Ever since I was little, I’ve always loved eating a Petit-Beurre biscuit, starting with its “ears” (the corners). Its smooth texture and its uniquely recognisable smell make it my equivalent of Proust’s madeleine. When I grew up, I found another way to enjoy them: they’re delicious when dunked in coffee! I had no idea when I was little that the biscuits were created and produced in Nantes.
A few years ago, when I understood that Petit-Beurre biscuits are a one of Nantes’ most famous products, I realised that I knew nothing of the biscuits’ history. Created by a small family of patissiers in Nantes in 1886, today Petit-Beurre biscuits are a mass-produced, global success. Who’d have thought it? The biscuits’ list of ingredients is surprisingly simple: just flour, milk, butter and sugar.
The story began in 1846, when Jean-Romain Lefèvre and Pauline-Isabelle Utile set up shop in Nantes to take over a pâtisserie, at 5 rue Boileau (now transformed into a national centre for contemporary art and culture called Lieu Unique). The couple’s brand soon became known as “Lefèvre Utile” (LU). Their son, Louis Lefèvre-Utile, who took over the business 36 years later, was inspired by the shape of his grandmother’s placemat to create a biscuit. And there you have it, the Petit-Beurre by LU was created! Some say that the biscuit’s shape was carefully planned: it has four corners for the four seasons, 52 “teeth” for the 52 weeks of the year and 24 little holes for the 24 hours in the day. Did you know?
Today, more than 9,000 tonnes of this famous biscuit are produced every yea, near Nantes. There are plenty of recipes for desserts made with Petit-Beurre biscuits. My favourite: Petit-Beurre salted caramel cheesecake! Shops and delicatessens in Nantes even sell a Petit-Beurre liqueur, ideal if you’re looking for an original gift from Nantes!