Sunday, February 22, 2009

In Praise of Marzipan

MARZIPAN: a confection consisting primarily of sugar and almond meal.

If you have never had the pleasure of marzipan in your candy, you are missing out. If you are allergic to almonds, well, I pity you. Almonds are one of my four favorite "essential foods" (which I will define and blog about at some future time). For now, I will just regale you with tales of the heights to which Germans take their marzipan (which they take very seriously...)
Photo 1: a display case in a cafe in Kreuzberg, in Berlin. In the rear center is a pile of Mandelhörnchen, the horseshoe-shaped marzipan logs coated with sliced almonds and with the ends of the horseshoe dipped in dark chocolate. This is a fairly standard pastry, and it is TO DIE FOR. It is densely filled with a generous dose of marzipan.
(Note: the round cakes next to the Mandelhörnchen are surrounded by a thin layer of marzipan around the sides; my son got one of these, and he let his parents try it. Inside it has cake and cream; the marzipan is the best part.)
Photo 2: discovered at the grocery store yesterday: Pflaume in Madeira (plums in Madeira). The name doesn't do it justice. It has a plum-flavored marzipan-like confection atop a layer of pure marzipan, all coated in a generous layer of dark chocolate. (And no, it does not taste like prunes.) The hint of Madeira wine is enough to give you a little bit of a buzz -- just icing on the cake of delectability.

The experience of eating a Pflaume in Madeira is akin to eating a Mozartkugel, but much better. I'm not knocking Mozartkugels, it's just that these are better. (To be precise, I've only ever eaten the German mass-produced imitation Mozartkugels, which I learned a lot about from Wikipedia; here they are sold in Aldi.)
Photo 3: Then there's the Rittersport Marzipan candy, which I LOVE. In the U.S. we pay a hefty price for it (I don't recall exactly, at least $3 or $4). Here in Berlin it costs 0.85 Euros (that's aobut $1.20 U.S.). I always thought this was high-quality candy, but the Germans don't think so; my husband's German cousin refers to Rittersport as "Kinder Schokolade" (i.e., chocolate for children).
Photo 4: I am embarrassed to say that I have never tried the tempting confection pictured at right, even though it is sold in a market stall in front of my apartment building every Saturday morning. For one thing there are about 30 different varieties; for another, I'm intimidated by the language barrier in trying to make such a specialized purchase. The labels all claim they are made from marzipan. They are punctuated with a variety of nuts and dried fruits. It is my goal to buy at least one or two next Saturday and try it. I'll let you know what happens.

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