inner core called "anima" (soul), consisting of a shelled, peeled whole almond which is then coated with layers of sugar through several soakings. Sugared Almonds are known as dragée (from the Greek meaning sweets) and these are confectionery that can be used for decorative and symbolic purposes as well as tasting delicious! Dragée are traditionally associated with weddings and special celebrations. Throwing or handing out dragée at such occasions has nowadays been replaced by confetti and in the past they were meant to ensure prosperity, fertility, happiness, and good luck.

You can actually make your own Sugared Almonds:

100 ml sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of freshly grated nutmegpinch of salt
1 egg white
1 ½ tbsp water
300 grams whole almonds

Mix sugar, spices and salt in a bowl. Whisk the egg white with the water, add to the spice mixture together with almonds. Mix thoroughly, then spread the mixture on a cooking tray that has been covered with grease proof paper. Roast at 150˚C for about 30 mins.

These are lovely with a Sauternes – try Château de Sainte Hélène – it's sweet tangerine and apricot flavours are perfect with desserts, crystallised fruits, sweets, nuts and chocolate!

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