My guest for today is the lovely and incredibly talented knitter and designer Ann Myrhe who you will probably know as Pinneguri or The Needle Lady.
In this post Ann shares her recipe for making one of my most favourite sweet treats, marzipan or Marcus Bread as it is sometimes called. It’s a slow but mindful process giving you time to mull things over and reflect on the festivities going on around you.
There was a time when only the pharmacies were allowed to sell marzipan, and perhaps there are many who still think it’s like that, or at least, that it is difficult to make?
It is not: A few simple but exquisite ingredients, an almond grinder and plenty of time. Do you know a simpler sweet?
Time is perhaps the biggest problem. I suggest three days, but it can be reduced to two if the almonds are dried in an oven.
And it is such a joy to make. Store bought marzipan never contains as many nuts as homemade, but more sugar. There is a Lübeck marzipan that contains 90% nuts and 10% sugar, but the German Edelmarzipan, premium marzipan is the one that is the most commonly used in the best confectionery. It contains 50% nuts and 50% powdered sugar, and is the one I usually make for my family here in Norway for Christmas.
Here’s what I do:
250g almonds – come in different qualities, but I tend to take what I find there and then
250g powdered (icing) sugar…so really: use equal quantities of almonds and powdered sugar
1 egg white, or less if you also add whisky, brandy or something else
If you want a little taste beside sugar and nuts then add a few drops of whisky, brandy, Cognac etc.
An almond grinder or hand grinder. I have found this gives the best results rather than using a food processor
A small saucepan for blanching the almonds and a larger one to melt the chocolate in
A mixing bowl
Plastic bag or plastic bowl with a lid
Blanch the almonds by cooking them for a couple of minutes then leave to cool and remove the brown coat. Let them dry on a cloth until the next day, or to speed it up, you can leave them in 50-100C oven for 1 hour. It is quite important for the flavour of the marzipan that the almonds are dry. The moisture in the almonds can cause incorrect weight and when sugar is mixed in, and the humidity of the marzipan evaporates, they taste more of sugar than nuts.
Grind them, preferably twice, maybe even three times, but at least once.
Weigh the almonds and blend in as much powdered sugar as there are almonds, for example, 250g of almonds and 250g of powdered sugar – equal quantities of each.
If you want a little taste of brandy or whisky mix only half of the egg white in, and then a capful of your chosen alcohol. If the dough feels dry add more egg white. If the dough is sticky it is better to add almonds than sugar, but if you have used up all the almonds, sugar is the alternative.
Using your hands, mix everything together and place in a bag or airtight box in the fridge overnight.
Next day, gently melt the chocolate over a saucepan of barely simmering water taking care that the bowl doesn’t touch the water.
Roll the marzipan between a large sheet of baking paper. Cut it into smaller pieces. Use a fork to dip the pieces in the melted chocolate and let it dry a few minutes on the baking paper.
Do not eat all at once!
I learned from an Indian lady that a handful of almonds keeps the digestive system working well. I can’t find any written information on this, so I cannot guarantee it’s true though! And apparently marzipan can also be helpful for insomnia, in addition to all the other good feature almonds as such have: Magnesium, the right kind of fat, vitamin E, iron, protein and fibre.
Here in Norway we eat marzipan traditionally both at Christmas and Easter, and beside marzipan we have two other important almond traditions: almond cake called ‘Kransekake’ and to place one almond in the porridge on Christmas Eve; whoever finds the almond gets a marzipan pig. Everything is connected to everything.
Thank you so much Ann for such a wonderful feast for the eyes and the tummy. I’m scurrying off to find some almonds!