I’ve always loved marzipan. When I was small my favorite candies at Christmas were those little marzipan fruits and I could never get enough of them. I tried making my own, but it turned out to be too difficult before the advent of food processors, so I would buy almond paste and just scarf that.
Now, marzipan/marchpane was certainly made in period, but the recipe and variations here are not necessarily period. Some call for ingredients that were unavailable, at least in Europe, or that we don’t have documentation for, for this use. Do your research before entering this in a competition! …but it’s yummy and something that a *lot* of people like! Also, modern marzipan recipes generally include eggs. Since this is not a cooked product I think that’s a *very* bad idea, but meringue powder is a possibility. Let me know if you try that.
Here is the class handout from Anja’s Simple Marzipan Fun! class. Watch this space for a recording, which is in the works!
PDF – Marzipan Class
Word – Marzipan Class
Recording of the class from Adiantum’s A&S Night 4/12/22
Simple Marzipan Fun with Lady Anja (Snijova) Javornica, OJL, MI, OGS, Jewel of The Summits – SCA Aila’ntha – I have been making marzipan (often referred to as “boozy sweets”) for several years, now. I have a simple (modern) recipe that makes a fun treat in a number of variations. We’ll also look into how to serve this for a feast, and how to set it up for a candy box that will “hold” to take to an event or to mail.” – Anna (Snihova’) Javornica, OJL, MI, OGS, Jewel of the Summits.
Some years ago I happened to catch Mistress Eulalia Piebakere’s write-up on the marzipan that she uses for a go-to at feasts. https://medievalyork.com/2015/03/22/marzipan-my-go-to-dessert-for-every-feast/ (btw, her whole blog is awesome, go play!) Her recipe starts with blanched whole almonds. That was too loud. It required hearing protectors! 🙂 …and too hard on my old food processor, which was developing cracks around the blade even before that.
…and then I discovered almond meal as a spinoff from some period recipes for what I usually call blancmange. Revelation! I worked out proportions and here is the simplest recipe for marzipan that I’ve seen!
- 1 pound almond meal (either from blanched or whole almonds….see note)
- 1 pound confectioner’s sugar (see note)
- 1/4-1/2 cup rosewater (amount varies according to weather and dryness of the almond)
- food processor
- 2 to 2 1/2 cup airtight container (larger is *not* better!)
- Put almond meal and sugar into food processor.
- Pulse until it starts to mix, then run on low until it’s an even color. Some food processors “stick” and you’ll have to stop it and push the bits around the bottom edge inward with a spatula before running it again.
- Dribble 1/4 cup of rosewater down the “snoot” of the food processor as it is running. If needed, add more, a dribbled tablespoon at a time. You will see the stuff go from a light tan to a slightly darker shade and the food processor will begin to lag down, then to crumbs, then suddenly a ball of marzipan will start rolling around the bowl and the processer will usually try to walk off your table. Shut off at that point!
- Open the food processor and extract the ball, then scrape out any remaining dough and dry bits.
- An optional step here is to dump out onto a bread board or large bowl and knead dry stuff in, or you can just put it directly into your air-tight box, smearing the dry stuff on top and pressing it in with your spatula.
- Let stand for 24 hours. This step is necessary because of the additives (cornstarch) to modern confectioner’s sugar and also to let the almonds pick up some of the liquid.
- Keep as air-tight as possible. If you find that the surface is drying out, put a tablespoon of rosewater on top and slosh is around to cover as much of the surface as possible.
- Blanched vs un-blanched almonds – Most period marzipan use blanched almonds, but you can use whole almonds to give you a second color or just because you want to.
- You can make your own confection’s sugar and skip the additives, but it must be ground several times to get it sufficiently fine. That’s what the “8x” or “10x” means on the package. I have found that food processors do *not* do well enough. People will tell you that they do, but they must have way fancier food processors that what I have, a bunch of serfs with mortar and pestle, or they don’t mind “gritty”.
- If you have a regular, rather than large capacity food processor, divide into two batches.
