As this expanded to home vegetable gardens and farm work, it became an obsession: Why buy something that you can make, that you can even grow.
This has spanned Brazil and New York, many restaurants and personal ventures, and years of perfecting her idea of the perfect calisson.
She started Dana Confection Co to explore local fruits and preservation methods and to bring the beloved calisson to the american market.
The calisson is traditionally made from finely ground almonds and candied Provençal melon with all it’s rich perfumed delicacy, mixed into a paste, and topped with a crunchy white icing.
Combining candied fruit and almonds goes back a long time in greek and roman history, and 12th century texts mention Italian monks making “calisone”, a cake of almonds. In the 16th century almonds became an important trade in Aix-en Provence and they were combined with candied Cavaillon melon to make the calissons that became famous in the region.
As Europe was being devastated by the black plague, calissons were thought to offer protection. So much so that the archbishop of Aix blessed the calisson and offered it in chalices on Christmas, Easter, and September 1st, and this tradition held on.
Of course there is a more romantic tale that surrounds the creation of the calisson, which took place at the wedding feast of King René of Anjou to Jeanne de Laval in 1454. It is said that during the feast Jeanne de Laval was so morose that the royal cook Titsé became desperate to make her smile. He created a confection of almonds and candied fruit for her, and viola, he got his smile. When neighboring feast goers discussed what finally lit up her face, someone declared "Di cali soun!” A little hug.
This allows us to obtain the best flavor in our candy. Preservation of the crop has always been an important aspect of farming, and we are upholding this tradition and supporting local farms.
Candying fruit is the second step in making calissons. Our process is slow and simple, soak fruit in ever increasing concentrations of syrup until they syrup is thick and the fruit is transparent, which takes around 3-6 weeks. We don’t make jam, the fruit never breaks down from cooking, sugar simply replaces water and we are left we little gems bursting with flavor. This practice has been around for centuries and we are happy to keep it going.
It is always fun to pair fruits with floral and herbal undertones, and our combinations never fail to please. Our personal rooftop garden supplies many of these flavors, such as thyme, sage, and lavender. We simply make a syrup, put in our herbs, and let the flavors seep out.
Each calisson is made with special care that needs a delicate hand at every step. Once dry a royal icing is made from egg whites and powdered sugar (we only use free range organic eggs) and each calisson is dipped in and left to dry which creates a crunchy white topping. And they are ready to eat!
See below for a glimpse into our calisson-making process, from selecting fresh herbs and produce all the way to adding icing.