"Croquets" are very similar to Italian "cantuccini" (but, I have to say, croquets are better). Italian cantuccini keep brilliantly for weeks, or even months, in a sealed tin and, when dunked in a caffè latte, a cappuccino or their traditional accompaniment of a glass of vin santo, they probably won't break your teeth. Un-dunked though, they might well! The Provençal version is slightly, mesmerisingly, softer and requires no dunking although Christiane tells me they are very good dipped in a glass of white wine. I haven't tried this yet, as they are just too moreish exactly as they are.
I often make cantuccini at Christmastime and I usually flavour them with orange oil (or zest) and fresh rosemary. Returning from Provence, armed with the wherewithal to make the French version, I gave them a whirl yesterday and am happy to report they knock my Italian version into a cocked hat although, being slightly less dry, they may not keep as well. May be difficult to assess this, at the rate they are disappearing however.
They are sweet, but not too sweet and their delicate perfume evokes Provence in a trice. I recommend them! I've tweaked the recipe a little bit by adding some lavender flowers as well as the eau de fleur d'oranger flavouring because, well, it seemed like a good idea at the time and lavender and Provence hunt together, pretty much, but you can omit the lavender if you haven't got any to hand or prefer the idea of them without.
The basic recipe is Christiane's and all I've added, apart from the lavender, is a translation and an anglicised method.
What you need
300g plain white flour
175g caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs (large ones) + an extra egg to glaze the outside of the croquets with
about 50 ml of good quality, extra virgin olive oil
1 dsp eau de fleur d'oranger or orange blossom water - in the UK you can get this from Waitrose and probably elsewhere too
4 sprigs of fresh lavender
150g natural almonds, shelled but not skinned. In French they are called "amandes brutes" which I rather like as a phrase; they are particularly good at this time of year when the almonds are new season ones and deliciously milky and fragrant. Buy enough to allow for natural wastage / teenage depredations / quality control testing (delete as applicable) in the course of the cooking!
What you do
Preheat the oven to 170 - 180C. (I used 170C in my fan oven)
Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Strip the florets from the lavender sprigs and add to the bowl.
Whisk the eggs, orange flower water and olive oil together in a jug. Pour into the dry ingredients and begin to mix with a spoon. Before the dough completely comes together, add in the almonds. You might need to add another tablespoonful or so of olive oil, if the dough seems reluctant to coalesce.
Divide the resulting firm dough into two and shape into long slightly flattened sausages about 30 cm long each. Place on a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking parchment.
Whisk the remaining egg and brush the outside of the dough to give the outer surface a golden glaze.
Bake for about 25 minutes until lightly golden and the outsides are just set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Then using a sharp and heavy knife, carefully cut each sausage into slices of about 1 - 1.5 cm or so thick. The sausages are quite fragile at this stage so you need to use the knife firmly but gently. Turn the slices onto their sides on the same lined baking sheet and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or so to dry out the middles.
Cool on a wire rack. They are great with tea or coffee and make good accompaniments to poached fruit or ice cream. We had ours last night with apricots poached in a lavender syrup. Very, very good, though I say it myself. Lavender brings out the scent of the apricots beautifully and the whole thing just sang of summer.
You don't need much lavender either in the croquets or the apricots - just three or four sprigs to lend a subtle hint of aromatic fragrance. Don't taste-test as you add, by the way, as lavender is a mild anaesthetic and if you keep tasting, you may end up adding too much as your tastebuds become anaesthetised!
I have another lavender recipe somewhere for lavender, honey and gin ice cream. I think this may also be calling me though I may have to run up another batch of croquets to go with it!
Merci, Christiane, pour ta belle recette - elle se trouve déjà une favorite!