I have never made marzipan before. Frankly, I am not a HUGE fan of marzipan, particularly if it is poorly made, or not particularly fresh. But it is a fairly popular confectionary, seen in various types of chi-chi desserts, formed into amazing fruit shapes that are carefully colored or painted, rolled into turones, and dipped in chocolate and what not. Intellectually, I was aware that marzipan is (most often) made with almonds, and sugar, but I have never thought to make it myself. So I looked up recipes and lo and behold, it was easy peasy, so simple to make a “rustic” version with just nuts, sugar, a bit of egg white and some cream of tartar. There is a basic recipe on the net, here. So I fearlessly plunged into a batch of pili nut marzipan…
The first step is to make the pili flour or meal. After roasting in the oven, I placed a lot of pili nuts in a food processor, added a tablespoon of powdered sugar and blitzed carefully, pulsing every now and again, trying to get a relatively fine meal, but not making pili butter. This ended up looking a bit like grainy peanut butter, and was by no means as fine as good almond flour, so I knew this was going to be a rather “rustic” version of marzipan. I made roughly 4 cups worth of pili nut meal.
Next I made a sugar syrup with 1 and 3/4 cups of white sugar, 2/3 cup water and once dissolved, added the cream of tartar and followed the same instructions as the link above to the basic marzipan recipe. Add the egg whites as instructed.
I split the batch of marzipan into two mounds on a marble counter. One mound I rolled into small marzipan candies and wrapped these in clear wrap similar but not the same as cellophane. Into the second mound, I added finely minced dried mango and wrapped these up in little pouches. Once they cooled they were pliable, nutty, marzipany, and delicious. Probably the last only because I had made them myself. :) But as the candies got cooler, and we put them in the fridge, the crew munched on them constantly, and guests of ours at one dinner all seemed to like the candies, so I gather they were a hit!
So there you have it… so simple to make something I had always seen or come across and had never thought to make for myself. I wish more and more restaurants and bakeries would go back to basics and make use of wonderful local ingredients such as pili nuts so that we can not only preserve ingredients, traditions and flavors, but encourage that which we raise ourselves. I can see a wonderful danish being made with a pili nut butter of sorts rather than hazelnuts, or a pili spread, etc.
By the way, the marzipan with chopped dried mango are wonderful — little chewy bits of sweet/sour along with the rich marzipan. Really good. Don’t keep these too long as they tend to dry out. But serve them warmed to room temperature for the best results… :)