For this month’s Random Recipe challenge  Dom of Belleau Kitchen has challenged us to pick a recipe at random from among those we've torn out of magazines, newspapers and the like. Fair enough, I thought, and went to my box of disorderly clippings and pulled out a recipe for Navettes cut from a well-known French magazine (I'm naming no names). I was a happy bunny because I've always fancied making these.

Navettes are mostly associated with Marseille and are somewhere between a cake and a biscuit. They're supposed to look a little like boats and, according to one story, may date back as far as ancient Egypt where they were made in the likeness of the boat that carried Isis. Not sure I really buy that, but I love a good story and this does seem to be a genuinely very old recipe.

So I cheerfully began to make the navettes. But, Dear Reader, let this be a salutary lesson to us all. As I've discovered more than once in the past, the recipes in magazines are sometimes not subject to the same degree of testing and proofreading as those in books (or those of my lovely fellow bloggers, of course). It quickly became clear that this recipe was never going to work – the ingredients and amounts given were just plain wrong.

But was I downhearted? Well yes I was a bit, but rather than abandon the navettes, I've  played around with the recipe until it works. You can nibble on these at any time of the day and they're solid enough to carry with you for sustenance on a country walk. They're also good to dip into creamy desserts or to serve alongside ice cream. Having said that, I have to admit that the texture is not like a classic cake or biscuit and the orange flower water flavour can be a bit of a challenge for some people. In other words, be prepared for something a little different that might delight some but cause others to look at you a bit oddly. 
You can make these smaller or larger as the mood takes you, but this amount should give you between 15 and 20 navettes of a decent size.

375 g plain flour
2 eggs plus 1 extra yolk for glazing
180 g caster sugar
30 g butter, softened
A pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp orange flower water
Zest of 1 lemon, very finely grated
50 ml water

Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Lightly beat the two whole eggs and pour them into the centre of the flour. Add the sugar, softened butter, pinch of salt, baking powder, orange flower water and the lemon zest.

Gradually mix the ingredients together with your fingertips, incorporating the flour bit by bit. Gradually work in enough of the water to form a smooth but still quite firm dough. You may not need all the water. As soon as the dough comes together and starts to feel smooth, stop working it.

Divide the dough into 5 pieces. Roll each piece into a longish sausage shape – how thin is up to you, but an overall length of somewhere between 30 and 40 cm is probably about right. Cut each sausage of dough into three roughly equal pieces. Flatten each piece a little into an oval shape. Place on oven trays lined with silicone sheets or non-stick paper. Use the point of a sharp knife to cut a slit along the middle of each navette. Set aside for an hour at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Beat the remaining egg yolk with a little water and paint this mixture over the navettes. Bake in the oven until golden and cooked through. How long this takes will depend on how large you’ve made them, but around 15 – 20 minutes should do it. Allow to cool fully on a wire rack before munching.


  1. I've never heard of these Phil but glad to hear you rescued the recipe from potential disaster! I'm sure they must be great dipped in a nice warm cup of strong coffee?

  2. They look a bit like a cross between a scone and a biscotti! Glad you kept trying and managed to make the recipe work.

  3. Kate - thanks for reminding me - they do dunk well into tea or coffee. The hint of orange may not be to everyone's taste when combined with their favourite beverage, though.

  4. I have not seen these before - I will look out for them next time we are chez nous. They look tasty - especially as they are flavoured with orange flower water - très chic!

  5. Oops - forgot to add - good for you, not giving up until you got it right. I would have been tempted to cheat and pick another random recipe - but don't tell Dom!

  6. This looks tempting enough to try:)Like bakes like this:)

  7. Well it's never cheating if you're striving for perfection! I love the recipe. It does sound rather scone-like. Are they hard or soft? They look excellent and thanks for taking part this month!

  8. I haven't heard of these before either. They sound and look good though. Good tinkering!

  9. Dom - these aren't hard like biscotti but neither are they soft like scones. They're somewhere in-between.The closest comparison I can think of is some of the chewier forms of British gingerbread - but without the ginger.

  10. What an interesting recipe, I've never heard of navettesa before now. They sound like the perfect bake ahead dessert accompaniment, think I might have to give these a try!

  11. Really intrigued to know what these taste like as I thought they must be scone like then just read your comments. The orange and lemon flavour sounds lovely.

  12. Phil, these look gorgeous. They remind of a biscuit we have back in India, and I can see the texture being very similar.

    As luck would have it, I have all the ingredients to make it today, so guess what's for dessert :-)

    Thank you for sharing, and I love the story too.

  13. These navettes look so delicious, look forward to having a go atthem,thanks for sharing - lovely blog, by the way:)

  14. linked over from dom's! these look delicious! I've never heard of them before, so this is a first for me!

  15. I'd never heard of navettes. I guess that's the joy of these challenges, you always discover something new. It always distresses me when published recipes don't work, such sloppy work given people are paid to write them when so many great food bloggers write for free.

  16. Am so intrigued by these little biscuit breads! I have never used orange blossom water - bet the hint of citrus is just wonderful!

    Sticking to a faulty recipe can be soo rewarding when you solve the mystery of a bad edit ... good for you!


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