Monday, January 12, 2009

I Thought I Was French

My ancestry is chock full of French-ness. And, I admit to being a bit of a francophile. There are no medications for it, so please don't slay me over it. Even worse, right now I'm reading "Marie Antoinette: The Journey" and cannot get enough of it. It's really an illness. I've been cussing in French for weeks now - and all of it sounds so much more delicious in French, really! I feel so delicate tossing out f-bombs in francaise. Mais bien sur!

With this book I'm reading, I find myself fantasizing about wearing all those poufy dresses and wigs and hats. And then I realize I'm wearing flannel pajama pants. I wonder if I'd have been a good duchess or countess. And then I remember that I cringe when someone says "Miss" or "Ma'am" to me. I dream of all those balls and social extravaganzas. And then I recall that I'm a total homebody; I practically need rocket fuel to propel my butt out of the house.

So, maybe it's not my era. But if I could choose a super-power? Puh-lease, hands down - time travel. Can you imagine? Oh swoon.

Well, with all this Frenchification and armchair time-traveling lately, I thought I might make something, well, French and, well, from another era. Duh. So hard to follow, no? Um, no.

What I decided upon, mon amies, was Calissons. What le heck are they, you ask? There are a few historical versions of their origin, but apparently this confectionery was introduced in 1473 for the wedding dinner of King Rene's second marriage. Later, during the 19th century, Calisson factories sprouted up and today, the capital of Calisson production is found in the Provence region.

Now, since I'm French and all - I thought mine would turn out just perfectly. You know, my French blood and everything. Makes sense to moi. Well, I don't think mine turned out quite right, despite all those French cells screaming through my bone marrow. I just don't get it.

But anyway, on the subject of time travel, what era would you blast yourself into, if you could?


I honestly can't recall from where I obtained this recipe - somewhere on the intertwined interwebs; usually, I print out a recipe and include the name of the creator. In this case, clearly my French blood interfered. Anyway, these taste a bit like Marzipan but with a nice hint of fruity flavor and, to me, a yummier slant of sweetness than Marzipan. The color of the nougat should actually be more homogeneous and smoother - mine appear a bit funky because there was still some skin on my sliced almonds and I'm not sure I ground them fine enough. Dang me. They are extremely easy to make and a nice little treat if you like almondy flavors with a hint of fruit. This is a translated recipe, so forgive the annoying measurements. It's not you, it's me.

6.3 oz. ground almonds
3 oz. powdered sugar
1.75 oz. apricot jam
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. orange blossom flower water

For the icing: 1 egg white & 3/4 c. powdered sugar (and milk, if needed, to thin icing)

In a food processor, grind almonds as fine as possible. Add sugar and pulse until combined, just a few seconds. Add jam, extract, orange water and process until it forms a smooth paste - it may ball-up in the processor, indicating it's finished combining. It will be a sticky dough, but form it into a ball and place on a large piece of plastic wrap (the piece should be much bigger than the ball) - place another piece of wrap on top of the ball and then roll the dough out (rolling on top of the 2nd piece of wrap) until about 1/4 inch thick. Uncover and leave at room temperature for 1-2 hours or until the dough is not sticky to the touch.

If you have an almond-shaped cutter, use that as it is the traditional shape. If not, use a small round cutter and then use a knife to cut each circle in half. Alternatively, you could use a knife to hand-cut almond shapes. Place cut-outs on a baking sheet lined with parchment and refrigerate for about an hour or until the candies are firm.

For the icing, mix together the egg white and powdered sugar; if too thick, add a bit of milk. It should have the consistency of a thick syrup. Dip the top of each Calisson into the icing, letting the excess drip off, then place onto the parchment. Repeat with the remaining candies and then let them sit at room temperature overnight. ENJOY!


Lisa said...

oh oh oh - doing the little happy dance at being the first to comment! :) These are yummy looking - I love almond and I love fruit - perfection. But I have Italian blood in my veins - ok, not really, but you know. These are beautiful in any language. And I am still laughing over the dog-posts. Hope all is well! Lisa

Jennifer S said...

Those look delicious.

I wish I were French, just so I can what le heck.

Anonymous said...

oh, yum! These look totally delicious!! And I would have to say if I were able to time (and location)(and age) travel but could only do it once, I would go to Liverpool in 1963 and watch The Beatles play at The Cavern Club. It might not be historic or worldly, but it sure would be amazing.

grace said...

what a sophisticated and delicate and enticing little dessert you have here! and you nailed it--time travel would be the most supreme of all super powers. think of all the connections (and investments) you could make and the things you could experience. my my. one thing i would NOT like to experience: corsets.

Real Live Lesbian said...

They look divine!

