Sunday, May 2, 2010

Calissons



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.


Calissons
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.
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19 comments:

lostpastremembered said...

I have never heard of these cookies... what a marvelous recipe. The candied melon is new to me to as is your wonderful blog... I can't wait to look back on your old posts!

Sinful Southern Sweets said...

I agree. Why do we always stress ourselves out trying to make candies during the busiest time of year?!?!
I love making candies, and these look great!

MaryMoh said...

These look so pretty. I love candy melon. I can imagine how delicious they are. Thanks for sharing.

claudia said...

Calissons are so good, and yours look tempting ! Fun to try a new shape too!

Paris Pastry said...

I love marzipan, (of course I do, what sweet treat don't I like?) So I must love these! I'm going to Loir-et-Cher this week so I'm hoping to find these!

Btw, how much do you pay for ground almonds in France? It's not available here in Holland, so I buy it in Belgium. But it's sooooo expensive there (250 grams = 5 euros)!

Barbara said...

Oh Lucie, these are little gems! And I adore the way you have presented them in a shell!
I assume that almond powder and almond flour are the same thing? (I hope, because I do have almond flour!)
And candied melon? That's a new one on me too. Will google that and see what comes up. Do you have a recipe for it?
You've introduced me to something new...calissons. Thank you!

Mary said...

I intend to try these when I get a block of time. I've never eaten these and am very curious as to their taste. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

grace said...

i typically don't have the patience for candy-making--i have to really gear myself up to tackle it. on the flip side, i love to eat candy, so it's an ongoing battle. :)
these little nibbles are gorgeous and must be so delicious--thanks for the introduction!

cookies and cups said...

Gorgeous! I haven't ever heard of this candy, but it sounds perfect and would be great for tea parties or anything girly :)

Lucie said...

ParisPastry: Look for them in a big white almond shaped tin, that's how they're usually packaged!

Barbara: Yep, almond powder and flour are the same. As for the candied melon, I simply bought it, but I'm pretty sure there are some nice recipes out there if you want to make your own!

Everyone: Thanks! Hopefully I'm giving you all yet another reason to come to France...!

natural selection said...

This is really nice what you have done here. nice touch with the flowers really nice blog!

Shauna from Piece of Cake said...

This sounds so exotic (to this American) and just divine! Have you ever made this with packaged almond paste? I have some leftover. Wondering if it would sort of heavier than the homemade?

Lucie said...

natural selection: Thanks!!

Shauna: I'm pretty sure you could use store-bought almond paste--you would just have to cut down on the sugar in the recipe, since a lot of almond paste has added sugar!

Sook said...

Hi! First time here! I have never tried these cookies but they look so cute! I bet they taste wonderful!

Ingrid said...

They look good and sound interesting! Let's see how they travel and mail me some.
~ingrid

Anonymous said...

Hello Lucie,
Congratulations on these lovely calissons. May I suggest this site for the crystallized melon: http://www.histoiresucree.com/product_pages/fruits_confits_melon_cello.html
The calissons I made were a success thanks to the high quality of the candied melon.

Gil said...

Hi Lucie,
The recipe looks great, thanks!
I have a question about the candied melons.
are these the crystallized melons
in this link:
http://www.histoiresucree.com/product_pages/fruits_confits_melon_cello.html

or the candied melons like in this picture:
http://www.stockphotos.it/image.php?img_id=16807951&img_type=1

or maybe "melon confit":
http://deliceyes.over-blog.org/article-33021911.html

What if I can only get the second kind? Can i use it to make the Calissons?

Thanks,
Gil.

Lucie said...

Hi Gil, you can use the second kind, of course! What I used resembles the second or third kind most.

Gil said...

Thanks Lucie,

I'll come back and update when (and if) I'll make them.