The Winter holiday season always seems to be the time of choice for candy-making at home. It's cold outside, and a sweet little treat is a perfect gift for all those holiday parties. Well, it's also a time when you have a million other things to do, people to see, holiday shopping to do... so where does candy-making come in?
See, homemade candy takes time, precision, and a whole lot of love. Don't worry--I'm not about to start channeling Carla from Top Chef a couple seasons ago (remember that? She was all about "putting love" into her dishes). However, candy and I make an interesting couple. I love candy, eating it and making it, but there's also a bit of tough love involved. The process usually goes through ups and downs, and at some points you think it's never going to work out. Before you break out a business card with a counselor's name on it, I'll have to admit that I kind of enjoy our love-hate relationship. Fearing the worst makes even the slightest success seem like a huge victory.
So, Candy, I think I'll keep you a while longer--but I'll be changing the seasonality of things. Christmas is for eating lebkuchen, and I'm saving the candy-making for when the weather starts getting nicer and free time is abundant...meaning, now! Especially when it comes to making calissons, a regional treat from the South of France.
Calissons are made primarily with candied melons and ground almonds; if you're a fan of marzipan, you'll love these. They're traditionally almond-shaped, with a thin layer of white royal icing and a bottom layer of pain azyme--also used to make hosts in the Catholic tradition. Sure, calissons are a little time consuming, but a lot of it is about finding space to let them "dry" before icing, and dry again before eating...and that's the interesting part, right? Trust me, you won't be able to wait that long before trying them out (and you don't have to, really), and you'll see them disappear in a few short hours if you leave them. Watch out for those guests or family members!
Even if candy-making isn't your thing, this is a great way to work out your frustration--pounding almond paste with a rolling pin and eating the scraps, anyone? I'll take that any day over relationship counseling. Oh, candy, I love you more than ever.
makes about 60
Note: this is the version without the bottom layer--the pain azyme may be hard to find in the U.S. and other places, and it's really only useful if you want to stack them up so they don't stick!
150g candied melon
50g apricot jam
300g almond powder
200g confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon orange blossom extract
2 drops almond extract
for royal icing
1 egg white
150g confectioner's sugar
Chop candied melon and grind with apricot jam; texture should be very thick. Place mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Add almond powder, orange blossom, almond extract, and confectioner's sugar. Mix for 5 minutes or so--the almond powder will start releasing its oils--until a ball forms.
Place resulting paste between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out until it is about 1cm or a half-inch thick. Remove top sheet and let paste "dry" for at least two hours, and preferably overnight.
Using a small round cookie cutter (about one inch diameter) or almond-shaped cutter if you have one, cut paste into shapes. Reuse scraps and repeat.
Place calissons on a baking sheet lightly sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. Let calissons dry overnight.
The next day, make royal icing: beat egg white to stiff peaks and add confectioner's sugar. The result should have the same texture as thick sour cream. Working quickly, dip tops of each calisson in icing and place back onto parchment paper. Let dry overnight (again!).
And finally...eat them all up! These also make great gifts, and will keep for a week to a week and a half if stored in an airtight container.