I took two years of French in HS and honestly, the one REAL thing I can spout off is our commercial/skit from first year:

When I eat a York Peppermint Pattie, I get the sensation of cool water splashing all over my body.

Trust me, it sounds SOOO much sexier in French! ;)

vanillasugarblog said...

When I read that book 'Maire Antoinette' I couldn't imagine ever taking a bath with clothes on--I thought that was so very weird.
Superpower? Yes, I wish I could permanently stop animal testing forever...
I have never ever heard of these cookies. And I do love how you got the frosting perfectly on them, a skill I need much improvement on.

NV said...

They LOOK divine. I'd eat them! :-)

As for time travel ... I'd like to go back and solve all those genealogical mysteries that date back to various lines of mine in the 18th and 19th centuries. I'd also like to take pictures of all of them! (the fun part is that I would have to go all over the U.S. and THE WORLD to solve these mysteries.)

Anonymous said...

Time travel? That's easy - I'd go back to when Stonehenge was being built and finally find out who actually did it. And why. Because the not knowing DRIVES ME NUTS.

Anonymous said...

These are darling.

If I could time travel? I'd go back to all kinds of eras. But, I'd also go back in order to purchase a future winning lottery ticket. How about that?

Anonymous said...

Those little cookies/candies sound really good, actually. I like Marzipan, so these are for me.

I would time travel to every era, but I'd really love to experience the '60s. said...

Did you say "marzipan"? Count me in. I want them. I NEED them. I must have them.

How are you, gal?

Miss you, you minx.


Gigi said...

ooo, cookies and time travel? count me in!

i think i would go back to the late 30's and 40's. the clothes, hair, and men in hats! ...delish!

AmyAnne said...

Well, the 20's and 30's for me. I'd be a wandering writer and I'd hang out with Anais Nin somewhere along the way.

Cookies look awesome. I need some photog tips from you. I was given a Nikon for the holidays and I don't know how to use it!

flutter said...

look at you and your frenchiosity!

Navita (Gupta) Hakim said...

i 'm so going to make this...

love ur blog, new here. u have a great place with such wonderful pics n recipes...will be back in ur kitchen for sure :)


John D. said...


(yes I know you're married but I like to pretend you're not)

Isn't it time for those poofy dresses to come back in style? I especially like how they rather unabashedly accentuate exposed, gravity-defying cleavage and I cannot see how this bit of high French culture could cause anything but the betterment of our society.

You would make a fine dutchess. Or countess.

Dang, those calissons look good! : )

Slyde said...

i must admit that i have never really been enamored with the french history. Put me in medival japan anyday though :)

diva said...

Ah, bonjour! :) these look amazing, gosh. so yummy. i hafta say, my favourite people in the world are the japanese but the french come next and my lovely english folks i'm so chummy with come a close third. ;) looking at these cookies, along with the memories of Parisian fromageries and crepes, is making me consider putting the french first!! xx

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

OH yeah, I think I've died and gone to heaven. Now THAT is food porn!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Would you be terribly mad at me if I told you I just came back from Paris? I went there to spend the weekend, how "chic" is that?! And I saw so many calissons there!
Time travel? I allways think middle age must have been smelly, but I'd love to visit just for a short while.

giz said...

How come when you say it in French it never really sounds like swearing? I've never seen anything quite like this and I like it.

in other words said...

Bonjour Miss Velvet Lava,
A few weeks before Christmas my mom
told me about your blog. I really wanted to try
those tiny peanut butter chocolate tartletts ..
but I do not have a tiny tartlette pan (where did
you get yours?). So..I made a large one and several small ones in cupcake sheets. So rich and deilsh according to me, fam, and friends. And yes the white chocolate cheesecake turned out great! Thanks so much for the instructions!
So I want to do another Obama cake for Tuesday (as I did one for the election...check out and I found this wonderful looking thang:

Anywho, just wanted to say your blog has great pictures, makes me laugh, and is one of my baking inspirations for shizzle.
Ninja Knitta

Ann said...

Ninja Knitta - I'm SO glad you liked the tartlets and the cheesecake - yay! I got my mini-tartlet molds at Sur la Table - very inexpensive and I think you get around 24 of them.

Love that Obama cake! And that buttermilk cake? Hello moistness. Buttermilk does amazing things to cake, for sure.

Thank you for the lovely comments, my friend!

Nic said...

These look awesome, I love your photographs Ann.

Kana said...

It looks like it would be a very delicate cookie. Thanks for the recipe!

Anonymous said...

Mmm. Must go buy almond extract and 6.3oz of almonds right now! You said the magic word "easy" so this is one I will actually try to make...

Brittany said...

THOSE are darling and I am stealing this recipe.