Monday, September 20, 2010

Step Right Up, it’s the Amazing Marzipan! The Cookie that looks like a Fruit!

I’ve always been drawn to marzipan cookies. They stand out behind the glass of the bakery counter, unlike any other; beside rows of cookies topped with sesame seeds, sprinkles, and chocolate chips, to spot a marzipan is like discovering a piece of art. Brightly colored and often shaped as fruit, they barely look edible; in fact, when I was little I didn’t think they were. Then, I tasted one, and it was like forget about it*!

*“Forget about it,” often pronounced, “fugetaboutit.” For more on its usage, refer to Donnie Brasco:

From then on, I remember asking my dad to grab me a marzipan cookie every time he had to run into the bakery. I would always look forward to seeing what kind of “fruit” would be in the bag when he returned. A sweet mixture of almond paste and pure sugar, marzipan is like candy and a cookie in one. It can be molded into anything--people, animals, sandwiches, flowers—but is traditionally spotted in the form of produce like bananas, oranges, and strawberries, realistically painted with food coloring.

Frutta Martorana
The origin of marzipan fruit is rooted in Palermo, Sicily where it is known as Frutta Martorana and is traditionally eaten on All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and is commonly spotted around Christmas time. The nuns of the no-longer existent Monastero della Martorana in Palermo are said to have made these confections to decorate the convent’s empty fruit trees when important guests such as the bishop were coming to visit.

Besides being deceptively sculpted into decorative sugary imitations of other foods, Marzipan is also used inside chocolates and candies, and can be rolled out like fondant to attractively cover fancy cakes. I created my miniature fruits using the leftover marzipan I had bought to use for the bottom layer of the petit fours I made for my tea party.You can find decent pre-made marzipan in the baking aisle of most grocery stores, but it is also very easy to make. Here is a highly-rated, positively reviewed recipe I found that you can try.

You don’t have to be an artist to make these pretty little sugary fruits. You don’t even need to have a steady hand. Mine are very small and dainty, but that’s only because I didn’t have much to work with. You can make them whatever size is easier for you or suits your purpose; maybe you would like to use them as a decoration for a cake, or maybe you just want to put your edible artificial  fruit out on the table to be enjoyed as they are. Once you mold the marzipan into the general shape of your choice, you will be surprised how quickly it comes to life when painted. A simple ball is suddenly an orange when colored as such. To make your fruit even more realistic-looking, you can get creative adding leaves, stems, seeds, and texture.

As you can see, the paint really brings each of the shapes to life. Except in the case of my
sorry little strawberry, which looks more dead than anything.
Making flowers requires a little more crafting and technique, but are barely as difficult as they may appear. See my photo slideshow for a step-by-step visual on how to make a rose out of marzipan:

Making Marzipan Roses:
1) Roll a piece of marzipan into a ball and flatten it. Take the flat circle and fold it around itself.
2) With a slightly larger piece of marzipan, roll into a ball and flatten. Pinch the top of the flat circle a little to form a petal shape; wrap around the first petal. Continue this process throughout, making each layer a little bigger than the next for as many petals as you would like.
3) Once you have completed your rose, I find it to look a little prettier when all or most of the petals are pinched in the middle of their edges for an added bit of texture.
4) If desired, you can paint the finished roses with food coloring. You can also fold the food coloring into the marzipan before you sculpt it but it might be messier and stain your hands.

I am just as impressed by marzipan today, as I ever was. Perhaps what is most remarkable is that while it can be shaped into a presentation of beautiful flowers and Frutta Martorana, it also tastes really good.


~Lisa~ said...

Marisa these are so cute! I don't think i've ever had one of these treats before. Nice work lady (=

Kristen said...

I haven't had marizpan in years. You make it look so easy to make such realistic looking fruit. I failed play-dough 101, so mine would look more like brightly colored blobs. At least they'd taste great, though :-)

Evan @swEEts said...

I love marzipan as well! I've always been impressed by the little fruits (and I once saw sunny side up eggs) but never would have thought to make my own! Well done :)

Adelina said...

Wow Marisa!!! I am quite impressed. I love Marzipan cookies as well and not sure if I will have the courage of making them at home. But I am saving your post when I am little more daring

Alice said...

Haha does that mean they're good for you then? :^) Those are absolutely adorable!

Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron said...

Guess what, I was introduced to marzipan at a cake decorating class! That paste mixture is amazing, isn't it? I only know how to do roses, that's it! haha. Yours look so adorable and the color is vibrant. In Thai cuisine, we have similar dessert as this but it's made from soy beans. Good work Marisa!

Koci said...

Woah, marzipan is cool! I recognized the word, but never knew exactly what it was. Those little roses would make such a great cake decoration! Thanks for the tutorial!

The Mom Chef said...

My family would bring home marzipan fruit and I just couldn't handle the taste. As a child I expected it to taste like what it looked like. I should try now that I'm an adult and my tastes have grown up (even if the rest of me hasn't). Thanks for sharing this.

Karen said...

Wow! Very impressive and super cute! I'll have to give marzipan a try again...I last had it as a kid, and didn't like it, but what's not to like now??
And I love your movie clip! That scene is hilarious!

Cristina @ TeenieCakes said...

Your marzipans are little works of edible art! I've wanted to try my hand at making them, but am too intimidated. I need to taste some first. Beatifully done! :)