A sweet taste of France

Earthly delights: Ooh La La’s sweet treats include Calissons, Salted Butter Caramels and Almond pebbles. (Elsa Young)

Earthly delights: Ooh La La’s sweet treats include Calissons, Salted Butter Caramels and Almond pebbles. (Elsa Young)

If words fail you on first tasting a calisson, that may be because these hand-made French-inspired treats from the Ooh La La Artisan Confectionery have simply made you speechless.

Ooh La La is owned by Karen Schneid-Lieberman, a former advocate who practised at the Johannesburg Bar for 19 years and who admits to a (legal) addiction to what she calls “these perfect little confections”.

“My journey as a confectioner began 18 years ago in a little village near Aix-en-Provence, France. I’ve travelled to France three to four times a year since I can remember and fell in love with them.”

Calissons are traditional French sweetmeats made of a paste of candied fruit and ground almonds, topped with a thin layer of royal icing.

“Unfortunately, my willpower when it came to calissons was non-existent and, as a result, there were never any extras to bring home for friends and family.” Schneid-Lieberman’s love of these delicacies led her to recreate the Provençal speciality back home, not least to feed her personal addiction.

She spent many hours in French artisanal factories and confectionery shops, days poring over valuable ancient manuscripts in the libraries of Paris and Aix-en-Provence studying old confectionery and history books. “I learned whatever I could to become a true French confectioner.”

She also completed confectionery courses at Ecole Ritz Escoffier and the LeNôtre cooking school in Paris and took a history course in French confectionery.

In 2009, she started Ooh La La Artisan Confectionery. “The products are hand-made out of a huge farm-style kitchen in my Provence-inspired house in Johannesburg.”

Schneid-Lieberman created every­thing she loved but could not get in South Africa, including French nougat and salted butter caramels and pebbles of almond or pecan nut, often covered in chocolate.

“Our pebbles are roasted and caramelised the traditional French way, which is slowly, in cast-iron pots using high-quality ingredients. Other products include Spanish turron and home-made gourmet marshmallows enrobed in Belgian milk chocolate.”

Each product comes with an amusing story: the tag on the saffron and rose-petal marshmallow, for instance, tells a tale about how Queen Marie Antoinette loved her marshmallows so much that she refused to share them with peasants who were on the verge of starting the French Revolution because they wanted a taste.

The marshmallows are made according to an ancient recipe, using real marshmallow root, honey and natural flavours. Other marshmallow flavours include vanilla bean, ginger bread, rose pistachio, passion fruit, lavender, coffee and choc lamington.

There are so many detailed layers of flavours in each sweet product, don’t be surprised when you find yourself exclaiming “Ooh la la”.

The products are available in Johannesburg at Thrupps and Patisserie in Illovo, Oaklands Farm Supply, Voodoo Lily Café in Birdhaven, Broadacres Superspar, Craighall Park Spar, Norwood Superspar, Horbat Superspar in Bryanston and the Melrose flower market; in Cape Town at Giovannis in Greenpoint; and in Kwa-Zulu-Natal at Hillcrest Spar. Visit oohlalaconfectionery.com or call 011 728 4282

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