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Published December 17, 2013, 01:40 PM

Halgrimson: Marzipan can add flavor, decoration to holiday treats

When I think of marzipan, I think of my family’s friends, Chris and Virginia Jensen.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

When I think of marzipan, I think of my family’s friends, Chris and Virginia Jensen.

Chris Jensen was chairman of the animal science department at North Dakota State University, and Virginia taught music at Hawthorne School and played with the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony.

Every Christmas we would get a little basket of marzipan strawberries the Jensens made. They were not only beautiful but exquisitely tasty. Their marzipan was made by grinding almonds that they had blanched using a mortar and pestle.

Now I buy commercial marzipan made by Odense Marcipan and comes in a 7 ounce box. It is usually available at my neighborhood supermarket, but if not, it can be ordered online from Amazon.com where a box sells for $8.69.

Marzipan has been around since the 16th century and probably originated in Italy. It is made of crushed, blanched almonds (or almond paste), sugar and egg whites. It is often dyed with food coloring and molded into fruit and flower shapes. Sometimes it even comes looking like Santa Claus, snowmen or Christmas trees.

Technically almond paste has less sugar and egg whites than marzipan, and almond paste is sometimes a component in marzipan with the extra sugar and egg whites added. Marzipan and almond paste are components in a variety of recipes including cookies and cakes.

Following is a simple marzipan recipe and two cookies to add to your holiday baking.

Marzipan

1 cup blanched almonds

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 egg white

Using the steel blade of a food processor, grind almonds, sugar and egg white until dough-like.

Chocolate Marzipan Cookies

¾ cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 7-ounce package marzipan, cut into chunks

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 large egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Turn oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine both sugars and marzipan. Process until they resemble fine sand.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Add butter, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, salt and egg.

Using an electric mixer, beat until smooth, scraping down bowl once during mixing.

Add flour and cocoa and mix until incorporated, scraping down bowl once. Dough will be very stiff.

Baking in batches, drop 1 tablespoonful balls of dough on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches around all sides. Bake on oven’s lower rack until cookies are flat and have a crackled surface, about 10 minute.

The cookies will be very soft. Let them cool for five minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a rack to cook completely. If desired, once cookies are cool, dust them with powdered sugar.

Makes about 3 dozen.

White Chocolate and Marzipan Cookies

½ cup butter, softened

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup white chocolate, broken or chopped into small pieces

1/3 cup marzipan, chopped into small chunks

Pinch of salt

Turn oven to 350 degrees, and line a large baking tray with parchment paper.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until combined. Add vanilla extract, stir, and then add egg. Beat well until all ingredients are well combined.

Add flour (sifted) and baking soda to bowl and mix until a dough is formed.

Fold in chocolate and marzipan pieces, and divide dough into golf-ball sized rounds, rolling them between your palms to shape.

Space them well apart on the baking tray, and bake for about 15 minutes or until light golden and still slightly wobbly in the middle.

Remove from oven and allow to finish cooking on the tray for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 12 cookies.

NOTE: Do not chill the dough for longer than 10 minutes before baking. Otherwise they will be crumbly and dense as opposed to soft and chewy.

Readers can reach Forum Food Columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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