Dessert’s name- Calisson d’Aix
Venue- Aix en Provence, France
Cost- 18 EUR / 1300 INR
We all have a right to (day)dream. I have a list of possible places where I would like to lead a life post retirement. On top of that list is France’s picturesque Provence. How I love that place. We have breathtaking lavender fields, Ménerbes’ delicious ice creams, the calming Mediterranean sea, figs, excellent quality olive oil, amazing L’occitane like but relatively affordable organic beauty products, vineyards and, of course, a great variety of cheese and wine.
There are mainly two stories associated with its origins. Let’s commence with the first one. The town of Aix-en-Provence, reputed for making best calissons was devastated by an epidemic of plague in mid 17th century. Small biscuits blessed by the archbishop were given out to protect people against the infection. In fact, there is an annual festival (Bénédiction des Calissons) which keeps this ritual alive even today. It is celebrated every September. Linked to this is the Christmas tradition of Provence wherein thirteen desserts are laid during the festivities. They are representative of Christ and the twelve apostles. Calisson d’aix is one of these thirteen desserts. Another legend has it that calisson was created to celebrate the second marriage of King René to princess Jeanne de Laval in 1454. Young and austere princess Jeanne was unhappy to be wedded to the 45-year old king. The calisson was invented to cheer her up. It became famous as the sweet candy which made the princess smile!
This special provençal treat is quite small in size, roughly half the size of one’s finger. It has a typical diamond shape and comprises three layers. The white royal icing on top is slightly crunchy and the second layer, made of almond paste and crystallized melon is soft in texture. The bottom most layer is made of a thin wafer. Calisson looks like it’s going to be too sweet in taste, but it’s delicate balance of sweetness and the citrus flavour is very pleasant. It comes in some five to six other flavours, but the original one is certainly the best.
For budding chef pâtissiers out there, here’s a link with a step-by-step recipe for caissons- https://butterbadge.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/calissons/.