Due to flavor requirements from a certain Tropezienne cream-filled Tarte, I am now stuck with almost a full vial of Orange Flower Water with nothing to use it on. Lucky me, however, I recall yet another recipe in my lineup that calls for this not-so-oft-used ingredient. Luckier still, this past Thanksgiving had me as the person to bring over desserts; and with the host not actually like pumpkin pie or other very sweet items so much, a secondary confection was called for. And these guys just happen to look like little French footballs!!
For those in the know, I’m of course discussing Navettes des Marseilles; also known as ‘Navettes de Saint-Victor,’ ‘Navette a la fleur d’oranger,’ or simply ‘Navette’ cookies. These little spritz/sugar cookie/shortbread-like treats come equipped with a pow of distinct floral flavor from the orange flower water, though they can be easily flavored via other means depending on region and personal preference. Their unique oval and middle-indented shape belies their name, which roughly translate can come to mean ‘boat’ or ‘transport.’ This to supposedly celebrate the arrival on Saint Lazarus, Saint Mary Magdalene, and Saint Martha by boat in the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer over 2,000 years ago. Though the Catholic roots of this sweet have ALSO claimed that it was created as a ‘souvenir’ of sorts for wooden statue of ‘Our Lady of the New Fire’ that washed ashore of Lacydon in the 1200’s.
Nowadays various bakeries have become quite cult famous in their areas for their proficiency at putting this little treat together… which feels like it won’t bode to well for my attempt, but we’ll see how it goes!
Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner
I’m not really sure I have anything to discuss here, though a fair warning as you read through the recipe: I didn’t state it, but I added thyme to this recipe, which can sort of be seen in some of the later pictures. Obviously this has NOTHING to do with the classic cookie, but I wanted to do a flavor twist for the people I was serving this to. Plus it was for a Thanksgiving dessert, had to get something besides just orange in there.
Oh you know what, there IS one thing. I’ve noticed a lot of recipes, after or before shaping the dough, have you ‘rest it’ for 2 hours on the counter before baking. I have NO idea what this is for. If there was yeast or notable leavening ingredients in, or if it was simply pie dough, it’d make sense… here just don’t know. Perhaps it wants to rest any potential firmness of the dough right after being worked by hand so much, but I don’t see why it needs that long. I’ll do it anyways just to see if there’s anything I can divine.
Navettes des Marseilles
3oz/6 Tb Butter
1 Tb Orange Flower Water
1 Tb Kosher Salt
- Cream Butter and Sugar until fluffy
- Add in Eggs, one at a time, Orange Flower Water, and Salt, blending until fully incorporated into creamy batter
- Slow mix in Flour in thirds, waiting until mostly incorporated before adding more, and blend into a dough
- Divide dough into 24 even pieces via cutting in half, each half in quarters, and splitting each of those into 3
- Shape pieces into flat, pointed ovals: one popular technique is to roll into a cylinder, press flat, slightly shaping into good starting form as you do, and pinching each end. Will likely need further manipulation
- Press a slit down the middle with back of knife, spatula, etc, arrange on baking sheets and leave to ‘rest’ for 2 hours at room temp
- Heat oven to 350-375 degrees [it’s not really consistant]
- When ready, brush tops with thin layer of Milk to coat
- Bake for 15-20 minutes minimum, until firmed up and, ideally, it’s developed a light golden color around sides
- Remove, let cool, and enjoy
In the vein of these being a French, orange flower water-flavored sugar cookie, this recipe worked out brilliantly! I may have overcooked probably half of them, but the flavor of the orange flower water came through nicely through a nice spritz-like cookie base flavor and texture. In the vein of what I WANTED to make… I chose the wrong recipe. From the pictures I saw, in creation and final product, I expected to see these cookies rise a bit, create that proper slit-bread-like-rift on the top, with a thicker form and softer, ender texture. Mine just came out firm, like an Italian biscuit cookie… though I did read a description that these ARE at times considered in the same context for texture, makes me feel a bit better. That said, I’ve encountered a few recipes that, among the proportions I’ve used, also add in Baking Powder and up to ½ cup of Water. Figured this would have greatly helped achieve the outcome I was looking for, but made the decision to avoid the baking powder since it didn’t seem like something that would have ORIGINALLY been used; debated the water, but the texture of the dough seemed perfect for me, as many a page mentioned ‘sticky look/feel but not actually sticky.’ So I know what I’ll be adding in next time when I want to make the other outcome.
Though there’s also the chance that I could have heavily improved my odds, perhaps even fixed the issue altogether, by leaving the cookies thick, perhaps even shaping them as big as I originally wanted with the slit. Thus by the time it was ‘fully cooked’ and had a bit of browning on the very edge/bottom, the more voluminous insides would remain soft and tender as opposed to getting so firm.
I swear it feels as if the purpose of this blog has switched from celebrating awesome recipes to simply providing perfect examples of what NOT to do.
Though many alcoholic accompaniments may taste good alongside these, truly there are a few exceptional options one should attempt to actually find.
First and foremost, ‘Orange Muscat/Moscato.’ Unlike how its name suggests, it is not moscato flavored with oranges; it is actually a specific variety/member of the grape’s extended ‘family.’ That said, it almost always carries an exceptional and deep flavor of the citrus fruit along with all other similar aspects. There are some lighter, classically fizzy versions, but here we want the dense and flat proper dessert wine versions. These will be reminiscent of what one will find in the dessert wines of the Italian Islands and French Mediterranean. Not to mention perfect for dipping these little buggers.
Speaking of dipping, ‘Vin Santo,’ an Italian dessert wine made by drying the grapes to concentrate their sugars and sweet flavors, is traditionally paired alongside biscotti for that exact purpose. And the flavor is amazing and deep. Perfect for these.
Finally, a simple glass of Grand Marnier with ice, or perhaps a similar Orange Liqueur-based cocktail, ideally with brandy. One could still dip for the more viscous drinks, or simply enjoy the matching flavors, letting the more complex notes of any of these options shine while the connected floral orange flavors of both cookie and drink tie them down to earth.