Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Christmas Sweets and Treats - Marzipan Fruits

In Victorian times Marzipan or Marchpane as it was called then was made into a variety of sweets for festive occasions such as Christmas. In high society Marzipan was used to construct ornate sweetmeats sometimes piled high on 3 or 4-tiered stands. Marzipan gets its charcteristic flavour from bitter almonds and there are several trains of thought as to where it originated. One is that it originated in Persia (present day Iran) and that the Crusaders carried it back to their homeland during the Dark Ages where it was made by nuns in France. It became well known as march pane in Europe by the 13th century. During the Renaissance, the kings of France cherished Marzipan and had it baked into small biscuits called masepains.

Marzipan is mentioned in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights and became a specialty of the Baltic Sea region of Germany. In particular, the city of Lübeck has a proud tradition of Marzipan manufacture.

Marzipan fruits are easy to make and you can use the leftover trimmings from the Christmas cake. I thought that making Marzipan Grapes would be rather suitable this year and this is how you go about it:

Marzipan Grapes

Roll the Marzipan into small balls for each cluster. Brush the balls with food colouring and let them dry. Make vine leaves from rolled out Marzipan (use a wooden toothpick to mark out the leaf indentations. Coat the balls with beaten egg white – this helps them stick together - and shape balls into clusters. For each cluster, brush egg white on the end of 2 leaves; attach to back of each cluster, pressing gently to make grapes and leaves adhere to each other. Allow to dry. You can brush your finished grapes with glaze made from a sugar syrup if you want a shiney effect.

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