Marzipan-msg 7/25/10

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marzipan-msg - 7/25/10
Use of marzipan (almond paste) in sotelties in both period and the SCA. Working

with marzipan. Example marzipan sotelties.

(Sotelties are sculptures made from edible ingredients but not always intended to be eaten or even safe to eaten.)
NOTE: See also the files: almond-milk-msg, sotelties-msg, nuts-msg, sugar-msg,

sugar-paste-msg, gingerbread-msg, gilded-food-msg, candy-msg, p-fd-coloring-msg.


This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.

This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at:
I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.
The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.
Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).
Thank you,

Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous

Stefan at


Platina's "Pie Which They Call Marzipan" (VIII. 48)
"... They are of the best nourishment, are well digested, help the chest,

kidneys, and liver, increase fertility, arouse passion, and remove burning

of the urine."

Date: Wed, 1 Oct 1997 08:54:40 -0500

From: L Herr-Gelatt and J R Gelatt

Subject: SC - badge malfunction PLUS Marzipan

Here's a hint, folks: when making marzipan, the best grind is either by hand

in a mortar/pestle (but you risk getting almonds that oil before you're

finished, from the pressing/crushing action of the pestle), and the next

best is the coffee mill. It's quick---no oiling. I had to resort to a

handblender with a chopper attachment (since a normal blender's or food

processor blades can't get them to grind small enough). The result was

useable, but my marzipan sculpture had a rough quality reminiscent of cheap

play clay. So my St. George was rather Mister Bill-like, and the dragon was

pretty good (he needed to look disreputable). My Damsel was dismal, because

I couldn't get a good texture to simulate hair. Normally I would have

pressed the marzipan through a coarse mesh to get hair-like fine spaghetti

for hair, but the almond paste was too coarse due to the coffee mill failure.

The Bride and Groom, who resembled (roughly) St. George and the Damsel, were

delighted, however, so I guess that's what counted. By the way, Gold leaf

will stick to fresh Marzipan (still damp-ish) with no additional stick-um

needed. If the Marzipan has sat a while, it needs to be misted with water or

painted with sugar syrup (thanks Ras) to get the gold leaf to stick. My St.

George had gold-leaf flecking his blonde hair, since I couldn't figure out

how to make a halo. We did his celtic cross in gold-leaf-flecks on yellow,

too. Plus, silver shot (for cooking---those little silver balls) makes great

dragon-toenails! With the green dragon's spine-ridge and ribs picked out in

gold-leaf, he was a favorite. I had quite a few complaints that he was

slayed though. They didn't like the spear sticking out of his side (complete

with gore)! I guess I've lost all credibility with the Reptilian Brigade.

Ah well. Back to the pastry-board.

Date: Thu, 2 Apr 1998 10:11:59 +0100

From: "Yeldham, Caroline S"

Subject: SC - RE: Marzipan/Marchpane

Stefan li Rous said

> Yes, I believe Marzipan is period and was used in this way. I think it

> is just ground almonds.
Marzipan or marchpane was used to make subtleties, amongst other

things. However, its not just ground almonds. Its half ground almonds,

half finely pounded sugar, mixed with egg to make a paste. The paste is

then used rather like modelling clay to make whatever shapes you want, and

painted appropriately. One thing to note is that which bit of the egg you

add to the powder mixture affects how mouldable the final mixture is. Egg

yolk or whole egg makes the mixture taste better, but the paste won't mould

as finely as when you add egg white.

It's OOP but if you want really finely moulded marzipan (not edible)

- - replace some of the sugar with cornflour - that works very well. We did

it once when we ran out of sugar.

