Saint Emilion Chronicles #3: les macarons et les cannelés

Stuff We Like!Hello everyone!

This will be my contribution to our ongoing Saint Emilion series. This post is about food, so it naturally belongs to my expertise “department”. 🙂

So, picture it: Saint Emilion, July 2013. We were sitting in Patrick’s wine store, Stefano’s newest “wine friend” (more on Patrick and his wonderful wine store on Stefano’s future posts in this series) and, of course, we were tasting some wine. Getting slightly drunk and jumping from one subject to another, I ended up talking about food. Patrick asked me how I liked Saint Emilion’s macarons. I thought he was talking about those French round mini-cakes with a creamy filling, that the entire world has learned to know and love (by the way, I talked about “those” macarons on a previous post about Ladurée). It turned out I was mistaken, because Saint Emilion’s macarons have nothing to do with those paradisiac sweet sandwiches…

Saint Emilion Macarons

The recipe for Saint Emilion’s macarons was created by the nuns of a religious community founded in 1620. The recipe, which apparently is more secret than that of Coca Cola, has been passed on over the following centuries, eventually ending up in the hands of Madame Blanchez. Today, the only place where your can taste and buy “real” Saint Emilion macarons made according the nuns’ recipe is the Fabrique de Macarons, a store owned by Madame Nadia Fermigier, who is the “successor” of Madame Blanchez. And that store is exactly the place where I was heading to five minutes after Patrick told me the story of Madame Fermigier. 🙂

The store is small, yet incredibly charming. There was even a video showing how macarons are made. But what really struck me when I first got there was the smell. The smell was so outrageously good and inebriating that I had the impression to have stepped into a magical world where everything is alive. And then I saw them: the famous macarons. How can I describe their taste? That’s a tough one. They are delicious beyond words. Just to give you an idea, they reminded us of Italian amaretti – I beg our French readers not to get mad at me for this comparison! 😉

I searched the Web and I saw that there are some Saint Emilion macaron recipes out there. I doubt that you will find the original one, however. I’m pretty sure Madame Fermigier protects her recipe at all cost and swore all her employees to the utmost secrecy. Anyway, if you decide to go for one of the Internet recipes or you are lucky enough to buy the original macarons from Madame Fermigier, you can either taste these small pieces of heaven by themselves or use them to make a gorgeous chocolate-based dessert known as “Saint-Émilion au Chocolat“, the recipe for which has been kindly published by our lovely friend and fellow blogger B on her blog.

Nadia Fermigier's famous pastry shop in Saint Emilion

But this is not all: the other sweet masterpiece that Patrick unveiled to me is the cannelés.

Cannelés are little French cakes with a dark, thick caramelized crust and a moist custard inside. There exist a few different legends about their creation. Of course, one of those legends has the nuns of a convent as its main characters – these French nuns were a hell of a baker, I say!!! 😉 Anyway, the only sure thing is that the recipe was created in the French region of Bordeaux. Indeed, according to some, the Bordeaux winemakers used to clarify their wine with egg whites (Stefano tells me that some still use egg whites as a fining agent today!) and the cannelés were created as a way to utilize the egg yolks.

When I was in Madame Fermigier’s store, I bought (for a small fortune, I might add…) the gorgeous copper molds the French bakers use to make cannelés. The only thing I’m missing now is the right recipe! 😉 I searched the Web and I went through a few of the recipes that I found. However, I would prefer to first try a recipe coming from a “friendly source”. So if any of you, dear readers, has a recipe for cannelés and is willing to share it or has already made a post about it, I would love to hear from you! 🙂

Saint Emilion Cannelé

Well, that’s all for today: I hope you enjoyed this Saint Emilion pastry excursion! Back to you Stefano for the rest of the series and… à bientôt!  😉

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0 thoughts on “Saint Emilion Chronicles #3: les macarons et les cannelés

  1. Pingback: Saint Emilion Chronicles #5: Saint Emilion and its Wine Appellations | Flora's Table

  2. Pingback: Saint Emilion Chronicles #5: Saint Emilion and its Wine Appellations | Clicks & Corks

  3. Francesca Post author

    Thank you, Maria! I’m glad you liked the post. If you go through the comments, you’ll see that a couple of friend bloggers graciously gave me the link to the recipe.
    Well, holiday season is coming up … that someone can get hints for the perfect Christmas present. 😉

  4. Maria Dernikos

    I don’t know how I missed this post. Firstly, those copper molds!! Still my beating heart. I read through your post and thought it can’t be that difficult to find a recipe – I got up and had a look at my collection of cookery books – nothing. You have intrigued me I shall continue tonight to look more careful. If I find the recipe I will obviously need copper molds, so there will be a lot of loud wishful thinking hopefully enough for someone to get the hint.

  5. myhomefoodthatsamore

    The trouble with being the last to read a blog post is that … so many people have already written what you think! Basically, my thoughts are very similar to ChgoJohn above — truly a lovely post Francesca and so rewarding to learn how the history of cooking is an endless seam of interesting stories (as well as delicious recipes!). Eggs were used in Italy too to clarify wines … and there are some recipes for ciambelle made with the excess of egg whites that was around at grape harvest and wine-making time.

    1. Francesca Post author

      Oh Jo!!! It’s always wonderful to get your comments no matter what!!! 🙂
      Ciambelle? You said ciambelle??? This word sounds like heaven to me!!!
      If you happen to have the recipe, why don’t you make a post?
      I’m sure it will be a great success. 🙂
      Hope everything is fine with you and your loved ones.
      F. Xx

  6. Dina

    Hi, dear Francesca, this is totally new to me, I’ve heard about neither, but I love macarons. They look and sound absolutely divine! Enjoyed the story very much! 🙂
    Love, Dina Xx

  7. ChgoJohn

    A wonderful post, Francesca. I am not at all a baker and it fascinates me to learn of treats such as these. Yes, I’ve enjoyed macrons, some of which while in Pars, but I’ve not heard of those produced by nuns. the poor dears. Their male counterparts make wine & brandy but they’re stuck in the kitchen baking. 🙂 Your copper pans are beautiful. I hope you find a suitable recipe for them.

