Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sugar-and-Nut Case

It didn’t surprise me to learn that marzipan, the ground almond-and-sugar paste, was originally considered medicine—it certainly makes me feel better! It probably originated in the Middle East, but by medieval times in Europe, decorative figures made with it (people, trees, buildings) were served at the end of feasts. Once sugar from the New World became less expensive in the l8th century, its popularity grew.

Italians became masters of painting gorgeous marzipan fruits, the Spanish make it with egg yolks, but Lubeck, Germany calls itself the world capital of marzipan. Marzipan from Lubeck must be only 30% sugar to 70% almond paste, compared to 50-50 elsewhere.

Here in the Yorkville section of New York, which once had a large German population, the recently-departed Elk Candy company specialized in marzipan candy including large pigs that were sent as good-luck presents. Varsano’s in the West Village sells an outstanding chocolate-covered green marzipan, but if I’m not in that neighborhood I get my local fix at Buon Italia in Chelsea Market.

Photographed are five different fruit shapes from Buon Italia.

172 West 4th Street
New York City

Boun Italia