What are Dragées? Is this a category of chocolate on its own? Or is it similar to familiar products you see at the grocery store each week? Read below to find out where the coveted confections originated.
What are Dragées:
Dragées are a sweet confection most commonly created when nuts, candied fruit or dried fruit go through the panning process in a panning machine. “Panning” includes the process of a larger spinning machine which builds layers of chocolate onto the fruit or nut center (you also can create dragées by panning sugar instead of chocolate). The center pieces are usually treated to ensure the panning machine yields a sufficient coating, and once complete, they are often treated with a thin glaze layer for a ‘shiny’ final product.
Dragées’ classic form is thought to date back to Ancient Rome (some date as far back as 177 B.C.), when a confectioner named Julius Dragatus introduced honey-covered almonds as a sweet & salty confection. These confections were originally called dragati and were served to those with noble status as well as at weddings and at times of birth. As time progressed and when sugar became more widely available in the 15th century, dragées were crafted using sugar instead of honey.
In the 15th century, it is noted they were referred to as “Jordan Almonds,” which is thought to be a corrupted translation of the French word “jardin,” which translates to “garden,” indicating the almonds were cultivated rather than wild. However, this is disputed among experts, as some believe the Jordan name was mistranslated from the name of a town in northeast France, Verdun. It is recorded that medieval crusaders brought sugar to Europe of which was used at an apothecary in Verdun to coat various medicines (calling them dragées) to make them easier to consume. As to which piece of lore is accurate, we may not know.
With more time and the world shifting its favorite confections to chocolate, it was used in panning machines to coat fruits and nuts offering an alternative to the beloved sugar-coated-confection origins.
Other synonyms for a dragée includes malbas and confetto, but we use the term dragées today to refer to these.