All that sparkles may not be gold, but it certainly can be sweet!
Is the icing on your cake just not all that? Maybe it needs a little bling! Consider dragee (properly pronounced dra-ghays), Remember the little silver balls that were the buttons for your gingerbread man over Christmas? How about that little packet of sugar coated almonds you received at the last wedding you went to? Those are dragee: the festive decorative confectionary that are traditionally given as favors, and used as adornment on baked goods. The origins of the word are unclear, it may come from the Greek by way of French, or from the Latin tragemataor
dragata. In all languages, it means “sweet”. Traditionally, the word referred to multi-colored, sugared or chocolate-covered almonds such as Jordan almonds. Nowadays, when someone calls something a dragee, they often mean those little gold, silver and metallic-colored orbs. Colored sugar sprinkles and jimmies are not dragees. Sugar-coated fruit pieces and nuts are. In Germany, dragees are called liebesperlen or “love pearls”. In Italian, the word for dragee is confetti, and the sweets were thrown at weddings to bring good luck and fortune—the tradition has morphed over the centuries into the celebratory throwing of paper confetti today.
Dragees are ancient tokens of celebration, luxury and wealth. Their first appearance was in ancient Rome, and through the Middle Ages they were delicacies given at weddings and christenings. Even one of the panels of the “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestry depicts a woman dipping her hand into an ornate chalice filled with dragees. The town of Verdun, France is particularly renowned for its production of dragees; the tradition of giving them as gifts to the city’s bishops began in the year 1200.
Not just for Christmas. Almond dragee, a.k.a. Jordan almonds, are commonly given as gifts to wedding attendees. Creative confectionary suppliers such as Fancy Flours (http://www.fancyflours.com/) and New York Cake and Baking (http://www.nycake.com/) are now supplying customers with a diverse array of dragee for year round ornamentation.