If you plopped me onto some deserted island and said I could only eat the same meal every day until my rescue or inevitable demise, I would choose banana slices neatly laid out in rows on top of a piece of toast slathered with peanut butter – the creamy kind, not chunky. But, I don’t think I can settle on only one absolute favorite. I would ask the forces who isolate me on this, hopefully tropical and well-equipped, island to allow me to feast on one other item – marzipan.
Marzipan is a simple folding of finely ground almonds and sugar. The finished product is a dense paste that many classify as candy. Now, I don’t inhale nuts on a regular basis, but marzipan is AMAZING, and I will – and I have – binge on this stuff. For me, almonds are slightly sweet and the sugar transforms what are otherwise discarded fruit pits into a versatile confection that is irresistible. There is marzipan covered with chocolate, marzipan sculpted as palm-sized fruits or animals, such as pigs, and then, there’s the Prinzen Torte/Prinsesstårta, or Princess Cake in English.
Through the ages of 7 to 14, I lived for an ice-cream cake on my birthday, but then some time thereafter, my taste buds evolved (which they’re still doing) and discovered the simply decadent, but not a belly-ache inducing richness, Princess Cake. A Princess Cake looks something like this:
– it starts with two layers of a spongy vanilla cake;
– a generous spread of raspberry jam and pastry cream are slathered between these two layers;
– then the cake is coated with more raspberry jam and pastry cream before it’s draped with a sheet of marzipan which is usually tinted a pale, minty green.
(Note: Tartelette’s recipe leaves out the raspberry jam, which I believe is a must. It’s like eating a hot dog without any ketchup – bland and boring. The raspberry jam adds color and tartness to the overall Princess Cake. This Miette cake is pretty, but they cover their version with fondant.)
Even my 18 year-old brother whose diet normally consists of pizza and hamburgers from the local Pizza Hut and Carl’s Jr. can eat two to three slabs of this stuff over the course of 24 hours.
Marzipan is my chocolate. Nothing puts a smile on my face more than a marzipan candy or a princess cake on my birthday. However, I’m not here to talk about marzipan incessantly, rather, like other bloggers out there, I just want to write. In particular, I want to write about cooking and learning to cook. Inspired by Julie Powell and her Julie/Julia project, and the prodding of my encouraging boyfriend, I’ve decided to use my blog as the platform for sharing my own project. Over the course of a year, my challenge is to create 10-20 dishes each month from a different country. It’s a random idea, but I think it’s fitting in that my aim in part is to tackle recipes that represent my ethnic make-up.
For instance, my love for marzipan is born from a Scandinavian/European tradition where each Christmas my grandma would prepare a heaping bowl of rice pudding and buried somewhere in the slosh of rice and cream a bald almond would wait furtively. Whoever found the almond in his or her serving won a marzipan pig. And, we all wanted it since marzipan is good stuff. Dessert becomes a very competitive course this time of year. Don’t take my word for it, go to your local World Market and ask someone to direct you to their stock.
So, there you have it. I will return soon with an update of my culinary ambitions.