Saturday, 2 December 2017

A Trio of Home-Made Marzipan Chocolates inspired by the Christmas Markets of Lubeck - #Blogmas


Can you believe it's December already? That can only mean one thing..... we're on the home-straight to Christmas! To celebrate, I've teamed up with Titan Travel for their Christmas-inspired Blogmas campaign, to bring you my Trio of Home-Made Christmas Marzipan Chocolates inspired by the Christmas markets of L├╝beck in Germany.

I don't know about you, but a visit to a Christmas market in December is an essential part of the festive build-up and whilst there are now some amazing venues in towns and cities across the UK, a trip further afield to one of Europe's famous Christmas Markets is simply magical. Check out Titan's trip pages...


Whether you head for the baroque beauty of Vienna, the 'thousand spires' of Prague, or the traditional seasonal markets spread across Germany, Belgium and France, your senses are sure to be treated to a kaleidoscope of sights, smells, tastes and sounds, that will leave you buzzing with Yuletide excitement.

                                  Photo Courtesy of Samantha Bruhns

From the colourful crafts and brightly decorated sweets, biscuits and ginger breads...... to the twinkly December lights adorning trees and stalls..... wintery jingle of bells or slightly off-key music from the carousel..... and comforting flavours and aromas of exotic spices, mulled wine and warming street food, there is something for everyone.....

                                Photo Courtesy of Barn Images

Many of the markets are set in ancient towns, with cobblestone streets and stunningly beautiful architecture and whether you are a visitor or a local, they become a gravitational meeting point to enjoy the company of friends and family, with a steaming glass of mulled Gluhwein or cream-topped hot chocolate, alongside a cone of roasted chestnuts, sugared almonds or a famous Bratwurst sausage in a roll. The Christmas spirit is infective.....

                                                   Photo Courtesy of Samantha Bruhns

My favourite Christmas market is possibly one of the most famous, situated in the Hanseatic city of Lubeck, in Northern Germany. The town itself is a UNESCO heritage site and is steeped with medieval history. Behind the impressive twin-towered Holsten Gate (built in 1464 as part of the old walled defences) hides the beautiful, unique and dramatic pedestrianised medieval town. It is worth a visit at any time of year, but it is at Christmas when it truly shines, as the market fills the time-worn streets and squares with seasonal excitement and anticipation (it rightly deserves it's title as the Christmas Capital of Northern Germany).

                                Photo Courtesy of Barn Images

Overlooked by Lubeck's town hall, the Christmas Market is open from the last week in November through to the end of December and is the perfect place to stock up on Christmas presents. But what makes it especially famous are its Marzipans...... which have to be among the best you will find anywhere in the world. Seriously..... if you think you are not a lover of almond-paste, think again. The marzipan you find in Lubeck is a converter..... and once you have tasted it, you may never look back.
                             
                                                                   Photo Courtesy of Samantha Bruhns

It is my husband's most favourite treat.... The first present he ever gave me was a huge box of the stuff. I was rather bemused I admit, but as I carefully unfurled the shiny wrappers encasing the chocolate-enrobed variously-infused marzipan centres and absorbed the aromas and flavours within, I was hooked.


Although Lubeck has a number of marzipan producers, its most well-known (and in our humble family opinion, the best) is that made by Niederegger. A family company that has been handed down (with its marzipan-making secrets) through the generations since 1806, they have a long history which has over time, supplied tsars and royalty. Which means it is also good enough for the rest of us!

If you can't find enough marzipan to sample on the market stalls, you will find, located behind Lubeck's Town Hall, the Niederegger Cafe..... Actually, forget 'if you can't find enough....'.... visit the cafe anyway...... It is a bit of an institution locally.
                         
                                                        Photo Courtesy of Samantha Bruhns

From traditional 'plain' almond-paste through to alternative nut marzipans and mixtures tinted with extracts and liqueurs, eating Niederegger marzipan is a trip for the taste buds..... and if you are lucky enough to head to the Christmas markets of Lubeck, your nostalgic memory will be set. Marzipan will forever be associated with the buzz of cold winter days, the hustle and bustle of the sensual Christmas markets and the anticipation of the celebrations to come.....

                                                         Photo Courtesy of Samantha Bruhns

Inspired by our love for Christmas and for Lubeck marzipan (but sadly without a trip to Germany arranged this year), I have created my own Christmas marzipans. The marzipan itself can be made in minutes.... and has to be the simplest recipe on the planet...... which is a good thing, because tempering the chocolate and dipping these show-stopping wonders is fiddly and time-consuming.


Don't let that put you off..... Not only will you be proud that you have managed to make your own chocolates, but you will be rewarded with some incredible marzipan sweets that would fit quite happily alongside the local stalls in the Christmas markets and (if you can bear to let any of them go), will make jaw-dropping presents for the people you love.

