Recipe for Calisson d’Aix a Traditional Sweet
Culinary references to a version of calissons lead to medieval Italy but these sweets are commonly associated with Aix-en-Provence – Calisson d’Aix. This came after 16th-century farmers planted the first almond crops in the region. These delicious calissons have been consistently made in the same way for many generations. Traditional calissons have three layers; thin host paper on the bottom, the fruit-almond mixture and a light coating of royal icing on top. Typically, a soft-diamond shape a calisson is similar in taste to marzipan.
Candy might not be the reason you decide to visit Aix-en-Provence, but don’t leave town without sampling the famous Calisson d’Aix. These sweets, made with ground, local almonds (sweet and bitter) and a fruit paste blend of melon confit (preserved in sugar) and orange peel, were officially recognized as part of the city’s heritage in 1990.
We introduce students to many traditional French and Provencal recipes in our cooking classes and culinary holidays, including these sweet treats.
- 3.5 oz Almond Meal (Almond flour)
- 2.5 oz Icing Sugar
- 3 oz Melon Confit (Candied Melon)
- 0.7 oz Apricot Confit (Candied Apricot)
- 1 tbsp Orange Blossom Water
- 2-3 drops of Bitter Almond Essence
- 2 sheets Papier d'Azyme (Wafer Paper)
For the Royal Icing:
- 1 Egg White
- 5.5 oz Icing Sugar
- 1 drop of Lemon Juice
- In a food processor with a metallic blade, make a paste with the almond meal, icing sugar, melon confit, and apricot confit.
- Add the bitter almond essence and orange blossom water and continue mixing until smooth and creamy.
- Lay down a sheet of parchment paper. Put the first sheet of wafer paper on it.
- Cover with the almond mixture, and with your hand make it 1 cm thick (half an inch) and then add the second wafer paper sheet on top.
- With a rolling pin, gently roll the top of the second wafer to obtain a uniform height.
- Let dry at room temperature overnight or longer if possible.
Royal Icing Preparation:
- Whisk the egg white and icing sugar for 2 or 3 minutes, then add a drop of lemon juice and whisk together.
- Cut the Calissons with a sharp knife or use an oval-shaped cookie cutter.
- Dip the top of each one of them in the icing sugar to get an even glaze.
- You can also try to pour over your icing sugar mixture BEFORE cutting out the Calisson shape. Use the method that works best for you.
- Allow the calissons to dry for one hour and reserve in the fridge the ones that you did not already consume.
More about Calisson:
Le Roy René factory needs some 200 metric tons of almonds annually to produce calissons d’Aix and nougats. As almonds are one of the key ingredients in these typically Provencal sweets, a reliable supply chain is critical to the operation. In 2016, 300 almond trees, which included 22 varieties, were planted around the Roy René museum and fabrication centre. The garden is a tribute to the almond growers of Provence to rejuvenate the local industry. Interestingly, not all the trees have survived, which speaks to the difficulty of growing almonds in Provence.
In 2020, Le Roy René celebrates a 100-year milestone in their fabrication of traditional calissons d’Aix and nougats. Much has happened in the last century at the company, including four owners, all of whom have added their mark to the organization. Learn more about the Roy René factory, museum and gardens outside of Aix-en-Provence.
Visit the statue at the end of the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence honouring the man known as Good King René. Roi René of Anjou’s family lineage stretched from Sicily and Naples (his father, Duke Louis II, held the title of King of Sicily) to modern-day Spain (his mother Yolanda of Aragon). Jeanne de Laval was 21-years old when they married Abbey of St. Nicholas in Angers in September 1454. Legend has it that calissons were served at their wedding, and the new queen (his second wife) smiled.
Today, you can find many calisson variations for sale with different flavours and coloured icings. However, the original (17th-century) Calisson d’Aix production follows strict guidelines:
Location: A manufacturer must be located within the Indication géographique protégée (IGP). These are the seven (7) approved communes: Aix-en-Provence, Eguilles, Meyreuil, St Marc Jaumegarde, Le Tholonet, Venelles or Vauvenargues.
Ingredients: According to Le Roy René’s website, “The calisson Aix must be manufactured from a crushed candied fruit and almonds blanched complemented by sugar syrup. The blanched almonds (minimum 32% of the pulp) carefully mixed candied fruit are crushed. Candied fruits account for 30% minimum of the dough. Melon, fruit mainly used (80% of candied fruit) is cultivated exclusively in Provence.”
Size and shape: The Calisson d’Aix is oblong and pointed at both ends. The calisson must have three distinct layers, a slightly granular texture, and no unnatural colouring or preservatives.
Calissoniers are members of the l’Union des Fabricants du Calisson d’Aix (UFCA) and adhere to standards of production. Who are the Confectioners?
Hey folks– Just a note that you left out the 2.5-oz icing sugar in the directions text—which we didn’t notice until after we’d let the paste sit for a day— and we’ve meticuloulsy scraped the paste off the wafer paper and added sugar, but we’re not at all sure it’s going to work.
The melon, especially, is a very expensive specialty ingredient, so please, please it’d be great if you could make sure the recipe is accurate.
Meantime, we’re going to switch to the next recipe, which takes longer, uses one instead of two sheets of wafer paper, and generally looks like it may work better.
Thank you– Jenny
Hello! You were 100% correct, the icing sugar was missing. I have updated the recipe.