Serves: Makes ~50 Calissons
Preparation time: ~2.5 – 3.5 hours depending on cutting technique used
Calories: ~82 calories per Calisson
Greetings fellow netizens. I hope you’ve been having a wonderful week. It’s friday today which can only mean one thing – weekend incoming! It’s actually been a while since I posted any photos and we’re planning on cooking up some chicken drumsticks, making up a tub of potato salad and some wonderful garlic bread, chucking it all in the car and going off for a picnic somewhere this Sunday if the weather is good enough. This will be a great photo opportunity if we go to the same place as we did last year. Unfortunately a thunder storm cut short our picnic last time, and the highway was reduced to a treacherous crawl with almost no visibility due to a sudden torrential downpour of rain, but fingers crossed for blazing sun and some cute forest photos this time around!
Saturday, I’m going to be cooking up the conserve which I was planning to make last weekend – don’t worry, this time I’ll remember to buy the vinegar – but aside from that I’m aiming for a quiet weekend; a chance to catch up on household tasks, sleep and generally relax. I don’t know if any of you noticed but I actually “fixed” my site last weekend. I discovered that the layout wasn’t displaying properly on smaller screens, such as tablet browsers, or if you shrunk the browser window. After a bit of trial and error I found a way to fix it so it now (should) display properly.
Down to business for today’s post: I think there’s a high chance a great many people might never have heard of them. I wouldn’t have, had it not been for a trip to the south of France when I was younger. They’re a regional specialty and many of the Calissons that you see sold commercially today are still made down in Aix-en-Provence. Calissons are, effectively, a type of candy, or sweet, depending on how you call them in your part of the world. Fun to make, and even more fun to eat, the primary ingredients are ground almonds and blended, candied fruit, mixed together with sugar and something like orange flower water to form a paste. The paste is rolled onto wafer paper, cut, and topped with royal icing and makes amazing, beautiful gifts for people. It’s a bit more pricey than the recipes I normally post here, but the yield is high and they can easily be split into multiple portions.
Calissons are believed to date back to roughly the 12th century, which is pretty darn old if you ask me, though at the time it was the Italians who were apparently making these things. Some believe that they were introduced to France in the 15th century for the second wedding of King René of Anjou (unrelated, but damn that guy looks unhappy!). Others believe that they weren’t introduced in their modern form to France until the 16th century. Whenever they arrived on French soil though, they obviously liked them a lot because they’ve been made there ever since and are now considered a very traditional French candy.
There are a great many ways to make calissons – some books now even propose all sorts of interesting new flavours – chocolate, coffee, even savoury calissons involving bell pepper, courgette and so forth. The traditional recipe isn’t the fastest to make, however numerous shortcuts exist. For example, some people make them using fruit jams or jellies instead of candied fruit. Perhaps the biggest time saver though is using a knife to cut them into diamond shapes, instead of using a special almond-shaped cutter (the traditional shape). Using this cutter is a laborious process. You have to position it on the wafer paper, cut around the inside using a knife, then push it through the paste, before removing the cutter, carefully pushing out the calisson and repeating the process, remembering to wash the cutter every 4 or 5 calissons, else the cutter will become too covered in paste residue to be usable!
This won’t be my last visit to calissons – I had a lot of fun with them and I still have plenty of wafer paper left. I plan on experimenting with different flavour combinations and fruits to really find something delicious and unique, and I hope I can inspire you to do the same! Enjoy the recipe today everyone and have a fantastic weekend!
For the paste
- 300g Ground Almonds
- 200g Icing Sugar
- 200g Candied Melon
(I couldn’t find this so I replaced this with candied Orange Peel)
- 40g Candied Orange Peel
(I replaced this with Candied Pineapple as I used Orange already)
- 30g Candied Lemon Peel
- 3 tbsps Orange Flower Water
For the icing
- 150g Icing Sugar
- 1 Egg White
You’ll also need
- 1 or 2 sheets of A4 sized Wafer Paper
- A Food Processor
- Start off by pre-heating your oven to 120 degrees Celsius. Mix the ground almonds and icing sugar together well in a large bowl and then spread out onto a baking tray. Place into the oven for about 30 minutes. This will dry out the ground almonds and sugar which may still have moisture in them.
- While the almonds and sugar are drying out, chop the candied fruit finely and place into your Food Processor. Set to chop on high speed. It will make a lot of noise and it will seem like you’ll never succeed, but eventually the fruit will be almost completely broken down and will form a large, sticky ball.
- Add in all the Orange Flower Water and continue to blend until you have a loose paste, looking roughly like the picture below. Make sure that the paste is quite smooth and that no lumps of candied fruit remain.
- Once the almonds and sugar are ready, remove from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes to allow to cool slightly, before adding into the fruit paste, still inside the food processor. Blend again until the almonds, sugar and fruit paste are completely combined to create a firm, slightly sticky dough, not dissimilar to marzipan in appearance. Place the ball of dough into a clean bowl and cover with a cloth. Place into a cool, well-ventilated area and allow to dry out for about an hour.
- After the dough has dried, cover a clean work surface with a large sheet of waxed paper and then lay a sheet of Wafer Paper on top – smooth side up. Push the dough into a rough, thick brick shape with your hands and lay on top of the wafer paper. Gently roll out to a thickness of about 8mm, trying to cover as much of the wafer paper as you can, but also being sure not to get it wet or tear it.
- Carefully flip the arrangement over, so the dough is facing down towards the waxed paper and the wafer paper is facing up. If you have a special calisson almond shaped cutter, or any other small cutter, lay it on top of the wafer paper and gently hold it in place while you cut the paper, from the inside of the cutter, to match its shape. Once done, gently push the cutter through the dough and pull out. Carefully push the calisson out from the cutter and arrange on a plate or tray, wafer paper side down and continue. You’ll probably want to wash the cutter every 4 or 5 calissons, as the edges will soon gum up with dough, making for less neat edges. If you do not have an appropriate cutter, cut the dough into long strips, about 3cm wide, and then cut along the diagonal to form diamond shapes.
- For the icing, place the icing sugar in a bowl and add in the egg white. Whisk gently until the sugar and white are combined, before whisking vigorously until the icing resembles a thick cream.
- Cover the tops of the calissons with the icing, trying to go right up to the edges, but run your finger around the edges to prevent any drips. Once all the calissons are iced, allow the icing to set for about 1 hour once again.
- Enjoy as a sweet treat instead of chocolate or gift to friends for a taste of France! These do not need to be stored in the refrigerator – merely a basket is sufficient if eaten within a few days. If storing for a bit longer, store in an airtight container and allow to dry in the open air for about an hour before eating.