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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Lozenges a name commonly applied to small diamond-shaped pieces of sugar confectionery, particularly perfumed sugar paste; also, a tablet containing some kind of medicinal preparation (for instance, throat lozenges, for coughs). ‘Lozenge’ refers primarily to the shape, a square or diamond, into which a larger sheet of paste is cut. Thus other items such as biscuits, marzipan, and even preparations of meat may be cut into lozenges.

The word ‘lozenge’ has puzzled etymologists for years; one hypothesis, stated persuasively by Professor Maxime Rodinson in 1956, is that it derived from Arabic loz, almond, via lauzinaj, an almond cake known in the Levant from early medieval times. Recipes show this to have been a marzipan-like confection, which was cut into small pieces for serving. ‘Lozenge’ first appears in Europe in 14th-century cookery manuscripts as ‘losanges’, shapes cut from a spiced pasta-like dough, sometimes made with almond milk. By the 16th century it referred to medicinal sweetmeats, and has retained this meaning ever since.