What is a Calison?

Calisson is made with ground almonds.

Calisson is a type of dulce de leche originally from France, specifically from the Provençal region. It is often almond or diamond shaped and has a layer of white royal icing. It is made primarily from a paste created by grinding almonds and candied fruit, 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 sweet remains traditional and is widely produced in Aix-en-Provence, a city in Provence.

There are different accounts of how the calisson got its name, one of which tells how the sweet originated in Italy around the 17th century. The sweet was known in Italian 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 caramel was introduced to France, its name was changed to “calissoun” and then to “calisson”.

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

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

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

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