Friday, 6 January 2017

Bran Tub # 7: … Marzipan and Museums of Toledo, Lübeck, Tallinn …



We are still in the season of joyfulness … are we not?! … and I love marzipan – how it filtered into my mind for a blog post I have no idea … Christmas provided me with none!



Battenburg Cake ... sandwiched with apricot jam,
surrounded by a layer of marzipan

… now its German name is the popular version … our English Marchpane “March Bread” is no longer in use … though Shakespeare used it in Romeo and Juliet …




… those of us who love marzipan … enjoy one of the oldest sweet pleasures to have spread around the Mediterranean … almonds, honey or sugar, bound with an egg, or just a whisked white, flavoured with a favourite spice …


 … sometimes vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg or the zest of orange or lemon, or waters of orange and particularly rose … then do not leave out chocolate – marzipan is especially happy covered with decadent chocolate.




Where did it originate … certainly the Persian and Mediterranean districts, even possibly from as far afield as China … then in the last 1200 years or so it spread overland through Turkey and Eastern Europe … via the Crusades, before using the Hanseatic League merchant guilds in their market towns to establish northern roots … the Guilds dominated Baltic maritime trade from circa 1400 – 1800 AD.

Green = Hanseatic League serving norther Europe
Red = Venetian routes   (they vied with the Genoese)
Yellow = Genoese routes
Blue = overland connections


The Marzipan museums of Lübeck, northern Germany and Tallinn, Estonia remind us of this link through their proud tradition of marzipan manufacture ...

 
Maiasmokk Cafe, Tallinn


… the market square in Lübeck boasts the always-crowded Café Niederegger –the marzipan known as “harem confectionery”, while attached to the café and shop is the museum …








Tallinn marzipan started in the Middle Ages … and here it is mentioned as a medicine in the price lists of the Tallinn Town Hall Pharmacy … the Maiasmokk Café remembers the tradition of supplying marzipan figurines to the Russian Imperial family, as well as being a café …





Al-Andalus and Christian Kingdoms
c 1000 AD
(Toledo is under the "H")
Or via Moorish Spain and the Iberian Peninsula … where the Arabs expanded the almond and orange orchards, introduced sugar cane cultivation (which is almost non-existent now – there is sugar beet) … and began producing this exquisite paste.  After Arab power waned … the secrets of marzipan-making were secured by the nuns in Catholic convents.




Orange and Almond orchards

To my surprise there are many European centres of marzipan manufacture … with several having supporting marzipan museums … in Europe – each has its own style and flavourings used … baked or unbaked and modelled into a variety of shapes.





Marzipan is ideal for many uses … chocolates filled with the sweet paste, wrapped around nuts, candied fruits, poached in fresh fruits as a dessert …


Is this the new 21st C cappuccino?


There are marzipans made from pistachios, or less expensive ones where almonds are replaced by apricot or peach kernels … but the best is the best … so buy from a controlled source … where you can be sure of your purchase.







My Bran Tub could easily be full to the brim with marzipan chocolate nuts, truffles, batons … but I think my brain would be marzipanified for the year ahead … and that would not be a good idea – an idea for a story though … Death by Marzipan?





Happy New Year … with good health ... perhaps fewer chocolates would be a good idea?

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

62 comments:

Marja said...

Very interesting to read where marzipan comes from. In Holland they make marzipan figures only with St nicolas. The rest of the year you hardly see it. I am not a big fan as it is a bit too sweet. Happy New Year to you :)

Bob Scotney said...

Very educational tp learn so much about marzipan. Just love it!

New Release Books said...

Oh, I never realised before where marzipan came from. Thanks for this interesting post.

Elephant's Child said...

Mmmm marzipan. Love it - and didn't get any for Christmas this year.
How well I remember marzipan fruits and you are very right about how well it goes with chocolate. Fortunately (or perhaps not) I am the only person in the house who likes it. If any appears it is all mine.
Have a wonderful weekend.

