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.