This authentic Italian recipe is at least 5 centuries old and originates in Enna.
During Easter season every year, shops sell marzipan lambs and fruit decorated in festive colors. Chalk molds can be used as is tradition in Sicily, or fruit or animal-shaped molds can be purchased to get the same effect. Try pastry supply, gourmet kitchen shops and cake decorating stores for molds.
In Sicily, the marzipan lambs and fruits are garnished with colored sweets and foil- covered chocolates. A red and gold processional flag is placed on the lamb's back.
The origins of these elaborate sweets are in the Sicilian convents. Impoverished families enrolled daughters, whom they could not afford to feed or marry, into convents where they knew their daughters would be fed and safe. The nuns produced traditional Easter lambs and Christmas baby Jesus cakes along with brightly decorated fruits. Small wheels were built into the entrance gates to the convents and money was exchanged for the ornately decorated little cakes. The money earned from the cottage industry supported the nuns and the upkeep of the convents.
- 2 1/4 pounds shelled almonds, blanched in boiling water
- 2 1/4 pounds sugar
- Assorted food coloring (paste recommended)
Dry the blanched almonds well in a hot oven if you blanch them yourself. Grind using a mortar and pestle; if you use a food processor, pulse rather than blend so that the almonds are ground but not so fine that they give off their oils.
Dissolve the sugar in a little hot water. Add the ground almonds and simmer over very low heat, stirring constantly until a paste-like mixture comes away easily from the sides of the pan. If you want to color the marzipan, divide it into bowls and color as desired. Paste colors are recommended rather than liquids for strong, true colors. Allow the marzipan to cool enough to handle easily.
Either roll or pat the marzipan onto a cornstarch-dusted surface and cut into shapes, or pat into molds that have been dusted with cornstarch. Allow to dry at room temperature until firm.