Making marzipan for the almond prize

It’s a rainy Boxing Day in Rome, but I had a nice long walk earlier. Armed with my police declaration form, I walked around the very quiet neighborhood. No police spotted, but lots of people with strollers and dogs. We are having a very nice Christmas, all things considered. It’s hard not being home, but interesting to see Rome this time of the year. The fresh pasta shop downstairs had massive lines (socially distanced) the last days before the 25th, with time slots to collect pasta orders. They had two small refrigerated trucks to store all the orders. Trays of tortellini, ravioli, mmm…… I collected my order of two small lasagnas, on Christmas Eve morning: one with salmon, and one amatriciana (tomato, guanciale). We are technically allowed two guests a day, but are being careful, so very little socializing now and the fridge has been stuffed (as have we).

On Christmas Eve one friend came over and we had a lovely evening. Bramble gin cocktails and smoked salmon paté (super easy, great recipe from the Guardian). Then Norwegian pinnekjøtt with mushy peas, red cabbage, potatoes, Christmas-spiced meatballs and Canadian meatpies with chutney. We never even made it to dessert (riskrem) or coffee and cookies. However, yesterday we had a bracing walk and an afternoon watching “Miracle on 34th Street” and managed to make a dent in the Christmas cookies. We made shepherds pie with leftovers, and finally had the riskrem.

Traditionally many Norwegians have risengrynsgrøt (rice porridge) on Christmas Eve, served warm with cinnamon, butter and sugar. A blanched almond is hidden in the porridge, and whoever finds it wins a small marzipan pig. The cold leftover porridge is mixed with whipped cream to made riskrem for dessert the same day, served with red cherry sauce, sometimes with a new almond added and a new marzipan pig prize (there were a lot of small children to keep entertained……). Here in Italy, they grow beautiful almonds and Sicily is famous for amazing marzipan. But could I fins any marzipan in Rome? No. Well, I only tried my neighbourhood, but eight shops later I gave up and made my own marzipan. Really not that hard.

Marzipan

  • 250 gr blanched almonds
  • 250 gr icing sugar
  • 1 raw eggwhite

If you need to blanch the almonds, do it the day before so they dry. I have a small manual almond grinder but a food processor would work too. Grind the almonds once alone, then mix with the icing sugar and grind again. Keep some of the dry mix aside ad you may not need it all, that depends on the size of your eggwhite (I had maybe 1/3 cup extra, it will be used in some dessert soon.) Add the eggwhite and knead firmly until you get a smooth firm paste. Voila! Homemade marzipan!

We have some silicon sheep molds crafted by my husband, and pressed the fresh marzipan into them.

Wrap well or stick in a plastic bag) and store in fridge, invert when needed and serve to the lucky almond-finder. This made plenty of marzipan, next time I would scale it down to 100 gr almonds. But the extra marzipan is now safely stored in the freezer labeled XMAS 2020 in case I have an urgent marzipan need.

I hope you are all having a good Boxing Day!

Cherry clafoutis with chestnut flour

clafoutis

Summer has arrived, and I had leftover cherries after making spicy cherry jam for cheese. Clearly time for clafoutis again! I also had some chestnut flour, and thought it might work well with the cherries. There was a gorgeous cherry clafoutis with chestnut flour on Chocolate & Zucchini, but I confess, I could not be bothered to whip eggwhites…. And I had no yoghurt in the fridge…. So I pulled out my Apricot clafoutis recipe from last year, and chanced it.

cherries and chestnut flour

Cherry clafoutis with chestnut flour

300-400 grammes cherries, washed and pitted
40g sugar
2 eggs
50g of chestnut flour (or just use plain flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
150ml of milk
a splash of Amaretto, optional
25g of melted butter (5-10g for dish, 15 for batter)

cherriesAre those cherries not gorgeous? Preheat the oven to 180C and butter your dish. Layer the apricots in with the cut side up, and pour over a splash of Amaretto, if you like that. Just enough for a little on each apricot half. Whisk together all the other ingredients to a smooth batter, and pour it over the apricots. Bake until the clafoutis is golden and puffed up. Sprinkle with icing sugar, and eat warm or cold.

image

Notes: I used less sugar than last time with apricots, and a little more butter. It was still sweet from the cherries and very rich, that must be the chestnut flour. It is quite low fat as a flour, but does not taste that way. I might mix a little plain flour in next time, or whisk the eggwhites for more air. There was just enough for a little leftovers the next day, good flavour. Fun to try different flours!

And for my ongoing French exam preparations…… “Clafoutis est un plat régional de France, une dessert populaire du Limousin. Sans les cerises, on ne peut pas dire “clafoutis”  mais “flognarde” , comme avec des pommes ou des pruneaux.”