Lynn said...

So interesting! I've never had marzipan before.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I don't think that I have had marzipan since I was a child (a long, long, long time ago). I remember that I liked it and now that you have put it in my mind, I sure would like to try it again.

Annalisa Crawford said...

Mmmm marzipan! Love it. We have two baton in the cupboard, and I haven't even started on my Christmas Cake yet :-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Didn't know it had such a history. I'm sure I've had it several times, I just don't remember.

Out on the prairie said...

I saved a few gifts I got this year, but it was always a gift from my maternal grandmother.I like anything made with it, but at a dutch bakery I go to they fill a flaky pastry with it in the shape of a letter "S" and call them Dutch letters

Jacqui Murray said...

I have never been a fan of marzipan, but have no idea why. It sounds delightful.

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

Happy New Year. Once my favorite ways to eat marzipan is Napoleonshatte cookies!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Marja – so you only get them at the beginning of December – St Nicolas is on the 6th December – they mostly come out at Christmas time here and Easter … they are sweet – I grant you that!

@ Bob – glad you happily enjoyed the marzipan lesson and you love marzipan too …

@ NRB – so glad you enjoyed the post ….

@ EC – oh yes me too … and if it appears I do guzzle it happily down. Those little fruits are so clever … and then covered in chocolate – they are too too good!

@ Lynn – Haven’t you had marzipan … gosh – a change is required … Bakewell tarts have almond mix in them … I hope you get a chance to try one soon …

@ Arleen – oh gosh that’s a long time ago (well for many of us – me too … I need a marzipan fix occasionally) – I hope you can find a treat or two during 2017 … and then come back and mention you’ve remembered the taste …

@ Annalisa – well in that case – you’re fortunate you’re down in Cornwall – because I’d be over very quickly … to help you with at least one baton, and then for a piece of Christmas cake – sounds too good …

@ Alex – I expect you have had it a few times … I was just particularly interested in the museums and its history …

@ Steve – yes … I remember regular treats from aunts, or great aunts and grandparents … always slightly special with different tastes and flavours … Reading Holly’s comment two below .. she remarks on the Napoleonshatte cookies .. your “S” is a variation on that … sounds very delicious!!

@ Jacqui – ah well – more for us I guess … probably the almond flavour or just overly sweet …

@ Holly – I looked up Napoleonshatte cookies – easy to make too … and totally delicious … especially with the ends dipped in chocolate …

Thanks everyone – lovely to have your comments and remembrances, or not as the case maybe … cheers and enjoy your weekends - Hilary

Decadent Kane said...

I don't think this is something I have ever eaten, but I also am not a nut fan.
Food has such a way of traveling the globe and through time. I'm not a cook, but I do find it interesting that some dishes manage to make it all the way to the modern world while others just fell away.
~Decadent
www.decadentkane.com

Anabel Marsh said...

Delicious!

Liz A. said...

I have never tried marzipan. Hadn't even heard of it before.

Jean Davis said...

Fewer chocolates? Now you're just talking crazy. :)

Not a big fan of marzipan, but that might be because my aunt used it a lot when decorating her cakes for family events - tiny fruits and baskets and figures, and ugh, anything she could come up with.

Susan Scott said...

I LOVE marzipan Hilary and your post has me positively drooling. We've just finished our Christmas cake made by a good friend who is always generous in her almond icing - home made. Will be unwrapping my sister's Christmas cake in next day or so, probably today, sans marzipan ..
I've never heard of marzipan cappuccino - I'd be happy to see it on our shelves.
Death by marzipan ... ha!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ DK - thanks .. it is interesting how food has travelled, and how some foods have evolved, or as you mention faded away ...

@ Anabel - the way it is = delicious!

@ Liz - it's so good ... very much a seasonal celebration 'delight' ..

