Marzipan originated in the Middle East where almonds, cane sugar and rose water were plentiful. This costly delicacy remained in the realm of royalty through the Middle Ages. It is reported that the German Emperor Charles IV received molded marzipan in Sienna in 1368. Molded marzipan spread to sumptuous banquet tables and Church celebrations, a demonstration of wealth and pleasure.
Marzipan was also thought to have healing powers in the Middle Ages. It was referred to as the heart or strength sugar bread. For centuries, only members of the pharmacist guilds had the privilege to make and sell marzipan.
Everything changed at the beginning of the 19th century when it became possible to produce sugar from sugar beets. These grew “outside the front door” enabling marzipan to be affordable to the affordable general public. Molded marzipan appeared at all occasions: holidays, birthdays, weddings, religious celebrations and festivals. They were treats for the eyes, heart and mouth.
Recipe from the Middle Ages
Fine, grated, sweet almonds, half weight of sugar powder and some rose water. Roast this mixture in a copper kettle constantly stirring over gentle fire. Then knead the mass, shape with molds and dry.
It comes in cans or rolls and can be found in the baking section of some grocery stores. (I have found it where the chocolate chips and baking nuts are.) Two brands are
™ Marzipan Almond Candy Dough (www.odense.com
) and Solo
™ Premium Marzipan (www.solofoods.com
). Both brands work well.
Beware: Do not buy almond paste. Almond paste is not marzipan. Almond paste's number one ingredient is almonds and the second ingredient is sugar. This formulation keeps the paste flexible so that it can be stirred into recipes to flavor cakes or make fillings. But when you are molding marzipan, you do not want flexibility. You want your molded images to eventually dry out and stiffen into a chewy candy. If you mold almond paste, it will remain flexible for a long, long, long time. Christmas will come and go, and that Pine Cone you molded in almond paste still will not have stiffened up!
In contrast, marzipan's number one ingredient is sugar and the number two ingredient is almonds. The high sugar content ensures that your molded marzipan will stiffen after a couple of days.
One last note, IKEA sells blocks of "Marzipan" whose number one ingredient is almonds, not sugar. Very confusing. I bought their "Marzipan" and formed it with springerle molds in a side-by-side comparison with Odense Marzipan and Solo Premium Marzipan. The springerle images made with Odense and Solo brands began stiffening in less than a day, while those made with IKEA were still a little soft. If I were you, I'd stick with Odense or Solo.
Now you're ready to hit the grocery store! Read the ingredient label. Sugar #1, Almonds #2.
What stores carry marzipan? Giant Eagle grocery stores in Pittsburgh do. But the next largest grocery chain only carries almond paste. I looked for marzipan in four national chains. Whole Foods has Odense Marzipan. Target, Walmart, and Michael's do not carry mazipan in the stores I visited. If you cannot get it locally, you can purchase it online.
Forming Marzipan with Springerle Molds
Roll out marzipan 6-8mm thick using dough guides. Dust the springerle mold and the marzipan surface lightly with powdered sugar and press the mold evenly into the marzipan. Remove the mold and cut out the image with a cookie cutter or with a knife. Allow the molded marzipan to air dry at room temperature for two days.The almond flavor deepens as the marzipan dries.
Variation: Knead 1/4 teaspoon orange oil to 4 ounces marzipan for a refreshing flavor combination. This is great for disguising the nutty flavor for non-marzipan lovers. The consistency stays the same and molding is just as easy. (Avoid using a liqueur: the flavor is less concentrated and the alcohol makes the marzipan too soft to mold.)
Special Thanks to Änis-Paradies