This trio of marzipans showcases not only a traditional almond marzipan paste, but pays homage to the wonderful flavours of Lubeck with an orange-infused marzipan and a pistachio marzipan. I confess, I had hoped that there would be a fourth flavour and made a stunning Chocolate-Hazelnut-Fratello paste, but when I dipped them, they got stuck to the cooling rack and by the time I had prized them off, I was unhappy with the look of them and didn't have time to make any more..... Oh well.... a post for another time....


It was a lesson learnt though..... don't fully coat the marzipan in one hit..... if you want a neater finish, you will need to coat in two stages.... dip the top and brush the base is probably the easiest option.

The marzipan paste however is literally a throw-in-the-bowl and mix recipe, yet the marzipan tastes divine. In the past, I have used the almond-flavoured recipe to cover Christmas cakes, make Battenberg, in Fondant Fancies, and in Hot Cross Buns. It's tried, tested and adored.

The Pistachio version follows an identical process, but uses ground, raw pistachio nuts resulting in a rich, creamy pistachio flavour, with a deep natural green hue, that oozes temptation and tastes incredible.


And finally..... the Orange Marzipan has an almond base, shot through with natural orange extract to give an aromatic, seasonal twist. The slight orange tint is from a dot of food colour that I added, but is totally optional.

You may even choose to give your marzipans a boozy hit..... replace the orange extract with a shot of Cointreau orange liqueur and compensate the moisture with extra added ground almonds to ensure the paste maintains shape...... The choices are endless... I have my taste buds set on everything from marzipans made with walnuts and macadamias to infusions of vodka and limoncello!


Looks like it could be a nut-filled Christmas.....

Better still though..... you still have time to get yourself to the European Christmas markets to experience all they have to offer..... and if you can't make the trip this year, be sure to put it on your 'must do' list for next year. And make sure you check out Titan Travel's '12 Days of Blogmas' for more Christmas market inspired ideas from amazing bloggers who know.....


Sharing these gorgeous treats as widely as possible with :

Free From Fridays with Free From Farmhouse and Le Coin De Mel

Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too

Cook Blog Share with Everyday Healthy Recipes

Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum





A Trio of Home-Made Marzipan Chocolates :

Almond Marzipan (makes 15 to 18 marzipan sweets)

Ingredients

115g ground almonds
115g icing sugar - sifted
27g egg white (I used pasteurised)
½ teaspoon almond extract

Orange Marzipan (makes 15 to 18 marzipan sweets)

Ingredients

115g ground almonds
115g icing sugar - sifted
27g egg white (I used pasteurised)
½ teaspoon orange extract
tiny dot of orange food colouring paste (optional)
(if you want to make your marzipan boozy, substitute the orange extract for 2 teaspoons Cointreau and add more ground almonds (10g at a time up to about 40g as needed) to compensate for the additional liquid

Pistachio Marzipan (makes 15 to 18 marzipan sweets)

Ingredients

120g shelled, raw, ground pistachios (you can grind in a blender/grinder on pulse until fine, but be careful not to go too far or you will end up with pistachio butter)
120g icing sugar - sifted
27g egg white (I used pasteurised)
½ teaspoon vanilla bean powder

Marzipan Method

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all nuts and dry ingredients, making sure there are no lumps.
  2. Lightly beat and add the egg white and any flavourings or liqueurs and colour and using the back of a wooden or silicone spoon, mix together thoroughly until all the ingredients are evenly combined and you have a very thick firm paste, which you can bring together. If it feels loose, add a little extra ground nut. 
  3. Roll the mixture into a ball and wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge until ready to use.
  4. When you are ready to make your chocolates, gently knead the marzipan to warm slightly (this will prevent cracking when you roll it).
  5. Place the marzipan on a large piece of baking paper, flatten slightly with the palm of your hand and gently roll to your desired thickness using a rolling pin.
  6. Cut the marzipan into shapes using your chosen cutters and set aside on baking paper (on a baking tray). Place back in the fridge to firm up, until ready to coat with chocolate.

Tempered Dark Chocolate

It is important to temper your chocolate if you want an even, clear chocolate coat. Chocolate which is used 'out of temper' will 'bloom' and have a mottled, dull, uneven appearance.

You will need at least 300g good quality dark chocolate (I use 70% cocoa). There is likely to be some chocolate left at the end, but you need enough to get a good depth for dipping the marzipan. Save the left over chocolate (or eat it warm).... it can be used again.

You will also need a heat-proof glass bowl to melt the chocolate (I use one which is deeper and less wide to give good depth for dipping) and a good cooking thermometer to get an accurate temperature measurement. This is critical when you temper chocolate. I use a Thermapen digital thermometer.

