Travel and Culinary: Madeleine, French Capital of Sweet LoversNovember 19, 2018
It is not known in what mood Lorraine’s Duke Stanislaus was at this culinary historic lunch sometime in the 18th century. Was he sad, he thought of his homeland, the steppe of Galicia he had to leave? Or was he in celebratory mood, knowing that he would soon see his daughter on the throne of France?
However, this scene has been handed down: When the servant served the duke a piece of yeast cake, so dry that it did not want to feed, Stanislaus came up with an idea. Why not soak the cake with Tokajer, his beloved sweet wine? When he led the moist cake to the palate, the juicy, fully-soaked dough again revived the wine – and tasted delicious! The creation was successful, the Baba born.
In the 19th century, it was doused with rumsirup instead of wine, which became the famous Baba au rhum. coveted today in all of France, on high holidays as in the afternoon coffee gossip. René Goscinny, creator of “Asterix”, has commemorated the Baba with his comic Roman camp Babaorum. It was not to be the last sweet dish in which Stanislaus I. Leszczyński had his hands on the game.
The exiled Polish monarch looked back on an adventurous vita. Coming from an old Lvov nobility, he was twice crowned king of Poland, thrust twice from the throne, chased out of the country, and finally, through the influence of his daughter, wife of Louis XV. and Queen of France, 1737 elected Duke of Lorraine.
Gluttony on the ducal castle
Instead of falling into bitterness, he rose in Lorraine to the master builder and art patron. The capital Nancy, he helped with the Place Royale, today Place Stanislas, one of the most magnificent squares in Europe. He founded universities and libraries, hospitals and almshouses. And his cravings made Lorraine more famous than any other region in France for traditional sweets and biscuits, which attracts gourmets in droves.
His residence, Luneville Castle, he had built in Baroque splendor to the Versailles Lorraine. Of course there was nothing missing in the blackboard. Although the busy duke used to dine only at lunchtime, his food intake often degenerated into gluttony.
Stanislaus’ penchant for sweets was especially gratified by his court baker Joseph Gilliers, one of the early masters of his craft. He left posterity with the “Cannaméliste Français” one of the first major standard works of French cooking literature. In it, for example, Gilliers describes meter-high table decorations made of sugar mass, to the taste of the Lorraine duke, and he raves about ice cream, which is made into peaches and melons, gherkins and asparagus spears, pig’s heads and beef tongues.
These specialties of Stanislaus’ tablet have disappeared, others of his creations are still known throughout France. For example airy-fine macaroons made of “sweet almonds […]”Sugar and protein,” as Gilliers writes in his cookbook. This light brown Macarons were brought to France in the 16th century by the cooks Catherine de Medicis, French queen of Florentine nobility and bloodthirsty butcher of the Huguenots. Katharina’s granddaughter made the biscuits in the monasteries of Lorraine known, from where the recipe finally came to Stanislaus’ confectioner Gilliers.
Nuns sold the macarons
When the monasteries were dissolved in the aftermath of the 1789 revolution, two Benedictine sisters came up with the idea of selling the monastery pastries in the streets of Nancy. From these mythical beginnings grew the manufactory “Les Sœurs Macarons”, founded in 1793, it still exists today. 1952, the Macarons de Nancy had long since become the symbol of the city, the street where the biscuit ovens of the manufactory burnt was renamed in honor of the sisters in Rue des Sœurs Macarons. Later, the salesrooms moved closer to the Place Stanislas – within sight of the Duke’s statue, which sometimes the wind carries the scent of fresh macaroons to Stanilaus’ bronze nose. Under this bulges a voluptuous body.
Stanislaus’ confectioners came up with some ideas to keep the rotund monarch happy. Gilliers liked to use bergamot, a hybrid of bitter orange and sweet lime. In his book he describes how he exquisitely refined “lemon snow”, lemon sorbet, with the bergamot shell. On the other hand, with the slightly bitter bergamot oil, which already comes out of the shell at a slight pressure, the confectioner flavored sweets for his sugar-addicted ruler.
About a hundred years later, the recipe had long been forgotten, the Lorraine confectioner Jean-Frédéric Godefroy Lillich gave the tip of a friendly perfumer Bergamotteöl to boiling sugar. He distributed the lemon yellow mass on an oiled marble slab, then rolled it to a few millimeters thick and cut it into square candies. Soon, the candies were, for the sake of simplicity Berga Mottes Nancy’s sweet specialty.
The most beautiful place where they are to be acquired today is the Confiserie Lefèvre-Lemoine. Founded in 1840 and since then in family hands, since 1930 it has resided in Rue Henri-Poincaré 47 in Nancy. When entering, one imagines oneself in the apartment of a well-to-do grandmother: roses are entwining themselves along the wallpaper, in front of which are tall, dark showcases full of antique porcelain. Fruit counters and pastilles, lollipops and spiced bread pile up on counters and tables. The red and gold bergamot tins of the Confiserie have even made it to cinematic world fame. In homage to his studies in Nancy, director and scriptwriter Jean-Pierre Jeunet immortalized one of the cans in his “Fabulous World of Amélie”.
