The sweet mini pillows known as Bêtises de Cambrai were invented around 1830 in Cambrai by Émile Afchain, a confectioner’s son who accidently dropped mint into the lozenge dough while making berlingots.
He hoped his parents wouldn’t notice, and rolled out the dough until it turned white. His parents, unaware there was anything amiss, put them out for sale, and were surprised when their customers demanded more of those special candies. Émile confessed, and they made the same ‘mistakes’ or bêtises from then on.
Another candy maker in Cambrai said it was Jules Despinoy who made exactly the same blunder. It happened in Valenciennes, too, where they make a version called sottises (‘stupidities!’)
Unlike berlingots, bêtises are opaque, thanks to tiny air bubbles trapped in the hot boiled sugar.
Image by myself (Bernard Leprêtre)