It began to rain, not much, but enough to make shelter desirable for women, and quite enough to make it very desirable for Miss Elliot to have the advantage of being conveyed home in Lady Dalrymple’s carriage, which was seen waiting at a little distance; she, Anne, and Mrs Clay, therefore, turned into Molland’s, while Mr Elliot stepped to Lady Dalrymple, to request her assistance.
Marzipan or Marchpane, as it was originally called, is a confectionery consisting primarily of ground almonds and sugar that derives its characteristic flavor from bitter almonds. Most marzipan is also flavored with rosewater. Although it is believed to have originated in Persia (present-day Iran) and to have been introduced to Europe through the Turks, there is some dispute between Hungary and Italy over its originator. Marzipan became a specialty of the Baltic Sea region of Germany. In particular, the city of Lübeck has a proud tradition of marzipan manufacture. The city’s manufacturers like Niederegger still guarantee their Marzipan to contain two thirds almonds by weight, which results in a juicy, bright yellow product.
According to Anne Wilson, author of Food and Drink in Britain from the Stone Age to the 19th Century, “marzipan was a discovery of the later Middle Ages, dependent as it was upon the union of ground almonds with sugar. One of the earliest uses for the paste was in subtleties. When they had been sufficiently applauded they were dismantled and eaten. In the fifteenth century a marchpane began to emerge as a sweet in its own right. And by Elizabeth I’s reign, when the subtlety was becoming archiaic, a marchpane was regularly produced as the chief showpiece at the banquet or dessert course served to guests at the end of a meal. It was made of ground almonds and sugar on a base of wafer biscuits, and was formed into a round (a hoop of green hazelwood sometimes helped shape it). The frosting of the marchpane with sugar and rosewater to make it shine like ice was an important part of the preparation; and so was the gilding with decorative shapes in gold leaf.” More recent uses of Marzipan hearken back to its original purpose as chefs strive to outdo one another creating lifelike marzipan fruits and vegetables. You can also find it hiding inside hand dipped chocolates and under wedding cake frosting.
Jane Austen would undoubtedly have been familiar with this form of the treat. Perhaps it was even a favorite! Her character, Elizabeth Elliot of Persuasion, frequents Molland’s Tea Shop, in Milsom Street— their Marzipan, she confesses in the film, is the finest in the world
To make Machpane Cakes
Take almonds & blanch them in warme water, then beat them very fine in a stone morter and put in a little rose water to keepe them from oyling, then take the same weight in sugar as you doe of almonds, & mingle it with them when they are beaten very small & short, onely reserveing some of it to mould up the almonds with all. Then make them up in pritty thick cakes, & harden them in a bakeing pan. The make a fine clear candy, & doe it over you marchpanes with a feather. Soe set them in your pan againe, till the candy grow hard. Then take them out, & candy the other side. Set them in againe, & look often to the them. Keepe a very temperate fire, both over & u[nder them,] & set them in a stove to dry.”
-Martha Washington’s Booke of Sweetmeats [1749-1799]
To make Marchpane
- 8oz ground almonds
- 4oz icing sugar
- 3 tbs rosewater
- Waxed paper or rice paper
- 1tsp rosewater
- 1 tbs icing sugar
- 1 tbs rice flour
- Mix the almonds and rosewater in a bowl.
- Stir in the icing sugar and work them together with a pestle or the back of a wooden spoon until they form a smooth, very firm dough. Be careful not to work them too harshly, or the mixture will turn oily.
- Line the base and bottom inch of a 7inch round loose-bottomed cake tin with the wafers or rice paper, place the dough inside, and smooth level with a spatula.
- Mix the glaze ingredients together, and brush them over the top of the marchpane.
- Place the marchpane on the baking sheet and bake at 175 f for 30 min. Then remove and leave to cool. Repeat this stage, if necessary, until it is quite firm.
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