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The new macaron? A queen, a love story and an almond cake

Photograph by Merle Ja Joonas

Photograph by Merle Ja Joonas

When I last visited Paris – and that was far too long ago – I went in search of the perfect macaron. On most nights I went to bed with packets of jewel-coloured delights on my bedside table.

During that trip, I vaguely remember seeing something else that caught my eye: trays of pastel-coloured, iced, oval-shaped confectioneries showcased behind a glass counter. These are called calissons, and while I never saw them since, I often thought about them.

Yesterday this vision came to life, as a box of outstanding Ooh La La candies arrived on my desk for the team to sample. Amongst the salted caramels, pecan pebbles, Spanish turrón, slabs of nougat and the array of chocolate-dipped pillows of marshmallows (in flavours from violet and coconut to cafe au lait, mint and rose), was a slender box. Inside, at last, I got a taste of these French delicacies, which originated in Aix-en-Provence.

Photograph by Kate Hopkins

Photograph by Kate Hopkins

The story behind calissons is a love affair between a pastry chef and his queen. The queen was never happy until she tasted this unique confection made by her favourite chef. The cut-out shapes comprise of a kind of marzipan mixed with apricot jam, orange peel and sugar and set on rice paper. A thin amount of royal icing is laid on top and it’s quickly popped in the oven so it sets silky smooth. Because these sweet little bites made the queen smile, their shape has a slight curve that resembles an upturned mouth.

Hundreds of years later, I can attest: they taste exquisite!

All the ingredients in Ooh La La’s products are carefully selected from around the world: they source almonds and pecans from USA, butter from Normandy, chocolate from Belgium, and fleur de sel and violets from France.

I really hope I get to see – and taste – more of these delicious morsels this year. Perhaps calissons will catch on and become the new macarons. One can always dream!

Photograph by Julien Haler

Photograph by Julien Haler

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