Calissons d’Aix

Almond & Melon Paste Sweet Cakes

Provence produces the sweetest almonds in Europe and Aix is the un-challenged almond capital of Provence. Its calissons have been awarded an Appellation Contrôlée (like fine wine) for their quality. Popularized commercially between 1830-1860, when the confectioners and pastry-makers of Aix first began to be known all over France, they are made with a proportion of 40% blanched almonds, pounded and slow-baked with 60% glace melons and fruit syrup. For this blending process special machines are used. The following recipe, adapted from the 1896 cookbook by J B Reboul, ‘La Cuisinière Provençale’, produces a not unsatisfactory home version.

Ingredients

  • 9 oz/250 g fine granulated sugar
  • 11 oz/300 g powdered almonds
  • 2 tbsp/30 ml glace melon, crushed
  • 2-3 tbsp/30-45 ml apricot or other syrup
  • rice paper

Glace Royale (Royal Icing)

  • 7 oz/200 g icing sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Method

Pound the sugar and almonds together finely in a mortar. Sieve & return to mortar. Work in glacé melon & enough fruit syrup to make a smooth paste. Flatten slightly, place in a dish & in a very low oven dry paste to the consistency of stiff pastry dough. Spread ¼ in/6 mm thick over rice paper. Make royal icing by beating icing sugar & egg-whites with a wooden spoon until a smooth, shiny paste is formed. Spread this over calisson mixture in a very thin layer & when set, cut calissons into elongated ovals of about in/35 mm (see drawing). Dry out again for 10-15 mins in a moderate oven.