Prep. time: 15 minutes + 3 hours rising time
Baking time: 20 minutes
Oven temperature: 180° C (350° F)
Navettes are traditional little pastries made in the shape of a "navette" or small boat, 7 to 8 cm long. Their name recalls the voyage of Lazarus, his sister Martha and the two Saint Marys, who are said to have landed in Provence almost 2000 years ago in such a vessel, giving their name to the town of "Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer."
At Le Four des Navettes, near the Abbey of St. Victor in the heart of Marseille, navettes have been baked continuously since 1781. They are traditionally eaten after the Candlemas Day procession on February 2. The Archbishop of Marseille blesses an ovenload of these little cakes and according to tradition, ten days later, on February 12, the Black Virgin of the Abbey appears in the chapel.
In the old days, navettes were traditionally bought by the dozen, one for each month of the year, and then taken home with the famous blessed candles whose flame protected homes and stables from lightning.
If you are near Marseille on Candlemas Day, stop by the Four des Navettes where Jean-Claude Imbert carries on a tradition more than two centuries old.
The pastry's origin has always been associated with the Candlemas celebrations of the nearby Abbey of St. Victor. We have to imagine ourselves in the late 13th century when a statue of the virgin washed up on the shore of the Lacydon inlet. It was a painted wooden figure, its green robe dirtied and marked by patina. The virgin wore a golden crown. The people of Marseille saw in the statue's appearance the hand of fate and a sign of protection. To some she was Our Lady of the New Fire, for others the Virgin Protector of Seafarers. Some also say that the navette symbolizes the little bark that brought the saints to the Provençal coast. Based on this story, Monsieur Aveyrous, who founded the famous bakery in 1781, decided to make his delicious little cakes in the shape of a boat.
Gourmetpedia has been able to obtain this famous recipe. While it may not disclose every one of Monsieur Aveyrous' secrets, you will nevertheless find it delectable!
There are three kinds:
- classic navettes. made with orange flower water
- Marseille navettes, made without orange flower water
- Provençal navettes, more tender, but which do not keep as long
- In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt;
- make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add in the three whole eggs, orange flower water and butter; mix together, adding the water gradually to form a fairly firm dough; let rest in a cool place for one hour;
- divide the dough into small balls of about 50 g each; roll into an oval shape and pinch the two ends to create the points of the "boat"; using a knife, make a deep lengthwise cut down the tops of the navettes - when they bake, the incision will open up to form the interior of the boat;
- place them on a buttered and floured baking sheet; let rest again for two hours;
- beat the egg yolk with the water or milk; brush this mixture onto each navette to give it a nice gold color;
- bake in a 180° C (350° F) oven until the navettes are lightly browned. Check them often since they cook quickly.
Four des Navettes, 136, rue Sainte, Saint Victor, Marseille
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