@ Jean - fewer chocolate was a rash suggestion wasn't it. Oh yes - if foods are overdone - then we so easily go off them don't we; but your aunt sounded as though she was very creative ... and clever in making them ...

@ Susan - ah good ... I think I might be joining you next year and asking your friend to add me to her cake provision list! Love Christmas cake with all the works ... full of fruit, apricot jam spread and then home-made marzipan over the top, finally finished off with incredible royal icing. Enjoy your sister's cake ... at least some of the Christmas tastes will be weaned away - no marzipan ...

I was interested to see the marzipan cappuccino - I wonder what it'd taste like ... and Death by Marzipan - could be a good story line I thought .. now I've just remembered - cyanide is found in almonds ... so could be a possibility ...

Thanks for coming by - and enjoy the weekend - cheers Hilary

Rhonda Albom said...

I love marzipan, especially like those you've shown in your photo of Tallinn marzipan.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I don't think I've ever had marzipan, but you're making me want to try it. Thanks for sharing its history.

Betsy Brock said...

I made a Peter Rabbit cake once with a little marzipan vegetable garden and picket fence on top. So fun!
That Battenberg Cake really caught my eye...how beautiful! I might need to try and make one of those some time! I love the slices.

Sherry Ellis said...

I thought marzipan was just used to decorate cakes. So interesting to learn the history of it, and see all the delicious-looking confections!

D.G. Hudson said...

A lovely confection, marzipan. I like desserts with a history connection. . . not getting about much blogwise, but I do read some of my fave blogs when time permits. I first saw marzipan in a cafe that was on our Robson St when I came to Vancouver - it was the place to get cafe au lait and delicious hot chocolate and pastries as well as the marzipan delicacies. Mmmm - good post, Hilary! That cafe is gone now, but I found this on Google, prior to 1986, our world EXPO:
"Part of the reason is the city's ethnic mixture. So many European-style cafe's, delis and pastry shops (Mozart Konditorei is an excellent example) line downtown Robson Street that it is called "Robsonstrasse." " Best wishes for 2017!

Rhodesia said...

What an interesting post and I just love marzipan. I do not have it in th house too often as I cannot stop eating it!!!!! Have a good Sunday Diane

DMS said...

I had no idea about the history of marzipan! How interesting to learn about it. Loved the Shakespeare reference. :) I am not sure if I have ever tried marzipan. I will definitely need to seek some out now. Thanks for sharing!

Botanist said...

Oddly enough, marzipan was always my least favourite part of the cake. Don't know why. Anyway, informative post as ever :)

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Hillary,
Happy New Year to you and yours!
Yes, marzipan is a favorite in many European countries, more so than here in the U.S.A.
As for me, having cut out the sugar from my diet since October 2007, when my doctor found out I had diabetes type 2, I don't eat such sweets.
Yesterday however I have ordered the on sale (after New Year...) Dutch Droste Chocolate Letters and for me in dark = less sugar and a lot healthier. But most of our friends I order them for as a gift, do prefer the milk chocolate.
Love it with some tea. Coffee I take only for breakfast as it made me way too hyper...
Sending you hugs,
Mariette

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Rhonda – yes I just remember those delightful concoctions of marzipan as real treats when I was growing up.

@ Natalie – well I hope you get a chance to give it a go … glad you enjoyed the history …

@ Betsy – what a wonderful idea – the Peter Rabbit cake with the marzipan vegetable garden and picket fence ... I’m sure was an incredible feat of motherly cooking! Oh I hope you do give the Battenberg Cake a try … I too am always enticed by the window pane style of the cake … and I enjoy eating it!

@ Sherry – it’s a major component in keeping the Christmas cake moist until it’s cut – or the wedding cake – and it takes about a fortnight before the final layer of royal icing is applied to finish off the cake. The marzipan sets … and the icing is smooth. NB apply a thin layer of warm apricot jam under the marzipan, to help it stick to the cake.

