What is a Calisson?

Calisson is made with ground almonds.

Calisson is a type of dulce de leche originally from France, specifically from the Provencal region. It is often shaped like an almond or diamond and has a white royal icing coating. It is mainly made from a paste created by grinding almonds and candied fruits, usually melons and oranges. It is said to have a texture similar to that of fondant or marzipan, but what sets it apart is the fruity flavor of the candied fruit. This chewy candy is still traditional and widely produced in Aix-en-Provence, a town in Provence.

There are different accounts of how the calisson got its name, one of which tells how the candy originated in Italy around the 17th century. The candy was known in the Italian language as “calicem” or “calisone” and was believed to have the power to contain the bubonic plague. Before being eaten, the candy underwent a ritual in which the archbishop blessed it before distributing it to those who believed in the power of the candy. When the candy was introduced in France, its name was changed to “calissoun” and then to “calisson”.

Another story goes back to the 15th century, during the marriage of French King René de Anjou and Queen Jeanne de Laval, his second wife who was said to have never smiled. When the queen was served with some sweets created in her honor, she smiled, causing the messenger to react by saying, “Di calin soun” or “They are sweets.” In this way, the phrase was transformed into the word “calisson”.

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Traditionally, the calisson usually goes through two main stages: the preparation of the dough and its molding itself. When the paste is made and the orange is not included, the fruit peel is integrated into the paste to give the candy a tangy flavor. Some recipes suggest soaking the candied fruits in almond liqueur to give the candy more almond flavor. The paste is then treated in a water bath, where the container containing the paste is placed in a larger container that contains water before placing it in the oven.

After the paste is cooked and cooled, it is rolled into a rectangular shape on a piece of wax paper or wafer. The paste is then cut into equal strips, which are then cut into small diamonds. The candies are dipped or smeared with royal icing and left to cool for the icing to harden. Calisson’s modern factories use embedded trays with diamond molds to create uniformly shaped candies.

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