Date: Thu, 02 Apr 1998 17:16:34 -0800

From: "Crystal A. Isaac"

Subject: Re: SC - RE: Marzipan/Marchpane

Yeldham, Caroline S wrote:

> Marzipan or marchpane was used to make subtleties, amongst other

> things. However, its not just ground almonds. Its half ground almonds,

> half finely pounded sugar, mixed with egg to make a paste. The paste is

The recipes I have seen and used contain almonds, sugar and rosewater

(sometimes orange flower water). I grind the (blanched and peeled)

almonds in a eletric food processor, add slightly less sugar (grind

again) and enough rosewater to help it stick together (grind more). I've

found that putting the blanched and peeled almonds in a hot oven for a

minute to dry them seems to help the consitency of the marzipan.

I was never very good with play-dough so I usally make small balls,

squash them flat and bake. If you try this at home, use baker's paper

(parchment?) on your cookie sheets. Evil, sticky things will happen if

you do not.

Artistically Talented people who want to make cool things with marzipan

should look at "Banquetting Stuffe" edited by C. Anne Wilson. IIRC,

there is an essay on the forms and uses of marzipan in mid/late english


There was a TI article about marchpane some time ago, but I do not

remember who wrote it.

Humm, re-reading my post I noticed that I use marchpane and marzipan

interchangably. Is there a difference?

Crystal of the Westermark

Date: Fri, 3 Apr 1998 15:44:26 -0600 (CST)

From: alysk at (Elise Fleming)

Subject: SC - Re: Marzipan/Marchpane

Greetings! Crystal noted that there was a T.I. article about marzipan

a while ago and wondered who wrote it. I did. I may well have it

stored in my computer, so if someone wants an e-mail copy, post me

privately so I can post you back off your request.

I, too, have wondered if there is a technical difference between

marzipan and marchpane. (Haven't looked it up in the OED. Anyone own

one??) _I_ use marzipan to mean the almond/sugar/liquid mixture and

marchpane to refer to marzipan made _into_ a marchpane. That's a layer

of marzipan put on wafers, or on a wafer, usually with a raised edge to

the marzipan, and then baked. The marchpane can be iced with "icing"

(sugar and rosewater) to give a coating that looks like "ice".

"Thingies" can be placed on top of the marchpane...Figures sculpted of

marzipan or sugarpaste, a bush made from a branch of rosemary, a

sculpted building, etc. Marchpanes could be small or huge. They were

the center of the "banquet" (the dessert course) in Elizabethan and

Stuart times. They also were necessary components (if memory serves)

for funerals and wedding foods.
Alys Katharine

Date: Tue, 9 Jun 1998 13:28:38 -0400

From: "Gedney, Jeff"

Subject: RE: SC - Marzipan for Sotelties

> Does anyone have a good recipe for soteltie-grade marzipan that can be

> sculpted in the round? The stuff I've come up with is great for bas-reliefs,

> but doesn't stand up very well.


> Rudd Rayfield

I have had good success with store bought varieties

they are generally two types of almond paste products, one is labelled

"Marzipan", and one is labelled "Almond Paste"

The almond paste is coarser grained and does not color or sculpt well.

Be sure to get the "Marzipan".

also make sure that the Marzipan is fresh, by squeezing the tube, and

making sure it is pliable.

Some of the stuff in stores is older than T Rex! (the band OR the

dinosaur, take your pick!)
For those who do not have a lot of experience with this medium, here are

a few notes:

If the marzipan is too loose to work with, then quickly knead in some

confectioners sugar.

Work fast! The surfaces harden and start to crack quickly, and cannot be

easily restored. Put as fine a coating of vegetable oil on the hands as

possible (Too much will loosen the Marzipan), or dust them liberally

with confectioners sugar. Do not spray or brush with water if it dries

out, if possible, just quickly knead it until pliable(or it crumbles).

Keep whatever you are not working with wrapped completely in plastic.

If you have kept it in the fridge, knead it until warm enough to work IN

THE PLASTIC WRAPPING. The less time exposed to air, the better the


Practice, practice, practice!

The best Roses I made for a cake I made with marzipan!! (until I got

into gum paste, which I do not believe to be period!)

