French Christmas traditions are celebrated and honored at our Virginia Bed and Breakfast. These holiday desserts are a custom that has its origins in the farming region of France, dating back centuries, families served a different dessert on each of the twelve nights of Christmas. The 13 desserts hark back to market days when farmers would buy and sell produce that always included a baker’s dozen of 13 instead of 12.
During the holidays, this tradition is part of the custom of our Northern Virginia Bed and Breakfast. We offer these desserts in our sitting room to all of our guests, whether in the afternoon or after a sumptuous holiday feast. The desserts include fresh and dried fruits, nuts, cakes and confections. In Provence, most of the ingredients were locally grown and plentiful. These included raisins, dry figs, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pears, apples, plums, Orliettes (lemon and orange blossom water fried pastry), Fougasse (poppy seed and lemon Brioche), Nougat Blanc et Noir, Calissons D’Aix (Almond Paste with Pistachios), and 12th night cake.
All should be served with the Buche de Noel. Although the rich and extravagant Buche de Noel was not probably added to the custom until late in the 19th century.
We would like you to enjoy some of this at home, so we are sharing our recipe for Orliettes, best served hot out of the fryer, sprinkled with a little powdered sugar. They are easy to make and the fragrance fills the Christmas Air.
1 lb. flour
¼ c. sugar
3 eggs – beaten
1 lemon peel
1 orange peel
¼ c. orange flower water
2 Tbsp butter – softened
1 pinch salt
1 c. lite oil for frying
Shred lemon and orange peel with grater
Mix with flour, softened butter, sugar, orange water, eggs, salt
Knead the dough adding a little water if necessary
Cover and let stand for 2 hours
Roll out dough onto floured surface ¼” thick
Cut dough into 4” squares
Heat oil in frying pan until very hot
When they are golden, remove and drain
Sprinkle with confectioners sugar