This photo of marzipan fruit (also called Frutta di Martorama) was taken in a pastry shop in Catania. This pasticceria has shaped the marzipan into a variety of shapes: apples, apricots, oranges, prickly pears, different varieties of plums, cherries, green figs, pomegranates, pears , chestnuts and almonds.
I make marzipan when I make cassata di ricotta which I cover with a thin coat of pale green marzipan (I use a drop of green food colouring. In earlier days my mother used to use a little puree made with wilted spinach leaves). Sometimes I also add a proportion of ground pistachio nuts to the almond meal.
In one of my previous posts I have included a non traditional, simple recipe for making marzipan and for shaping marzipan fruit. I like this version because it is less sweet.
almonds ground, 500 g – blanched and ground finely
icing sugar, 300 g, icing sugar
vanilla bean paste, to taste
egg white, 1
salt, a pinch
In a bowl whisk the egg white with the salt until frothy. Whisk in the vanilla. Gradually stir in the almonds and the sugar, kneading as you go to form a smooth, pliable dough. Add more almond meal and/ or icing sugar if it is too soft.
The most authentic recipe that I have found is in the book called Bitter Almonds, Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian girlhood. The book was researched and written by Mary Taylor Simeti and it contains recollections and recipes of Maria Grammatico, famous for making almond pastries. She has a wonderful pastry shop in Erice and I visited this recently (in September 2009).
This is the recipe as written in the book.
• 2 CUPS (3oo gr) whole blanched almonds
• 2 CUPS (4oo gr) granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup (0.,75 dl) water
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
In a meat grinder or a food processor, grind the almonds with about 2 tablespoons of the sugar until very fine, almost powdery.
In a food processor or in an electric mixer, combine the nuts, the rest of the sugar, the water, vanilla, and the almond extract, if using. Process or mix until the paste is very smooth. Remove to a marble slab or other cold work surface dusted with confectioners’ sugar and knead briefly by hand.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Marzipan will keep almost indefinitely in the refrigerator. This makes 800gr of marzipan.
A particular specialty at Easter time in Sicily are the pecorelle pasquali (marzipan lambs). These lambs are from Pasticceria Spinello in Modica Sicily (it is near Ragusa where my relatives live). In Sicilian they are called agneddi (lambs)or pecuredde (small sheep) di pasta riali. . They are often filled with citron jam or paste made from pistachio nuts.
I once bought one for my mother and she still has it, 20 years later. She said that it was too pretty to be eaten. It was never kept in the fridge – it is a little bit dusty!