@ DG – good to see you and thank you for taking time to comment. … Robsonstrasse – was and still is the artisanal place to go for those ethnic delicacies that are brought over with settlers and travellers. A place to remember should I ever get to Vancouver again …

So glad I took you back in time so you can remember those little pastries, the café au lait and hot chocolate and see marzipan on a cake …

@ Diane – me too … if I have it – it doesn’t last long and is guzzled happily.

@ Jess – oh that’s good … on one of your book signing stores I’m sure they’d have a good café around, and probably marzipan will be found there … Shakespeare appears so often – but this is so appropriate for this post …

@ Ian – it is another love it or hate it food – not as bad as marmite/ Bovril – but falls into that category … I love it – and am always happy when Christmas comes around!!

@ Mariette – thanks for coming by – and yes marzipan is a tradition here. It is definitely full of sugar … but I’m glad you can get to try a little sometimes and order some as gifts …

Cheers to one and all – have a good week ahead .. 2017 is definitely moving along … here’s to health and peace - Hilary

Empty Nest Insider said...

Hilary, Please don't let your brain become "marzipanified!" We need you too much! The chocolate covered marzipan looks especially delicious! Hope this finally goes through, as I've been trying to comment on this post, as well as the poem about the months of the year. I enjoyed them both.

Happy New Year!

Julie

Patsy said...

I really like almonds, and cakes and liquers flavoured with them, but have never been keen on marzipan. I don't know why that is. Maybe it's too yellow?

I really like Tallin too and am lucky to have been there several times.

Linda said...

What a tasty post. Those pictures make me want to try some. Happy New Year, Hilary!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I don't think I've ever had it. Since it's made with eggs, I can't have it now.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie - gosh that's a wonderful compliment - thank you. I'm trying to find out why some of us can't post - it occasionally happens to me too ... not sure why. I checked your comments aren't in spam (I should hope not) and that doesn't go with marzipan at all?!, nor in waiting for moderation comments - sometimes things pop up there - but no ...

I'm trying not to let my brain get marzipanified ... though I must say I wonder if I'm succeeding.

I'd have loved to have had your comment on the Shepheard's Calendar ... but so pleased they both gave you some enjoyment ...

@ Patsy - it is interesting how - we like somethings that are related, yet not the other sort ... oh you lucky girl - Tallinn sounds a delightful place ... one day I shall get there ...

@ Linda - I do hope you get your wish to try some ...

@ Diane - yes now-a-days it is made with eggs ... to bind the ingredients ...

Cheers to you all - and thanks for the extra comments ... Hilary

Joanne said...

I'm not familiar with varieties of marzipan. It must not be at my local grocery store. Sounds delicious, and I don't think less chocolate would be right. Interesting post. Now I'm off to another store in search of this treat.

Nasreen said...

Interesting post, I never knew where marzipan came from.

D Biswas said...

Ah, marzipan. One of my favourite in sweets! Thanks for all this lovely info, Hilary. I didn't know any of it.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joanne - it's possibly more of a cold area chocolate ... ie Chicago ... I hope you can find some in sunny Texas?

@ Nas - I have to admit I didn't either ... so tracing its history was interesting and seeing the trading routes ...

@ Damyanti - oh good another marzipan lover. I'm happy you enjoyed the info ...

Cheers to you three and all others - Hilary

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm not sure that I've even had it! I've definitely heard of it. It sounds as if it might be free of flour...is it? (I'm gluten free).

Christine Rains said...

Happy New Year to you too! :) I'm not a marzipan fan. No nuts or nutty flavors in my chocolate. I had no idea the history of it, though. So interesting.

Gattina said...

Mr. G. is a marzipan fan and of course the Lübeck marzipan is the best. The one you buy at Aldi is also very good. I have eaten some marzipan in Morocco and Egypt but it has not the same taste and is very sweet.

Bish Denham said...

I had no idea marzipan had such an illustrious history! Haven't had any in years, now I'm going to have to go see if I can find some. Yum.

bazza said...

