Besotted with a taste of Provence

It’s not often a chance encounter with never-before-tried commercially-made sweetmeat ends with its successful recreation in the home kitchen.  Cake Girl had never heard of calissons: a chewy delicately-flavoured confection made with ground almonds, candied fruit and orange blossom water.  Traditionally hailing from Aix en Provence (authentic version pictured above), it features a contrasting crunchy royal icing topping.  And treads the fine line between being extremely more-ish and very satisfying.

Often sweetmeats such as these are difficult to make, requiring obscure ingredients, special equipment and complex techniques.  A search on Google usually confirms this worst case scenario.  But surprisingly not for the seemingly sophisticated calissons.  It took a bit of detective work to confidently match the details on the packet to the recipes available online.  Fortunately, the crisp white icing topping is quite distinctive and many people confessed they’d turned their hand to recreating calissons after having eaten the real thing.

The figurative icing on this sweet treat is that no cooking is required.  It’s simply a matter of blending together ground almonds and candied fruit (Cake Girl used mixed citrus peel) with icing sugar and orange blossom water to taste, then adding enough apricot jam to dampen the mixture so it binds together when pressed.  Don’t make it too wet though or you’ll end up with saggy calissons - a stiff paste is ideal.  Roll it out onto edible rice paper and leave to dry out slightly.  Then cut into pieces (traditionally oval or diamond shapes but squares/rectangles are easier) and cover with thin layer of royal icing (egg whites and icing sugar beaten together).  Once the icing has set hard, tuck in.  Store leftovers in a tin at room temperature.  Calissons also make nice gifts for foodies if you pop some aside before they all get yummed up.