You can melt your chocolate either :
a) using a bain marie : setting your bowl above a pan of barely simmering water. You will only need a couple of centimetres depth of water and need to be very careful not to get any water from the pan or steam in the bowl as a tiny drop can cause the chocolate to seize. 
b) In a microwave, at medium and set for no more than 30 second bursts, stirring between each. You need to keep a very close eye on the temperature and reduce the number of seconds at which you heat the chocolate when you get close to temperature. (This is my preferred method).
c) In a small saucepan directly over a very low heat, stirring continuously and ensuring you remove the pan from the heat immediately the temperature is reached and transfer the melted chocolate to a bowl to prevent further heating.

Find the method that you feel most comfortable with.

Method (temperatures for dark chocolate only)

  1. Finely chop your dark chocolate and place about a third in a separate bowl and set aside. Place the remaining two-thirds in a small heat-proof glass bowl (or saucepan if that is the method you are using), ready to melt.
  2. Cautiously melt your chocolate by your chosen method until it reaches a temperature of 48-50 C/118-122 F, stirring continuously with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon and then immediately remove from the heat.
  3. You now need to cool the chocolate which can take several minutes. To do this you need to 'seed' the melted chocolate with unmelted chocolate a little at a time, stirring well between each addition to ensure the chocolate is completely melted. Monitor the temperature very closely as it drops. When it reaches 32 C/89.6 F, it is ready to use. 
  4. You will now need to work quickly, as the chocolate will only be 'in temper' between 31 C (87.8 F) and 32 C (89.6 F). 
  5. Using a cocktail stick carefully poked into the side of the marzipan sweet to hold it, dip into the melted chocolate (top down), leaving the base of the marzipan uncovered. This is a fiddly process, but it will get easier with practice. 
  6. Place the dipped sweet non-chocolate side down on a sheet of baking paper and carefully remove the cocktail stick immediately by twisting (without touching the chocolate with your fingers).
  7. Continue to repeat the process for your batch of marzipan sweets, but be sure to check your temperature frequently. If it drops below 31 C (87.8 F) you will need to stop and very gently reheat back to the required temper temperature (do not allow the temperature to rise above 33 C/92 F, or you will need to start the whole heating-cooling process again, but ensure the temperature is back at 32 C (89.6 F) before continuing to dip the marzipan). 
  8. Continue until all your chocolates are coated, but if you run out of melted chocolate (or the depth drops too low) remember to start the whole heating-cooling process again.
  9. Leave the chocolate to set at room temperature.
  10. When set, turn the chocolates over to reveal the marzipan underside. 
  11. Repeat steps 2 to 4 to temper a little more chocolate (use the remaining chocolate in the bowl and some additional chopped chocolate if necessary) and carefully brush chocolate onto the base of each sweet to cover the marzipan completely. Leave to set at room temperature.
  12. Once cool, decorate as you wish : I used a tiny dab or brush of melted chocolate to stick on pieces of pistachio or secure dipped roasted ground almond and for the orange marzipan, some edible glitter brushed onto the surface.
This post is written in Partnership with Titan Travel as part of their '12 Days of Blogmas' Campaign. 

All images my own except where stated as courtesy of Samantha Bruhns and Barn Images

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

10 comments:

  1. This post caught my eye immediately, I LOVE marzipan and these look divine, getting the ingredients to make this next weekend..might make them for gifts too...unless I eat them all first!!!

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  2. Oh, oh, oh! I love marzipan too. I'm so impressed you made not just one but three types. Although I'd happily indulge in all of them, it's the pistachio marzipan I'm really coveting. I'd love to go to the Lubeck Christmas market, though I might find myself indulging in an unhealthy amount of marzipan.

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  3. Christmas isn't Christmas without everything covered in marzipan!

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  4. When I was little I used to dream of Sicilian marzipan cakes. It was a treat we used to have often at Easter. I love your chocolates, they are so beautifully made and surely delicious.

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  5. My son's girlfriend is gluten free, so this will be perfect #brillblogs@_karendennis

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  6. These look so absolutely gorgeous, and can you believe it I bought marzipan today! Before I saw your marzipan trio! Thank you for bringing your creation to #CookBlogShare this week:)

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  7. Kate I love these, really. I wonder if I can muster up the energy to make them this side of the year.

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  8. These look and sound incredible Kate, well done! I’m slightly obsessed with pistachios at the mo, so the green one would be right up my street ♥️

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  9. YUM! I love marzipan and these bars look so delicious and very easy to make! I have to try them soon :)

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  10. My mum, daughter & I love marzipan so next weekend we (daughter & I) will make some from your recipe. Wonder if any will survive until Christmas day?!

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