Niederegger

Month: June, 2012

Marzipan Around The World

Marzipan has been used in Europe and most of the world since the Middle Ages. It was brought back from the Crusaders when they traveled to what is now the Middle East. No one is entirely sure where marzipan originated; some historians say China, others say the Middle East and even Italy. However, Marzipan has been incorporated into deserts all over the world. Marzipan was already very popular in the 16th century, it was mentioned in a dictionary from the year 1521. Marzipan is an artisan sweet that will never be forgotten.

In Italy, marzipan (marzapane) is often shaped and painted with food colouring to resemble fruit (Frutta martorana) especially during Christmas and on All Souls’ Day.

The depiction of fruit using marzipan is traditionally Sicilian due to its initial use at the Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, a monastery near Palermo which used the marzipan to decorate the bare trees of the convent when important guest were visiting. The Marzipan was traditionally eaten on the occasion of All Saints Day (where the marzipan fruits are traditionally put by children’s beds)  and All Souls’ Day.

In Greece and Cyprus, marzipan is used in different ways, but is almost always left white. On the islands of the Aegean in particular, white marzipan is used at weddings, and is served to the guests.

The best marzipan in Greece can be found at the 11th-century Santo Domingo el Antiguo. The nuns working there have kept the recipe for their marzipan secret since the 13th century. Often in the window of this pastry shop, one may see either a replica of part of Toledo’s cathedral, or of the Sinagoga del Tránsito, made of marzipan.

In Latin American, marzipan is known by the Castillian word of mazapán and is also traditionally eaten at Christmas. Marzipan is generally made with peanuts instead of almonds. In Mexico, it is often hand made as an artisan treat with either peanuts, pistachios or pine nuts.

Peanut marzipan has an entirely different texture to Almond Marzipan. Almond Marzipan has been described as soft, sweet, moist and perfumey while on the other hand Peanut Marzipan in comparison to Almond Marzipan has been described as sandier, crumblier and it has a very strong peanut flavor. This style of marzipan has more of an acquired taste compared to Almond Marzipan.

Almonds – The key ingredient of Marzipan

“Historians generally agree that almonds, mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, were among the earliest cultivated foods.”

The Almond tree is a small deciduous tree growing 4-10 meters in height, native to mineral rich West-Asian mountain ranges that provide optimum environment for their growth. In recent years it has become a very popular crop and is cultivated across the world. During the spring the tree bears whitish-pink flowers which ultimately turn into fruit in the autumn.

Almonds have always been revered as a symbol of fullness and wealth. The nuts contain many health-benefiting nutrients that are required to keep healthy!

Research has showed that Almonds can prevent cancer.  Almonds contain a high concentration of phytochemicals on their dark brown skin. Studies show that this powerful natural compound, which plants use to protect themselves against pests, have been seen to fight off cancer cells. In various laboratory experiments, the phytochemicals found in almonds actually aid in keeping brain tumors from multiplying. There are even accounts of the tumors decreasing significantly.

Almonds have been seen to contain a high dose of Vitamin E – 30 grams of almonds will give you 35% of daily requirement! Some studies have pointed that consistent consumption of almonds has significantly decreased chances for breast cancer and prostate cancer. That’s because vitamin E in almonds came in the form of alpha-tocopherol – a known agent that prevents the multiplication of cancer cells. To top all of that off – Almonds are also naturally cholesterol free.

However, almonds have other benefits.  As far ask the skin is concerned, almond can be used in several ways. Almond oil makes the skin smooth and soft, which is why it is often favored for massages. Almond oil can also be used for the hair. 

Almond milk is also available, and is good for the skin, besides being a nourishing and useful substitute for people who are allergic to milk. In addition, almonds themselves can also be used in many home treatments for the skin.