Calissons have been made in Aix since the 15th century during the time of Good King René of Provence. They are made from candied melon, blanched almonds and orange zest, flavoured with orange blossom water and iced with glace royale (powdered sugar and egg whites), then laid out on papier azyme and cut in an almond shapes.
Originally they were blessed in church and distributed in thanksgiving after plagues, and today are still annually blessed in Aix’s church of St-Jean-de-Malte.
Food historians believe they may have originated as marzipan sweets in medieval Venice, and when Venice occupied Crete they became known as kalitsounas, hence ‘calissons’. Others believe the name comes from little calice (Communion chalice) because of their religious association.
There’s a new kind on the block as well called Califleurs à la Rose et à la Violette: rose and violet-scented calissons made with crystalized flowers by Confiserie Florian in the Gorges du Loup.
Calissons have been IGP since 2002 and are one of the famous Thirteen Desserts served at Christmas in Provence.
Image by Mathsci, Creative Commons License