We recently caught up with the Marseille episode of “Bizarre Food: Delicious Destinations” to see which French food made the list on Andrew Zimmern’s “unusual regional delicacies”. To our surprise, the Calissons was featured!
Though we think there are much more exotic and “bizarre” food out there in the world, we do agree that when it comes to quintessential Provencal cuisine, this specialty candy is one you don’t want to miss!
History of Calissons
Forget macarons, there’s another iconic French sweet that will have you brimming with joy: the Calisson.
These petite candies traditionally hail from a town called Aix-en-Provence in the south of France and have remained a favorite among locals for centuries.
It was believed that the Calissons first appeared in the middle of the 15th century. At the age of 22, Princess Jeanne de Laval was unhappy to be engaged to the 45 year-old King Rene d’Anjou. To cheer her up, King Rene had his head confectioner prepare sweets that resemble smiles for their royal wedding feast.
The Queen-to-be turned her frown around upon seeing the Calissons and the two actually had an endearing and long-lasting marriage.
What is in a Calisson?
With an elegant petal shape, the Calisson comes in three distinct layers with a seamless tasting experience.
A soft mixture of finely crushed almonds and candied fruits form the pale yellow paste found in the middle of the candy. Melons, orange peels and orange blossom are combined with honey to naturally sweeten the Calisson. The paste is then seated on thin wafer paper and coated with smooth royal icing for a delightful crunch.
Almonds grow best in Mediterranean-like climates and the ones from Provence are considered some of the best in the world. In fact, almonds harvested there are also naturally sweeter than others, making them a popular ingredient in Provencal cake and biscuits, in addition to Calissons.
The Difference between Calisson and Marzipan
Many people who try Calissons for the first time often compare its texture to a dense cake or marzipan.
Marzipan is an almond paste with origins from Italy, commonly found in colorful candies, chocolates or cake decorations. Though they share a similar chewy consistency, the ratio of sugar to almonds used is much higher in marzipan than in Calissons. Moreover, almond oil extract is usually added to marzipan to exagerrate the flavor.
On the other hand, Calissons are made with an abudance of blanched almonds and have a delicate melon-like aroma that linger at every bite.
Where to Buy Calissons
At myPanier, we have Calissons and Calissous (mini Calissons) handcrafted from small towns in Provence, from Le Poet to Montelimar.
If you enjoy a more prominent fruit blossom taste, we recommend Trois Abeilles‘ selections. If you prefer a subtler flavor that is more rounded out, Maffren Calissons has been been making these candies with the same recipe since the 1950s.