Speaking of recipes, a while ago, a period recipe for "sugar paste" was

posted. Could someone reprise that one? I lost the original.


Date: Tue, 9 Jun 1998 17:55:45 -0500 (CDT)

From: alysk at (Elise Fleming)

Subject: SC - Re: Marzipan for Sotelties

Brandu wrote:

>The best Roses I made for a cake I made with marzipan!! (until I got

>into gum paste, which I do not believe to be period!)


>Speaking of recipes, a while ago, a period recipe for "sugar paste"

>was posted. Could someone reprise that one? I lost the original.
Yes, gum paste is period - late Tudor/Elizabethan, and probably earlier in Italy.
One comment on sculpting with marzipan - Keep in mind that it might also have been put over an armature, that not the entire thing would have been edible, especially if one is dealing with a large item. Mashing marzipan (catchy song title!) onto an armature would require less stiff marzipan.
Alys Katharine

Date: Sat, 6 Mar 1999 07:00:00 -0800

From: varmstro at (Valoise Armstrong)

Subject: SC - Welser marzipan part 1 (long) was Re: Puck's marzipan

I've been following this thread with great interest but haven't commented

since most all of my books are still in storage. I did have Sabina Welserin

on my hard drive and remembered that there was also a marzipan on wafer

recipe in it. There is a confusing section about the box, which I do not

completely understand, maybe it's to store the finished marzipan?
The second recipe I've included just as an example of baking a marzipan

confection on paper.

I'm including the German in a second post as it's pretty long
22 If you would make good marzipan
First take a half pound of almonds and soak them overnight in cold well

water, take them out in the morning. Next pound them well until they become

oily, pour a little rose water on them and pound them further. When they

become oily again, then pour a little more rose water thereon. Do this

until they no longer become oily. And pound the almonds as small as

possible. After that take a half pound of sugar, pound not quite all of it

in, leaving a little left over. Next, when the almonds and sugar are

pounded well together, put them in a bowl, take the lid from a small box,

loosen the rim completely, so that it can be detached and put back on

again, however leave the lid and the rim together. Take wafers and make

them about as wide as a pastry shell, very round. Spread the almond paste

described above with the fingers onto the wafers, moistening the fingers

with rose water and dipping the almond paste into the sugar, which you have

kept in reserve. After that, when you have spread it out evenly with your

hands, take the sugar that you have reserved and sprinkle it through a

sieve evenly over the marzipan. And take a small brush and dip it in rose

water and sprinkle the marzipan overall, so that the sugar is dissolved.

Then let it bake. Check it often, so that it is not burnt. It should be

entirely white. The amount of a half pound is necessary, so that the oil

51 Almond chanterelles

Pound the almonds, as you would to make marzipan, put sugar thereon, but

not too much, take after that the chanterelle mushroom mold, clean it and

take a small brush, dip it in almond oil and brush the mold with it, also

with a brush of rose water. And put the almond paste into the mushroom mold

and blow through the tube [so that the almond mushroom falls] onto a sheet

of paper, and let it bake in a tart pan and sprinkle it with starch flour,

then they will be white.

Date: Sat, 6 Mar 1999 07:35:07 -0800

From: varmstro at (Valoise Armstrong)

Subject: SC - Welser marzipan part 2 (long)

Here's the German for the marzipan recipes from Sabina Welserin's cookbook.

I've used modern s's and double ss instead of her older forms.

