Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Cheer: Coffee Liqueur and Marzipan

This is a dangerous post for me. First, let's be honest, I didn't make marzipan. I made almond paste. But I just love the word marzipan, and it sounds so much better than almond paste. Paste is an unfortunate word forever colored by the image of children eating kindergarten glue. (Not that I didn't indulge myself, but, moving forward.) I love marzipan more than any other sweet, and find it odd that others don't have the same compulsion. I'm surprised to find that people even have an aversion to it. And doesn't it look dull? Like I photographed some pie dough. But to me it looks rich and heavenly.

When I was a girl my family went to Germany, and it was there in the small town of Aachen that my little mind exploded. There was a marzipan festival going on. Every where you looked there was marzipan in every form. Even in the shape and color of a large head of cabbage. Even in the form of Donald Duck, which was what I decided upon as my special treat to purchase. Torn between having it and eating it, I think his legs and arms began to go on the long plane ride home. Every Christmas was made brighter by a tube of Odense marzipan or almond paste stuffed in my stocking, and sure enough, it would be empty and squeezed clean by the end of the day. (These obsessions can border on disgusting, really.)

So, I'm a little silly for marzipan and it's sister, almond paste. The difference is that almond paste is not cooked, more almond to sugar ratio and usually used for cooking and baking, whereas marzipan is cooked (the sugar is cooked to firm ball stage and added to the ground nuts) and is usually a formed candy. When I started realizing that they were both relatively easy to make, wheels started turning in my head. Last week I finally picked up some blanched almonds (slivered, not whole--couldn't find them) and the dream turned reality. See why its so dangerous? Because now I can make it any. time. I. want. It took all of fifteen minutes to make, the baby completely involved--just a matter of measuring and using the food processor (which he loves to push on and off). When the "dough" comes together, it's just a matter of kneading it a bit and wrapping it in plastic and keeping it in the fridge. It will stay for a month. You can also freeze it. I have plans for it, but I know deep inside that I will probably slice off pieces and slowly finish it after pulling it from my stocking. Then I'll have to make more.

Almond Paste, from the Joy of Cooking

1 1/2 cups blanched almonds
3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup (I used half honey because I only had a bit of corn syrup left)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Grind almonds and sugar fine in the food processor. Add the mixed syrup and extract while the processor is on. It will come together like dough--if it doesn't add a small bit of water. Knead just a touch to bind together on a surface dusted with powdered sugar, wrap tightly and either use, or refrigerate for one month, or freeze for up to three months.

Paired with this treat is a coffee liqueur that I saw on Delicious Days. It, as the original post says, takes all of five minutes to whip up. You just have to be patient while it sits. I love making infused vodkas. So easy. So special to break out on a Sunday afternoon. Or on Christmas Eve!


  1. Julia, I'm noticing a trend in your posts. You have a sweet tooth! This looks like a fab creation!
    Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

  2. When I was a little girl, I bought
    marzipan at the local candy store.
    When you were born, the woman I shared the room with gave me the
    recipe for marzipan.
    That memory of Aachen having a marzipan festival I'll NEVER forget. They had red roses too.

    Love, Mamou

  3. Christine, I've been noticing the same thing! It's not so good because the fridge is filled with candies. I just have to give them all away, otherwise I'll eat them all!
    Best wishes for a great holiday!

    Mamou, this post is for you. There was so much more to write on the mystery of marzipan, but the baby woke up from his nap and I had to stop. Thank you for putting in a note of your love of marzipan, too. Our shared love of marzipan is an important part of my feelings for it! I remember the red roses, too! Maybe there will be part two to this story...
    Love, Julia