Braquier part 3 (Les Dragées*)
The finished product, 27 April 2014
“A dragée is a bite-sized, colorful form of confectionery with a hard outer shell – which is often used for another purpose (e.g. decorative, symbolic, medicinal, etc.) in addition to consumption purely for enjoyment.” – wikipedia
The making of a perfect dragée
I recommend taking the Braquier** factory tour but if you can’t make it to Verdun here are some of the highlights:
Almonds*** are the first and most important part of creating a successful dragée. Braquier uses two varieties of almonds. Avola almonds, which come from the city of Avola in Sicily, are considered the best in both taste and shape. “Longuettes” from Spain are also used. “Longuettes” are longer and rounder than Avola almonds. In the world of les dragées, the most perfect almonds are flat and tapered at one end. I was told that Braquier never uses French or California almonds.
Once the almonds are procured they are mechanically sorted for size, they will later be hand sorted for shape.
After sorting, the almonds are dried.
The dried almonds are placed into whirling turbines (traditionally called “branlantes”) where they are showered and whirled in sugar syrup. This is a multi-step extravaganza. The almonds are coated, dried, then coated again until they reach the desired thickness (this process may be repeated as many as 60 times). Each batch is shepherded into being by a single technician using sight and touch to determine how much sugar syrup to add and how many layers are necessary to reach the desired size.
Once les dragées have reached the desired size they are smoothed and may be colored.
While writing this, I’ve been munching on Amantines****.
The Braquier plant is entirely wheelchair accessible though I did not check the restrooms.
*My interest in les dragées began here.
**Braquier is not the only manufacturer of dragées in France but they are one of the oldest and still do things the old fashioned way. If you visit the factory on a weekday you can see the dragée making process in action. Weekends, the shop floor is empty which also has its advantages.
***While traditional dragées start with a perfect almond, a generic dragee is simply a core (almonds, almond paste, hazelnuts, nougatine, chocolate, liqueur, fruit paste…) coated with a hard layer of sugar.
Magasin d’usine (Factory and showroom)
50 rue du Fort de Vaux
Tél. 03 29 84 30 00
****I bought my own amantines and am in no way associated with Braquier.
*****Seen on the way to the Braquier factory.