The sweet smell of liquid sugar and melted chocolate lingers in the air. In front of us sit the machines and moulds that have created some of France’s favourite sweets for centuries. Here’s a look at our Dragées Braquier Factory visit and a sweet escape in Lorraine, France…
What is a Dragée de Verdun?
If you’re reading this and have no idea what a dragée is, then don’t worry as you’re not alone. Until our trip to the Grand-Est, I’d enjoyed sugared almonds, but never had any idea of their importance. Basically, a dragée is typically created by coating an almond with a hard candy shell. This is normally for taste and aesthetic reasons, but most importantly it’s to preserve the nut for longer periods of time!
Although almonds are traditionally used (and are the most recognisable version of the sweet), today dragées come in all shapes and sizes. Popular fillings for the candy other than almonds include hazelnuts, nougatine, chocolate, liquor or almond paste. More expensive dragées are coated with real silver or even gold and were once used as a symbol of wealth by monarchs and noblemen.
History of the Dragée de Verdun
First invented in an apothecary in Verdun at some point during the 13th-century, the Dragée has since become an enduring special gift in French culture. Typically gifted at baptisms, communions, and weddings, from the middle ages onward, the sweet treat soon became an important symbol of wealth in high society.
So iconic is this sweet, that one anecdote suggests that when the Duc de Guise was assassinated in Blois in 1588, it’s said that he was holding five dragées in his hand. The French Royal family enjoyed the dragée so much that Louis XIV ordered that every school child should be given the sweet.
Visiting the Dragées Braquier Factory
On a rainy November day, during our three days in the Lorraine region of France, we visited the Dragées Braquier Factory to learn all about how the sweet treat is made. Although a visit to the factory itself is free, you’ll probably end up wanting to purchase some of the dragées for sale in the shop at the end of your tour.
Founded in 1783, the Braquier factory still uses the same secret recipe that has been used for generations, making the candies produced here the perfect traditional French sweet. Of all the dragée making factories in the region, the Braquier factory was the only one to survive the war. Production of the sweet typically takes four days… And dragées don’t get more authentic than this!
Les Obus Chocolat
One of the many specialty chocolates that the factory makes is that of ‘Le Obus Chocolat’. Literally translated as ‘chocolate shells’ in English, these giant chocolates are filled with dragées of all shapes, sizes, and flavours. When lit, the chocolate shell explodes, showering everything with candy.
Although Les Obus Chocolat are expensive to purchase, they are incredibly special sweets that are perfect for marriages, communions, baptisms, birthdays and other ceremonies. Another factory favourite and specialty is that of the giant dragee which quite literally changes colour.
Where to purchase Dragées de Verdun
The sweet smell of hot sugar and liquid chocolate is enough to make you buy packets of the stuff. And luckily, there’s the opportunity to purchase Dragées de Verdun at the Braquier factory’s store. Head there at the end of your visit to sample the many dragées on offer, as well as to purchase a (literally) sweet souvenir for that special someone…
Still wondering how many dragées make for the perfect gift? Well, it’s thought that five is just the right amount and this is the number often gifted at weddings. After all, five almonds symbolise fertility, happiness, prosperity, health, and longevity.
I visited the Dragées Braquier Factory with Meuse Tourism. However, all opinions, love of all sweet treats, and words remain my own!