The manufacturing secrets of the calisson of Aix-en-Provence

In the countryside of Aix, Roy René's calissons factory produces some of the most incredible candies in France. Come along and tour the workshop to discover everything there is to know about this almond pastry, one of 13 desserts traditionally served at Christmas, with a flavor that takes you straight to Provence.

A vintage origin

Calissons have been tickling Provençal taste buds since the 15th century. According to local legend, Roy René's confectioner made this almond-based treat for the king's wedding in 1454. When young Queen Jeanne de Laval asked him about the name of the candy, he replied in Provençal that it was like a hug: "Di calin soun."

Almonds, candied melon, and sugar

The making of traditional calissons is based on three ingredients: Mediterranean almonds, candied melons from Apt and sugarcane syrup. Roy René personalizes his recipe with a hint of candied orange peel.

A delicately flavored confection

The yellow paste that forms the soft body of the calisson is obtained by boiling and mixing peeled almonds with crushed candied fruit and then enriching this dough with hot sugar syrup. Adding a bitter almond essential oil extract in the dough distills the characteristic scent of the calisson. Then the paste must rest for three days, carefully wrapped in the workshop before passing to the hands of the calisonnières.

A delicately flavored confection

The yellow paste that forms the soft body of the calisson is obtained by boiling and mixing peeled almonds with crushed candied fruit and then enriching this dough with hot sugar syrup. Adding a bitter almond essential oil extract in the dough distills the characteristic scent of the calisson. Then the paste must rest for three days, carefully wrapped in the workshop before passing to the hands of the calisonnières.

Never without royal icing

Calissons are always covered by a smooth, matte layer: royal icing. This is obtained by whisking egg whites and water with a delicate touch. White icing marks traditional calissons, which represent half of the production of Roy René's workshops. For other recipes, icing can be dyed with colors based on the flavors that go well with almonds.

Shaping calissons using molds and by hand

A machine injects the dough on a sheet of unleavened bread into molds with the characteristic shape. The icing is done using a spatula, after which calissons are turned out by hand using combs.

Shaping calissons using molds and by hand

A machine injects the dough on a sheet of unleavened bread into molds with the characteristic shape. The icing is done using a spatula, after which calissons are turned out by hand using combs.

Strawberry-basil or citrus-chocolate

Curious palates are always delighted by the miniature fruit-flavored calissons, or exceptional collections with delicate marriages, like the irresistible Timut blackcurrant pepper, created by a local Michel-starred chef.

13.3 grams of sweetness

Roy René traditional and original calissons are sorted and packaged by hand. An improper shape or flaw in the icing, and the calisson is discarded. Roy René's confectionery manufactures almost two thirds of the calissons made in Aix-en-Provence. Since 1630, they are blessed every first Sunday of September in the church of Saint John of Malta.

The calisson in all its states

The factory stands in the middle of an orchard of young almond trees, housed in a stone building in Rognes, near Aix-en-Provence. The site includes a shop where all the variations of the calisson are sold: original collections, calisson cream to personalize a pie or a sorbet, calisson nuggets to add a French touch to a cake. And, of course, the must-see museum tells the story of the manufacture of this pastry, highlighting old machines and vintage photos. The house of Roy René, created in 1920, was also famous for making nougat, another Provençal sweet hewn from almonds.

For more information:

Roy René Confectionery - Calisson Museum (External link)
Free visits to the museum every day.
Guided tours, including a calissons demonstration: Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Confectioner's workshop: 2-hour course to learn how to make calissons in the workshop of Roy René's sho,p located at 11 Rue Gaston de Saporta, in Aix-en-Provence. Minimum of 2 people, by reservation: Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., or from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Price: Adults: €55; Children (under 18 years old): €35.
Visit Aix-en-Provence (External link)
Plan your trip to Provence (External link)
• Also read: Gourmet walk with Bénédicte Sire inside Marseille and Our 6 skills to simmer the flavors of fall in Provence