Christmas in Provence – 13 Desserts of Christmas

A delicious traditional bread recipe – La pompe à l’huile

In France, every region has its own Christmas traditions.

In Provence, that tradition is a selection of sweet treats people have been preparing for centuries: The 13 desseerts of Christmas.
They date back to the 17th century, when it was custom to fill the table with a multitude of cakes, pies and pastries as a sign of abundance and many families continue to uphold this tradition today.

The range of desserts prepared may vary across Provence, but you’ll always find the quartet known as the quatre mendiants: walnuts or hazelnuts, almonds, dried figs and raisins. There’s also black nougat, white nougat and dates. You’ll also see a variety of winter fruits, such as grapes, oranges or mandarins, apples or pears, melon and candied fruits.
This impressive selection is topped off with an iconic recipe from the region, known as “la pompe à l’huile”. Made with flour, olive oil and orange blossom, this dessert is brought by the “pistachié”, the farm valet, a main character of the Provençal nativity.
And the cherry on the cake – you’ll be pleased to hear that Provence’s traditional calissons have their place at the feast.

These delicious confections will no doubt sweeten up your Christmas Day in these most unusual times!

By Chantal Bosc – Cooking Course


Serves 6
• 500 g flour
• 80 g caster sugar
• 40 g yeast
• 2 cl orange blossom water
• 25 cl olive oil
• 1 orange zest
• 25 cl water

- Dilute the yeast in warm water.
- Grate the orange zest.
- Combine the flour and sugar. Add the yeast, olive oil, orange blossom water and orange zest.
- Knead until all the ingredients are mixed evenly and the dough forms a neat ball.
- Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave to prove for 2 hours at room temperature until it doubles in size.
- Roll out the dough to form a circle 1cm thick. Score the dough to form a nice pattern and open the incisions slightly. Leave it to rest for another hour.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cook for 20 minutes.
- Brush lightly with olive oil after you take it out the oven.