Marzipan is a finely ground, pliable mixture made of almonds and sugar, bound with a liquid. The liquid is typically a syrup of water and sugar, but liqueurs such as Kirschwasser or Williams pear brandy can also be used. There are three primary kinds of marzipan: French, German, and quick marzipan.
While in the United States marzipan never really became popular, it is very popular in Europe and has many applications. It can be found as an ingredient or filling in pralines, doughs, creams, ice creams, cookies, and cakes, or it can be used as a decoration.
Because of its moisture content, marzipan can be vulnerable to bacteria. If it is made and stored under very clean and hygienic conditions, however, marzipan can have a shelf life lasting up to a year. Marzipan should be stored at 50° to 59°F/10.0° to 15.0°C.
If using fresh almonds to make marzipan, the almonds have to be blanched in boiling water for three minutes before they are peeled. These almonds will absorb water, resulting in a softer marzipan. Because the moisture content of blanched almonds will never be exactly the same from one batch to the next, the consistency of marzipan made with fresh almonds is regulated by the water content.
It is easier to achieve a consistent result and control the moisture content of marzipan by using dry almonds. Therefore, the dry method is preferred, because the exact amount of liquid desired can be determined and added. In the dry method, additional liquid such as syrup or flavored liquor must be added during the grinding process.
Grinding the almonds is important because it exposes more surface area, which allows more boiled sugar to be absorbed. The almonds have to be processed until their oils start to release. At this point, the almonds will easily stick together if slightly pressed by hand.
The boiling temperature for the sugar should be between 246° and 257°F/118.9° and 125.0°C. To determine the exact temperature, a thermometer should be used. If using the marzipan for pralines, boil the sugar to the higher end of the temperature range, as this will result in a firmer marzipan that can absorb more liquid.
Bring the sugar and water slowly to a boil, then remove any impurities from the surface with a sieve. Wash any sugar crystals that form down the sides of the pan with a wide brush that has been soaked with water.
Once the sugar has been boiled, always mix the sugar into the almonds, never vice versa. Add the sugar very slowly to the almonds while constantly moving the almonds with a spatula. If too much sugar is added at once, the almonds may heat up too much and become yellow in color. Sugar crystallization will be forced by the constant movement of the sugar and almond mixture. The mixture will become whiter, which will make it easier to add coloring later on.
Once the sugar and nuts are combined, immediately empty the mixture onto a marble and flatten it to cool down. As soon the mixture is cooled, add the remaining liquid to this mass and grind again in a food processor to the desired consistency.
Whenever marzipan gets oily, it is an indication that liquid is missing. If enough liquid is not added to the sugar-almond mixture before grinding, the almonds will release oil. It is very easy to fix this problem by adding liquid (either simple syrup or boiling water) to reemulsify the fat. Use as little liquid as possible, though, because too much liquid will soften the marzipan.
If marzipan becomes too soft, confectioners’ sugar can be added to achieve a firmer consistency. However, this will make the marzipan sweeter and will reduce the almond flavor. This marzipan should be used for decoration rather than as an ingredient for pastry or pralines.
If marzipan is flavored you may add some food coloring to match the flavor. For example, if using pistachios to flavor the marzipan and the color of the nuts does not color the marzipan enough, you may knead in some green food coloring immediately after processing to distribute the color evenly throughout the marzipan.
Finished marzipan should be cooled before using. If not using the marzipan immediately, wrap it tightly in plastic and store in the refrigerator.
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