I’ve at last decided to leave Paris again because of the balcony renovation and go back to Blois. It’s not that I want to. This living in two places is starting to wear me down. I’m also exhausted by the company-closing business. And I won’t see Relationnel for another 9 days. However, Françoise, my friend and neighbour in Blois, has very kindly said she’ll pick me up at the train station, which makes me feel better.
When I arrive, I see several people wearing mortar boards. A graduation ceremony in a train station? That can’t be right. It turns out to be a Brotherhood, with a few sisters thrown in. They are dressed in blue silk coats, white gloves and mortar boards with white, red and yellow trimming and are called the Confrérie Gourmande du Nougat de Tours! You may remember the word “gourmand” from my post on café gourmand.
They are busy setting out cake boxes, plastic cups, apple juice, quizzes and pens. They’re also handing out small slices of cake to taste. Françoise gives me a quiz to do. We have to read the information panels to find the answers, then ask one of the brothers or sisters to answer the last question – who are the Brotherhood’s patron saints? They turn out to be Saint Michel (pastrycooks) and Saint Martin (Tours and sharing!). We complete the quiz and get all the answers right so are each presented with a box of nougat cake!
The cake consists of a shortbread crust filled with apricot marmelade (they used to use alberge, a sort of early peach), interspersed with candied fruit and covered with a moist almond topping sprinkled with icing sugar. Very tasty, I must say!
Apparently, the little round cake was forgotten for many years but one of the first recipes, dating back to 1865, was found in the library of a famous restaurant owner in Tours, Charles Barrier, in the cook book of Charles III of Monaco’s chef. A little bit complicated I agree. It was resurrected in the 1970s and “nougat de Tours” has been selling like hotcakes ever since.
Of course, Leonardo Vinci, an iconic figure in Touraine, is supposed to have been a fan as well, because he loved almonds and candied fruit which were known as “chamber spices” back in Renaissance times. The Brotherhood was set up in 1998 and holds a “Best Nougat” competition every year open to professionals. The cake I tasted comes from the ovens of Dominique Grias, 91, avenue de la République, Tours-Nord.
A complete list of places to buy the cakes is to be found on the Brotherhood’s website – along with the recipe. Enjoy !