There are some things that I take seriously. The specialties of Bordeaux are some of those things. Some have become victims of their own success and are imitated in the rest of France. The Cannelé or Canelé is undoubtedly the best-known Bordelais cake. The lovely story of how the sisters of the Convent of the Annonciade perfected the recipe in the 18th century is now considered to be untrue. This doesn’t stop me from going to have a look at this former convent, which is now occupied by the Regional Department for Cultural Affairs.
The Cannelé has known highs and lows, but was reborn in the 20th century. It is made from flour and egg yolk and is baked in a copper cannelé (meaning ‘fluted’) mould which gives it its shape and its name. It is crisp and brown on the outside, but soft on the inside. I love the smell of the vanilla and rum that flavors it. Traditionally, they were brought into France via the Port of Bordeaux. I disapprove of all the other fanciful variations. Whenever I’m there, I never forget to bring some Canelés back for my friends, particularly the larger versions that dry out less quickly than the tiny ones.
Macarons are also all the rage and come in a huge range of flavors, sometimes mixing sweet and savory and displaying gaudy colors. There’s only one Macaron, in my opinion, and that’s the the one from Saint-Emilion. It is very modest and very cute and has been produced since 1620 from a recipe, invented by the old nuns of Saint-Emilion, which is based on sweet and bitter almonds.
The Puits d’Amour can be found in other places than the Gironde, but those produced by Maison Seguin have an artful subtlety with their Chiboust cream that’s caramelized on the top. The company has been based in Captieux, 90 km from Bordeaux, since 1952 and has just opened a point of sale in Bordeaux. When we used to go and visit my grandparents in Tarbes, we would stop in Captieux to bring back some Puits d’Amour.
The Dune Blanche, a more recent creation, owes its name to the Dune du Pilat on the Bassin d’Arcachon. This choux puff filled with crème Chantilly is a bit deceptive. It’s richer than you might think. Lastly, the Galette des Rois, eaten at Epiphany, has given rise to many a family argument. I know I’m biased, but I prefer the Galette Parisienne that’s filled with frangipane. My sister only knows the Bordelaise version, a brioche crown covered in big grains of sugar.