I am sitting in a crêperie on the Quai Henri IV, the quayside overlooking Dieppe marina, on a sunny October Sunday. After a pleasant savoury galette, the time has come to please my sweet tooth. Among the usual crêpe toppings on the menu, such as whipped cream, Nutella and jam, one item stands out: Caramel de Pommes Dieppois. Caramel is a favourite in France when it comes to garnishing pancakes, and warm slices of apple are particularly appreciated here in Normandy. What about the two flavours combined then? Apart from in Dieppe, few people have heard of Caramel de Pommes Dieppois, but once you taste it, there’s no going back! It’s simple. It’s heavenly. It’s memorable.
This soft apple spread with hints of caramel was invented by local chocolatier Jean-Pierre Roussel and only has four locally-sourced ingredients: apple purée, soft butter, salted butter and granulated sugar. At first, it was simply a filling for one of Roussel’s chocolate sweets, but proved so popular that the Chocolatier decided to produce a smooth spread version and sell whole pots of the delicacy. He then passed on the recipe to Les Ateliers d’Etran, a workshop and professional integration centre located on the outskirts of town which mainly employs people with disabilities. Every day, the ‘marmitons’ mix the ingredients in a big copper pot and slowly increase the temperature until they reach the perfect texture.
What’s great about the product is the fact that it’s so simple, yet tastes so different to anything else. Just imagine your favourite caramel sweet melted into a smooth Norman apple purée and sprinkled with a touch of salt. Yes – it’s that good. So many foodies have fallen for Caramel de Pommes Dieppois that it now comes in several flavours, including ‘beurre salé’ (with extra salted butter – a best-seller) and cinnamon. It tastes absolutely divine on crêpes, toast, waffles and especially on croissants. It will also add a distinctive sweet touch to chicken, foie gras, scallops and cheese. The spread never fails to impress!
Recently, two new ranges have been introduced: Pomme en tartine (apple on toast) and Pomme en cuisine (cooking apple). The sweet version consists of Caramel de Pommes and somewhat exotic flavours such as candyfloss or marshmallow. Kids will like them. The cooking spread will add a certain je ne sais quoi to all your dishes, with notes of carrot and coriander or ginger and Calvados.
Caramel de Pommes Dieppois is available in many supermarkets, bakers and épiceries fines, and is also on the menu in several restaurants across Normandy. You won’t find it in the UK for the moment, but if this post has got your taste buds tingling, you can always order pots online – the perfect stocking filler!
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.
All photos © Les Ateliers d’Etran | Text: Ben Collier