    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you, Jonh! I think it’s amazing that some of the best recipes around the world were created by people belonging to religious communities. They were not sophisticated cooks and used really basic ingredients! Oh, the greatness of simplicity!!! 🙂 Plus, they needed something to do other than pray! 😉

  8. Just Add Attitude

    Dear Francesca,

    Firstly thank you so very much for mentioning my blog in this post.

    I love the cooper moulds that you bought in Madame Fermiger’s shop, I also love the image of them, the colour combinations in this shot are so appealing and the blue plate is lovely.

    I have never tasted canneles but they sound delicious. Next time I am in Bordeaux, altho sadly that is not likely to be anytime soon, I will seek them out.

    I hope you are having a nice weekend.

    Take care.
    B xx

    1. Francesca Post author

      Don’t even mention it, B.!!! Thank
      you so much for your kind words.
      I know that Paris is one of your favorite trip destinations and I read that you can find canneles very easily in Paris. Next time you are there make sure to
      try them out. I’m sure you are going to love them!
      Take care,
      F. Xx

  9. the winegetter

    I’d never heard of either, but now I want to try both of them…especially the cannelés! I might have to come visit for a week or so to be able to eat everything I want you to make for me…;) I’ll do dishes, ok?

    Also, kudos for using inebriate, I had to look that up…

    1. Francesca Post author

      Any time, Oliver! You and Nina are always welcome and you can stay as long as you want! 🙂
      Thank you!!! All those years spent over books are finally paying off … at least in terms of “richness” of my vocabulary… 😉

      1. the winegetter

        Yes, I saw your comment about reading the classics so the use of inebriate makes way more sense…:)

        And we really want to come visit one of these days. It will happen for sure…now that I know I can stay for weeks on end.

  10. GreedyFrog

    I love cannelés! Sadly I do not have a recipe for them though. These macarons look amazing too. There are lots of different macarons recipes in France, all of them rather distinct from each other. I would love to try the Saint Emilion variety!

    1. Francesca Post author

      Hello there! Long time no hear from you! Hope everything is well with you, Mr. Frog and the little one.
      I was really surprised to find out there are different macarons varieties. Your country never stops to amaze me and in the most wonderful ways! 🙂

  11. thepaddingtonfoodie

    I’m seriously coveting those copper cannele moulds. I have been meaning to bake canneles for ages and have considered using my mini bundt tins as a (poor) substitute. Here is tlink to a recipe that I have had bookmarked for ages (recommended by a friend of a friend who bakes them). I’ve never made them myself so can’t vouch for the recipe. Might there be a canneles post using your beautiful new moulds in the near future?

    1. Francesca Post author

      Dear Foodie,
      Thank you so much for the link.
      Aren’t they gorgeous? I’m considering use those molds to decorate my living room!!! 😉
      Yes! If I get a good recipe, I’ll be more than happy to share it.
      PS: I was looking for your first name through the pages of you blog but I couldn’t find it – don’t know if you mind sharing it … 🙂

  12. Fae's Twist & Tango

    – Madame Fermigier’s macarons look like the almond cookies/macarons/amarreti I posted couple of months ago. Are they made of almonds too?
    – Oh I love cannelés! I did not know that was their name. Do you recommend any recipe?
    The molds are adorable. It brings joy when you make a great finding/shopping while travelling, isn’t it? 😀

    1. Francesca Post author

      Hello Fae!
      Welcome back! Hope you had a wonderful trip!
      Yes, almonds are one of the macarons’ ingredients.
      You are absolutely right: traveling purchases are priceless!!! 🙂
      I wish I had the perfect cannelés recipe to pass on to you but I don’t! 🙁 However, as you my see going through the comments, some of our blogger friends have been kind enough to share a few links. I guess we have just keep trying and find the right one. 🙂

  13. apuginthekitchen

    I love reading the story, I have heard that those nuns and monks in convents and monastery’s are quite the cooks, bakers and makers of wine and spirits. Your description of the macarons and canneles is so vivid I can almost taste them. If I come across a recipe will send to you. Wish I had one and also those gorgeous molds.

      1. Francesca Post author

        Thank you for your kind words and for the recipe’s link.
        I’m surprised you haven’t tried to make these little cakes yet! You are such a great baker and I’m pretty sure that nailing them would be like a walk in the park for you! 😉
        Who knows? Maybe I just “tipped” you off. 😉

  14. Heather (Sweet Precision)

    We must be on the same baking wave Francesca! My parents are visiting Paris later this month and my dad is a big cooking fan so they will be visiting E.DEHILLERIN which is supposedly where Julia Child purchased some of her cookware. He sent me to their website and asked if there was anything that I wanted. After poking around I requested some molds for cannelés! I’m so interested to hear if you find a good recipe and how your baking adventure goes!

    1. Francesca Post author

      Oh Heather! I was hoping my sweetest baker would have come to my rescue!!! 🙂 This is the perfect treat for a baker like you always looking for the next challenge. 😉
      I’m glad to hear that your parents are in Paris. I’m sure they are loving it!
      You made a wise choice! You’ll see how gorgeous those molds are!
      Thank you so much for the tip about the store. I’ll make sure to stop by next time I’m in Paris.