22 Welt jr ain gut marciban machen
Erstlich nempt ain halb pfund mandel vnnd waicht jn jber nacht ein jn kaltt

rerwasser / ziecht jn am morgen aus, darnach last jn woll stossen, bis er

ellig wirt, giest ain wenig rossenwasser daran vnnd land jn wider stossen,

wirt er wider eilig, so giest wider ain wenig ain rossenwasser daran, das

thiet so lang, bis der mandel nimer eilig wirt, vnnd last den mandel auff

das allerklenest staissen / darnach nempt ain halb pfund zucker, stossent

jn gar daran, last ain wenig jber, darnach, wan der mandel vnnd zucker

klain anainander erstossen jst, thiet jn jn ain schissel, nempt ain lidlen

von ainem ledlin, thiet den ranfft gantz daruon, das es ab- vnnd zugang,

last das lidlin vnd ranfft beyainander, nempt mandatten vnnd machens fein

wie brait das bedelin jst, fein rundt, darnach streichen den gemelten

mandel auff den oblatten mit den fingern, netzen die finger mit

rossenwasser vnnd den mandel tuncken jn den zucker, den jr jber habt

gelassen / darnach, wan es mit der hand aufs gleichest ist auffgestrichen,

nempt darnach den zucker, den jr jber habt gelassen, set jn mit ainem

siblin auff das martziban auffs gleichest / vnnd nempbt ain bristlin vnd

dunckts jn ain rossenwasser vnnd sprenckt das martziban allethalben, darmit

das zucker ergang, darnach last bachen, secht offt darzu, damit es nit

verbachen werdt / es soll gantz weisss sein, die gressin von ainem halb

pfund jst, damit wax anklaibt.

51 Pfifferling von mandel
Stosss die mandel, als welest ain marciban machen, thu zucker daran, aber

nit gar zu vill, nim darnach den pfifferlingmodel, mach jn sauber vnnd nim

ain birstlin, duncks jn mandelell vnnd birst den model damit, auch mit

ainem birstlin rossenwaser, vnnd thu den mandel jn pfifferlingmodel vnd

blass bey dem ror auff ain bogen babir vnnd lasss jn ainer tortenpfannen

bachen vnnd see krafftmell darauff, so werden sy weisss.

Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 17:43:39 -0400

From: Philip & Susan Troy

Subject: Re: SC - Almond Paste/marzipan
Helen wrote:

> Please tell me the difference between marzipan and almond paste. I thought

> marzipan was made from the paste. But the tube of paste I see in my local

> store has the same ingredients listed as the tube of marzipan beside it. The

> color is a little different.


> Helen

Almond paste is moister, stickier than marzipan, and is more used for

coating or filling things than marzipan, which is better suited for

holding shapes.
Think in terms of putty versus modeling clay...
Modernly, almond paste is frequently used to coat cakes under icing; it

flavors them and helps keep them moist.


Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 23:36:16 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?="

Subject: Re: SC - Almond Paste/marzipan

Almond paste is raw, marzipan is cooked (or heated,

at least). Otherwise, they are much the same.


Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 20:31:41 -0400

From: Philip & Susan Troy

Subject: Re: SC - Almond Paste/marzipan

Nanna RˆgnvaldardÛttir wrote:

> Almond paste is raw, marzipan is cooked (or heated,

> at least). Otherwise, they are much the same.


> Nanna

Um, how do you mean, cooked? Do you mean it is cooked afterwards, or

that cooking is somehow integral to the process of making marzipan?

Yes, it's often cooked in the form of cakes and such, but often eaten

uncooked, as well. I've never seen a period recipe that required it

except as an additional step, i.e. yes, you do bake pie crust dough, but

you don't need to bake it to make it.


Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1999 01:23:16 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?="

Subject: Re: SC - Almond Paste/marzipan

Adamantius wrote:

>Um, how do you mean, cooked? Do you mean it is cooked afterwards, or

>that cooking is somehow integral to the process of making marzipan?
No, I'm probably wrong here, it is just that all my old recipes call for

some sort of cooking or heating - mixing the pounded almonds with a hot

sugar syrup, or heating them gently in a saucepan with the sugar, or

whisking eggs and sugar in a bain-marie, then adding almonds. And the almond

paste recipes do not.

Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1999 18:48:17 -0500 (CDT)

From: alysk at

Subject: SC - Re: Almond Paste and Marzipan

Greetings! I have a hunch that the two terms mean whatever someone _thinks_ they mean. Early marzipan recipes don't seem to include cooking. I'm probably wrong :-) but my memory seems to tell me that most period recipes are for "marzipan" or "marchpane" but are not entitled "almond paste". And, while almond paste is modernly put under a layer of icing on certain cakes, older recipes called for "marzipan" under the icing.
I usually think of almond paste as the stuff one can start with to make marzipan, after adding lots more sugar. Homemade marzipan usually isn't as sweet as commercial marzipan. Period marzipan called for rosewater, orange juice or orange flower water. The latter makes a _very_ interesting confection, since the flavor is not what one would expect from "marzipan". Someone asked about a lack of almond flavor. Well, with the addition of orange flower water, one would taste more of that rather than more of almonds. And, I think the same is probably true for adding rosewater, which is called for in most English, period recipes. Modern stuff lacks the rosewater or other flavoring ingredient which is (always?) added in period recipes.
For my own part, I've found that a food processor can make a fairly smooth

marzipan. As someone else noted, the almonds should be processed in small batches. For me, a pound of almonds is done in three batches. I process one-third and then put it into a separate bowl. As each third is done, it's put into the bowl. Then I go back and take a third or even a quarter of the first processing (which contains sugar and rosewater). That stuff is put into a different bowl. I then go through the whole process a third time. You can feel the difference in the size of the ground almonds between your fingers. However, at no point will the stuff get as finely ground as modern commercial paste which uses many blades and more processing. I would suppose that if one had a big enough mortar and good muscles, the paste could be reduced to even further smoothness. Modern blenders don't have quite the same "action" as a medieval mortar and an hour or more of pounding.

Yes, you had better refrigerate the marzipan or you will eventually grow an intriguing variety of mold!
Alys Katharine

Date: Fri, 5 Nov 1999 09:58:36 EST

From: ChannonM at

Subject: Re: SC - Chocolate - Yes I know its not period!

If you would like to employ a heraldic device, I suggest going to a cake

makers store and look through their chocolate molds, you can even paint with

coloured chocolate that is made with the pretend "white chocolate". The sizes

would be perfect for individual servings at a feast. You could even go to the

extant of making say a marzipan shield and making the various charges in

chocolate and placing them appropriately upon it. I have used various molds

for doing marzipan sublteties. I have a recipe that works well for the sheild

(I did various devices for a 15thC feast a few years ago). I'll post that now.

The sweet confection, currently known as marzipan is made from ground

almonds, rose water, confectioners sugar and egg whites. This sweet was a

discovery of the later Middle Ages as it required refined sugar to make. The

origin of marzipan is difficult to determine as many countries claim its

discovery. It is believed, however, that the name marchpane was first

used in Italy in the 13th Century11. Many countries have claimed to be the

place of origin of marzipan, however, it should be noted that the name

marchpane can be compared to the Arabic word mautaban--meaning glazed

vessel12. Recipes for marchpane can be found that date back as far as 13th

Century France13. The extant recipes describe how to colour, flavour and

create "subtleties". Subtleties were sweets that were often used as

Illusion Foods. An Illusion food was a food made to look like something it

wasn't. Marzipan was sculpted into shapes of castle scenes, heraldic coats of

arms, diminutive fruits and vegetables, and allegorical animals. These

fantastic creations would be paraded around the feast hall only to be

dismantled and eaten by the guests. The following is a recipe reproduced from

the manuscript entitled "Delights for Ladies" by Sir Hugh Plat (1609).

The Art of Preserving

12. To make an excellent Marchpane paste to print off in moulds for

banquetting dishes.

Take to every Iordan Almond blanched, three spoonefuls of the whitest refined

sugar you can get: searce your sugar, and now and then, as you see cause, put

in two or three drops of damask Rose-water: bear great labour, vntil you have

brought it into a dry steffe paste: one quarterne of sugar is sufficient to

worke at once.........You may mix canel or ginger in your paste, & that will

both grace the taste, and alter the colour, but the spice must passe thorow

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