Hi Hilary. I don't particularly have a sweet tooth but I definitely make an exception for marzipan (and anything licorice!) I often buy some when in France - my daughter shares my taste for it - which reminds me I'm going there in a couple of weeks. Thanks for this lovely mouth-watering post!
I hope the year has started well for you.

Chrys Fey said...

I've never had marzipan before, but now I want to try it. :) Thanks for the history lesson.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm not a sweet fan, but marzipan so often looks so good and so many clever ways to have it. I just can't resist at times.

cleemckenzie said...

I can't get enough marzipan, and my husband hates it. How lucky I am to have found the perfect mate? I get all the marzipan for myself without argument.

Suzanne Furness said...

I love marzipan but no one else in the family does sadly! I never knew there were museums and special cafes for it . . . very interesting. The post is making my mouth water!

Nicola said...

Marzipan is huge at Christmas over here in Germany. Don't like the stuff myself. BUT, when I was young, I used to make a mean Battenburg cake. It was my dad's favourite. Great post, Hilary. Wishing you a super 2017. Take care.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Elizabeth – they are gluten free … but there might be a coating of flour – it’d be wise to check … depending how seriously gluten free you are … if a smattering it’d be ok – then no worries. Also buy good quality …

@ Christine – just chocolate … that’s fine by me = more marzipan! Isn’t the history interesting …

@ Gattina – Mr G suits my book! Aldi is the other side of town here – so I don’t go there. I can believe the marzipan in Morocco and Egypt would be different – they are definitely ‘sweet’ oriented …

@ Bish – I guess all foods have had a chequered travelling evocation to how they are today … I hope you managed to find some …

@ Bazza – I’m not that keen on the sweet things in life either, but always appreciate marzipan when there’s a chance. Enjoy looking and buying some delicious little marzipan bites when in France … thanks for your New Year thoughts …

@ Chrys – well I hope you can find some and thus see if you actually enjoy the flavour … its history was a fascinating find.

@ Susan – I’d give most desserts and sweets a miss, but some marzipan or chocolate occasionally are always good to go – towards my mouth – just not too often!

@ Lee – well you certainly have found the perfect husband – a non-marzipan loving one … and no arguments – even better.

@ Suzanne – yes we have the same here … my brother and I love it … his wife and our eccentric additions aren’t keen, so it doesn’t appear on cakes etc I didn’t know there were so many museums dedicated to it … I will definitely have to take a trip to one …

@ Nicola – yes Germany and marzipan definitely go together well. We enjoyed Battenburg cakes and often have them … since childhood … I’ve never made a Battenburg cake – I’d have probably tried decades (!) ago .. but not now …

Thanks everyone so glad this post resonated somewhat – carry on enjoying 2017 … cheers Hilary

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Fascinating stuff; I'd never given it a thought. I did find some very ancient Battenburg cake at the back of my cupboard recently - should I have donated it to the museum???? :)

Ceil said...

Hi Hilary! I was actually in Tallinn a few years ago, and I wish I knew about the famous marzipan then! I haven't really eaten much of it. My mother in law used to keep marzipan shaped into little animals, and use them as decoration. I'm sure you would rather eat it!

It was so nice to meet you at Karen's blog. Thank you for your kind words there!
Ceil

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Fascinating, Hillary. We had marzipan at Christmas when I was a child. I don't think I've had it in years. Not since I decided to suspend my sugar fixes. I love sugar but it doesn't love me.

beste barki said...

Hilary, there is a marzipan place in Istanbul called Bebek Badem Ezmesi which started out in 1904. A trip could be justified just to get a taste of some of their products. I wish I could upload here a picture of a box of their marzipan.

M Pax said...

Marzipan is delicious. Mmm. Now, I want some. Happy New Year to you! I hope it's a fantastic one.

Karen Lange said...