A kitchen maid named Madeleine
Not on celluloid, but on paper is another sweet of Lorraine: the Madeleine. The scallop-shaped little chalice, whose dough reminds of lofty, light-weighted puddles, gained world fame through Marcel Proust’s work of the century “In Search of Lost Time.” Proust’s alter ego is restored to its early childhood through the enjoyment of a tea-infused Madeleine, triggering a seven-volume contemplation of existence and transience.
Stanislaus, the tireless patron of the fine arts, would certainly have liked the literary prominence of Madeleine. Especially since he himself was responsible for the name. At Castle Commercy, Stanislaus’ second seat, the castle administrator fell into disagreement with the confectioner after a beautiful summer’s day. The latter threw up the towel angrily and stormed off, the noonday meal for the Duke threatened to end without dessert. A disaster!
Fortunately, one of the kitchen maids remembered a recipe from her grandmother and went to work immediately. For dessert golden brown, fragrant cakes were served – the Tafelnden were thrilled. Stanislaus inquired about the name of the delicacy. Since the maid could not name one, he baptized the pastries without further ado to his baker: Madeleine.
Today, there are still four businesses in the city that produce the cakes. However rumors in Nancy that the Madeleines from the nearby Liverdun are the better ones.
The mirabelle is Lorraine’s superfruit
And where do the vitamins remain with all the sugar factory? At Lunéville Castle, Stanislaus had his own variety of melons cultivated: the Melon de Lunéville, outside fir-green, inside bright orange. For fertilization the local cavalry supplied mountains of horse manure, the harvest was abundant, the fruit delightfully sweet; the immoderate Duke overcooked her, so that in the melon season he usually had to give up his otherwise obligatory whistle after lunch and had to retire to his rooms for recreation. Today, the royal melons in Lorraine are often processed into jam, but are far more famous for glory than the mirabelle – the Lorraine specialty par excellence.
They appeared only marginally in Gilliers cookbook, the fruit plays a major role today in Lorraine: 250,000 trees, reports the regional producers’ association, contribute an incredible 80 to 90 percent of the global mirabelle harvest. The farmers attach great importance to quality: The only six weeks short season in August and September is not extended, so as not to dilute the sun-kissed taste. 200 trees per hectare are the maximum, so the ecosystem fruit tree meadow should be protected. This, combined with its exquisite taste, has the Mirabelle de Lorraine the “IGP”, the coveted protected designation of origin of France, registered as the first fruit ever.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to stay in the season on site, about the classic Tarte aux Mirabelles to taste, with fresh Mirabellenhälften, bed of shortcrust pastry and a fluffy vanilla cream. However, the pastry chefs Nancys, worthy descendants of Gillier, have found a solution for this as well. Out of season, they offer artful jelly mirabelle plums, filled with mirabelle liqueur, extracted from local fruits.
Master baker Fabrice Gwizdak has gone a different way to offer Lorraine’s super fruit year round: with his Gâteau Lorrain, The coarse-pored cake made from flour, almonds, butter, sugar and eggs owes its delicious crumbly juiciness to a dash of mirabelle spirit. He proudly wears the Lorraine double cross on the top, made of powdered sugar.
Gwizdak, who runs his bakery on Rue Raugraff in Nancy, has perfected his craft in starred kitchens. Since he opened his business more than 20 years ago, he was showered with honors: from the “French Baker of the Year” to the “Best Baker of Lorraine” he could attach a number of titles to his apron.
Although he feels deeply rooted in eastern France, Gwizdak’s father, himself a baker, comes from Poland. One of the reasons why the son sees himself as a legacy of Stanislaus’ I. Leszczyński. That would have pleased the nosy Regent certainly.
Tips and information about Nancy
How do you get there? Train: For example, take the ICE to Strasbourg, then change to the regional train to Nancy. Nearest airport is Metz-Nancy-Lorraine (ETZ), from there in 45 minutes by taxi to Nancy city center.
Where does one live well? “Maison d’Hote de Myon”, restored mansion, ten minutes walk to the Place Stanislas, double / F from 140 euros, maisondemyon.com. “Cœur de City Hotel Nancy Stanislas”, trendy hotel near the train station, double / single from 50 Euro, http://en.hotel-nancy-stanislas.com
Tip from the editor Nancy is considered to be the center of French Art Nouveau with more than 350 relevant buildings. The Musée de l’École de Nancy (36-38 Rue du Sergent-Blandan, Wed-Sun 10 am-6pm) displays beautifully preserved interior design and crafts of the era.
Further information Official tourism website in German: de.nancy-tourisme.fr/
Source WELT (Germany)