If you ever find yourself on the first Sunday of September in Aix en Provence, France, you’ll see pastry shop upon pastry shop preparing for a very special occasion. Windows display elegant, royal white, diamond shaped treats. These candies, Calissons d’Aix en Provence, are ceremoniously blessed on this day of the year.
This candy’s sweet rise to fame began when it was featured in the royal wedding dinner of King Rene and Jeanne de Laval. In 1454, King Rene of France was a widower, suffering the painful loss of the love of his life. He struggled with heartache until he met Jeanne de Laval, a 21 year old who was not fond of the idea of marrying a man as old as he was. However, at their wedding dinner, King Rene presented her with this delicate candy, a calisson, and upon the first bite, she fell deeply in love with him. That night was the beginning of a long and beautiful marriage.
The calisson's recipe changed throughout the years. It began as a crushed almond base with candied melon and other fruits, atop a cookie, or host. It is because of its host-like bottom that on the 1st of September, priests in Aix en Provence, in particular at the Church of Saint Jean de Malte, place it in the chalice in the place of the host for Holy Communion. Today, these candies contain almond marzipan with candied melon and orange peel, covered with a royal white icing. Though the olden-day calisson may look different from the more modern take, the calisson has always been known for that distinctly sweet yet refreshing taste it leaves on the palate.
Calissons have a simple combination of flavors that play along your tastebuds with each bite. The citrusy tartness of the orange peel, the sweet taste of melon, the creamy marzipan, and the beautiful royal icing make it a treat for the eyes and mouth. Though it began as a provincial sweet, its elegant appearance has made it famously decadent, and its creamy texture and melodic balance of flavors have both played a part in its fame.
Try just one calisson d'Aix en Provence, and you'll find yourself falling in love with each bite...
Just like those romantic French monarchs over 500 years ago.