Or perhaps more exercise to offset that extra chocolate and marzipan? I'm determined to find a good balance while still indulging a bit. :) Thanks so much for this rich and delicious history. I had no idea, nor ever thought much about it, but it's so interesting! Your blog never ceases to enlighten and enrich my life. Thank you, dear friend. Have a good week!

Robert Bennett said...

This was so cool! I'm just glad I read it after having just eaten...otherwise the results might have been bad.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ John - good to see you ... well your Battenburg ancient relic is probably best where it went to ... into the rubbish - I'm sure the Museum is very happy with fruit cake ... now you've got me wondering if it would keep if it was airtight within its marzipan envelope ... who knows!

@ Ceil - how very lucky, but sad you didn't know about the marzipan museum. I guess if one grows up with marzipan, then it's there for life - if not it can easily be omitted. Interesting about your MIL and her little animals - sculptress - and yes I'd rather eat it (them!). Thanks so much for coming over from Karen's blog ...

@ Joylene - it does or did tend to be a Christmas thing ...but congratulations on cancelling sugar ... good for you, and obviously we all feel healthier with less sugar.

@ Beste - oh I bet Istanbul has some marvellous places for marzipan and chocolate delights ... the shop looks amazing - I've just checked their website out ... I wish I could have a box of their marzipan!

@ Mary - glad I tempted you with marzipan remembrances ...

@ Karen - yes definitely more exercise to offset the Christmas indulgences. I hadn't thought about it either ... but was fascinated to find the history that was relatively easy to understand ...

@ Robert - yes sometimes we need to eat before we read some blog entries ..

Thanks so much to you all for visiting and commenting - cheers Hilary

Deborah Barker said...

Your post has made me smile - marzipan? I can take it or leave it but only a tiny bit at a time (whereas, my mother loves it so I baked a Christmas cake with marzipan and royal icing just for her this year. Lucky I did as by Boxing Day I was on a another planet, trying to shake off that horrible virus that has afflicted so many. My mother continued to enjoy her marzipanned cake however and missed the bugs completely (any connection??) Happy New Year Hilary! Now that I am back to my normal self, I hope to get back to blogging too. :-) X

diedre Knight said...

Thanks to you, 'Death By Marzipan' doesn't sound so dreadful ;-) Quite a wistful story title as well. Such an interesting and enduring history on this treat has convinced me that I should try this one day. Thanks, Hilary!

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

Another in-depth article by your good self. Death by Marzipan, make it a slow, delicious death.

I'm doing my best to stay away from chocolate.

All the best and thanks.

Gary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Deborah - thanks and yes a small amount of delicious marzipan is just wonderful. Clever daughter .. and then left her to enjoy your cake - gosh wish I'd known I might have come by for a slice. I'd say yes to the missing of the bugs - good fruit never did anyone any harm. So glad you're feeling better though ..

@ Diedre - wonderful to read ... death by marzipan doesn't sound too awful - you'd die deliciously delighted ... I wouldn't give it a try though! I can see people dashing out to try marzipan ... in case they didn't want to die that way! The history was one of those that brought out the history of travel too ... in the days before planes and trains, and cars I guess! Which gave a simple history lesson ...

@ Gary - lovely to see you ... if you enjoy it then yes, a slow and delicious treat until you need to stop ... as per chocolate - I'm glad Christmas has come and gone for chocolate.

Cheers to the three of you ... Hilary

Keith's Ramblings said...

There is nothing I don't enjoy eating, from disgusting looking street food in China to so-called burgers in McDonalds,,,,except marzipan. It's not the taste - I enjoy everything else almond flavoured. No, it's the texture. Eating it makes me shiver and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. It has the same effect on me as fingernails being scraped down a blackboard!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Keith - I quite understand ... I get that with brazil nuts and though not a food - wool ... I 'move away' from anyone wearing wool! But can quite understand your marzipan 'quelle horreur' ... cheers Hilary