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 ...
… 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-ButcherPositive Letters Inspirational Stories