Candied Almond Party Favors
You might receive a small package of French dragees (correctly spelt with an accent, dragées) as a party
favor if you attend a wedding, christening, or first communion celebration in France.
These hard, smooth, candy-coated almonds, which you may know as Jordan almonds
, have been popular at French celebrations for
hundreds of years. They are given to guests in a wish for good health, abundance, happiness, and fertility.
The First Dragees
It is said that more than 2000 years ago, a certain Julius Dragatus, a celebrated Roman candy maker, was
the first to have dipped almonds in honey, an important first step in the creation of the modern day dragée.
During the Middle Ages in Europe, dragées, which at the time designated a variety of candied fruits and
spices, were offered to guests at the end of a meal and were considered to help digestion and freshen the
Verdun, Dragee Capital
The city of Verdun, in the Lorraine region in the east of France, has been famous for its production of
dragées for hundreds of years. It is here that a 13th century druggist, looking for a way to preserve the
almonds that he used, had the idea to dip them in cooked sugar and honey. These French dragees, in addition
to being good for digestion and freshening the breath, were said to help prevent sterility and thus they
became popular at family events such as marriages and baptisms.
These days French dragees are carefully made according to a specific, detailed method. The almonds are first
roasted lightly to make them more crunchy and the sugar coating is added in several layers. The candy is
then smoothed to obtain the flawless surface that characterizes a dragée.
You can now find all sorts of variations on the traditional almond dragée:
- Different shapes: round, oval, flat.
- Chocolate, fruit jellies, and nougat instead of an almond for the filling.
- Different colors. White and pastel shades have long dominated the dragée market, but these days you can find them in all sorts of wild colors.
If you're hosting a party (perhaps a baby shower), you might want to consider:
- Sprinkling the table with dragées.
- Offering your guests a small package of dragées as a party favor. In France, people who were invited to a wedding, but were unable to attend, are often given a bundle of dragées by the hosts after the event.
- Decorating a cake with dragées. The elaborate cake called a croquembouche, made from cream puffs and held together by hardened caramel, is often decorated with dragées and served at French celebrations.
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