Let’s close this chapter with a specialty from Marseille. Navettes are a typical Provençal biscuit usually served in Marseille at La Chandeleur (Candlemas) a religious celebration held in February instead of the traditional crêpes served everywhere else in France. They are small and oblong in shape, with pointed ends and a deep cut down their length, and are meant to resemble a small regional fishing boat called a pointu, meaning ‘pointed’. Navettes are deliciously crunchy and infused with subtle hints of olive oil and orange blossom, and rank, along with the croquant, as one of my favourite biscuits.
- Yield: 32
- 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 9 oz (250 g) caster (superfine) sugar
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 fl oz (120 ml) olive oil
- 1 finely grated orange zest
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- 2 eggs, extra
- Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the lightly beaten eggs, olive oil, orange zest and orange blossom water. Use your hands to mix everything together for 5 minutes, or until smooth. Cover with a cloth and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour. Any short doughs, such as shortbreads made with flour and a liquid (eggs), must be left to rest for at least an hour to allow the gluten strands (wheat protein) to relax and shorten. Failing to do this will inevitably lead to a tough and unpleasant texture.
- Line two baking trays with baking paper or a silicone mat. Divide the dough into four portions, then roll each portion into a cylinder about 4 cm (1½ in) in diameter. Using a small sharp knife, cut each cylinder into eight pieces. Shape each piece into a 10 cm (4 in) long roll, then pinch the ends slightly to give them a tapered shape. Place on the lined trays, spacing them about 5 cm (2 in) apart.
- Using a sharp paring knife, make a deep incision lengthways down the middle of each roll. Put the extra eggs in a small bowl and whisk with a fork until well combined. Lightly brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash, then place in the fridge to rest for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Cooking one tray at a time, bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for 15–20 minutes, or until the bases are slightly brown and the tops are dark blonde. If your biscuits are browning too quickly, cover loosely with a piece of foil and continue baking. Cool on the trays, then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.