I was introduced to marzipan at the age of 11 while on a trip with my mom and dad to Germany. We stayed with people who ate the chocolate-coated pleasure slabs, and their brand, Sarotti, became forever associated with heaven in my mind.
Fast-forward to a recent visit to the historic city of Toledo in Spain. What made my day, while exploring the narrow cobble-stoned alleyways, was the discovery that Toledo is famous for its marzipan. Tiny confectioners sold it by the pound, the box—and, I’m sure if you had one handy, the suitcase.
I mention the Germany and Spain marzipan experiences, because it is often Europeans who have an appreciation for the delights of marzipan. Beyond, that is, the overly sweet stuff many chefs buy to roll flat and layer under the icing of wedding and Christmas cakes.
Marzipan, at its simplest, is a blend of ground almonds and sugar. Good marzipan usually has very little added sugar. There is sometimes egg white (which you can taste in the Toledo marzipan) or rosewater. Shelley Grubb, owner of Lulu Rae Confections (6311 College Ave., 510-547-9338, www.lulurae.com), has developed an appreciation for marzipan since she opened her European-style candy store in 2005. She stocks Niederegger marzipan from Germany, including cute little “good luck pigs,” and regular loaves. Another famous brand she has is Leonidas, from Belgium, where the marzipan is molded as fruit and veggies. And then there is the Lulu Rae house brand. The marzipan in this case, while made in Bakersfield, is European-style, which means it is textured (the almonds are less finely ground). Grubb molds the marzipan and dips it in 72 percent Michel Cluizel chocolate from France.
Besides the marzipan, Grubb has a dream of a chocolate selection from all over Europe and the United States. If you’re up for a chocolate adventure, check out the Zotter range from Austria: How about date and shiitake mushroom?
—By Wanda Hennig