- Please don’t put this in regular Ziplocs(R). Freezer bags still allow the flavors to escape. I have several Tupperware(TM) containers that I regularly use or, in a pinch, Gladware(TM)
Step by step, starting from whole almonds. If you’re using almond flour start with the 7th picture….
Variations – Now this is where it gets fun!
Period European marzipan was all almonds as far as I’ve been able to tell. Otoh, cooks play all the time, and what do you do when you run out of almonds? In the Middle East, pistachios got used, and other places used other things….. Nuts that I’ve tried:
- Filbert/Hazelnut (love)
- Brazil Nut (love, love, love)
- Pine nuts
- Chestnuts (shows up in period recipes, but not called marzipan, usually a stuffing for game birds!)
- Sesame seeds (usually called “halvah”, but it’s a similar process)
- Macadamia Nuts
- Sunflower Seeds
- Acorns (have to be de-tannin-ed and toasted)
- Coconut (really hard to get smooth, I understand)
Dried fruits were used in the middle east before the tradition became all nuts. You’ll have to play with it to get it smooth, unless you like chunky bits… or you can shove chopped pieces of dried fruit into the center of molded balls. Fruits to try:
- dried cranberries or “craisins”(TM)
- Rosewater (absolutely period, probably the most cited!)
- Orange Blossom water (cited in the Middle East, at least)
- Vanilla Extract (not period, but inexpensive and delicious, recipe at the end of this section)
- Mint extracts (shows up only one place that I’ve found, but….)
- Lavendar water (I haven’t found a source, but I’m told they exist)
- Wine (seemed to get used in everything, but I’ve never seen it in a recipe, worked well with a very sweet red)
Recipe for good vanilla extract
- 3 good vanilla beans (I prefer Madagascar or Bourbon)
- Fifth of rum (you could use vodka, but I prefer the rum taste)
- Sharp knife
- Open your rum bottle
- Using the sharp knife, split two beans lengthwise and drop into the bottle.
- Chop the other into ½ inch pieces and drop into the bottle.
- Put in a cool place and agitate daily for at least a month before using. Keep the beans in the bottle.
- Beans may be used a 2nd time, then dump the chopped bean (use it in coffee!), chop the split beans and add back and split another to add to the bottle.
Note – Don’t let the level in the bottle with the beans get below the top of the beans, because they get slimy.
Colorants – You can use any paste/gel food coloring. Do not try to use liquid types as they upset the liquid balance.
- You can use unblanched almonds or whole almond meal for a darker tan.
- Saunders for Red-brown (powdered sandalwood, period, *only* buy food grade!)
- Parsley (cited in some period sources, I’ve had no luck with it.)
- Beet juice or other fruit juice (many are period, but no luck)
- Cocoa Powder for black (worked very well, obviously OoP)
- Egg yolks for yellow (period, works ok)
- Saffron for golden-yellow (period, soak in liquid 24 hours before)
- Various blues from period are mostly poisonous, as are most of the greens….
This is one possibility – https://www.amazon.com/Wilton-Primary-Icing-Colors-4-Piece/dp/B01EOK9L5G/ref=pd_lpo_2
- Wrap around Candied Ginger (period)
- Wrap around Candied orange peel (period)
- Wrap around chopped dried fruit (period for ME)
- Dip in Chocolate (OoP)
- Mix in dried mint leaf ground very fine (touchy about liquid levels)
- Roll in colored sugar
- Roll in chopped nuts
- Gold Leaf (period)
- Gilding powder (period)
I usually get asked for a list of sources. So much of this is one reference, one recipe, a hint in an article…. At some point I’ll footnote this, but that day is not this day. 🙂
Galleries – (Will be updated)
Almonds, Tacuinam Sanitatis
“Pirate” Marzipan – This is from a recipe that Volker Bach came up with in his delving into foods of the Caribbean. We’re calling it “pirate”, because it’s black and New World. This was one of the recipes in the Adiantum A&S class that Anja taught on marzipan on 9/28/21. …and the pecan marzipan also featured in that class.
Page created and published 5/1/21 (C)M. Bartlett
Last updates 11/27/22