Growing up, the house started smelling of Christmas from early December. Literally! You could smell marzipan, vanilla cream, thali sweet, cordial, Christmas cake and so much more. The best part of being East Indian though, was tasting the smells. Or rather eating the Christmas sweets that weren’t good enough to give to relatives and were handed over to us kids. 😉 It was also taking a nibble while making some of them. Shh!
One of my favourites was marzipan. Not the stirring for hours to make it, but the part where we mould it into these tiny colourful shapes – flowers, fruits, stars, angels and more.
Now every East Indian knows that mass-pav or marzipan is made of a paste of almonds (Marzipan No 1) or cashews (Marzipan No 2) cooked with sugar, egg whites and rose water on a slow fire stirring continuously till it forms a waxy mass. And then starts the real work of kneading it, putting it into moulds and forming all these amazing shapes.
But on a side note, when I spent those 2 years in the UK studying for my Masters, I tried to find marzipan forms or marzipan moulds one Christmas. I went to about 7 or 8 stores before finally giving up on it. The only question they kept asking me was, “You mean you actually mould the marzipan?” It seemed like a very strange notion to them. And I went to a couple of famous stores too! But no luck. Even my friends in the UK use marzipan on cakes, but not as shapes by themselves.
I’ve since found that Brazil and Portugal make fruit shaped marzipan; parts of Spain like Toledo make animal shaped marzipan; Norway and Denmark make marzipan shaped pigs for Christmas; Belgium and Netherlands use marzipan figures on St. Nick’s eve. If you have more info, I’d love to add it here.
But anyways, back to the East Indian marzipan that may have been influenced by our Portuguese heritage. We mould them and leave them out to dry. And every day a few of them quietly vanish. Who’s stealing the marzipan and quietly eating them? Probably Albert, our friendly ghost.
East Indian Marzipan Recipe
Here is the recipe we use. Marzipan No 2 modified to granny’s measurements. Dad’s side does Mazripan No 1, but don’t you think it’s really tedious to blanch the almonds?
- Half kg Cashewnuts
- Three quarter kg ground Sugar
- 4 Egg Whites
- 1 chowni Rose Water (for kneading)
- 1 to 2 chownis Rose Water (for grinding)
- 2 to 3 drops Almond Essence
* Note : Chownis aka East Indian wine glasses usually measure 30 ml or 45 ml. We use the 45 ml measurement.
Grind the cashewnuts to a paste with rose water. Aren’t we lucky that nowadays we can use the mixie and don’t need to grind cashewnuts on the patha? That’s probably why our grandparents were stronger than us. They worked harder.
By the way, cashewnuts and almonds are essentially gluten free, but may come in contact with other ingredients that contain gluten depending on the facility in which they’re processed. So if you want to ensure that your marzipan is gluten free, just get your nuts from the right facility. Did that sound corny? Haha!
Sprinkle a thali or thala with powder sugar and keep aside.
Next, put the cashewnut paste into a toap (vessel) along with the ground sugar, almond essence, and egg whites that have been beaten to a stiff froth.
On a low flame, stir till it reaches a wax like consistency. Seriously, that’s a lot a stirring. If you’ve helped with stirring sweets as a kid, you’ll have strong arms.
Once the mixture is quite dry, pour it into a thala aka thali and knead till it’s mouldable. Form into 4 or 5 different colored balls and set aside.
Next, sprinkle the moulds with some powdered sugar. Mould the marzipan into tiny balls and place into moulds till they form the required shapes. Turn the mould over and hit it on the back with the wooden spoon so that the shapes pop out. Collect them and place or thalies or trays. Leave out to dry overnight.
We make about 150 to 160 pieces with this recipe using average sized moulds. If you use the bigger flowers and leaves, you should get about 120 pieces. And that’s it. The marzipan is ready to be sent out to friends and family.
PS. It’s not always easy to find these types of moulds outside India. So if you can’t find them, use any other silicon moulds shaped like Christmas trees or stars or other Christmas items and you’re good to go.
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East Indian Cashewnut Marzipan (Christmas Dessert)
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- 500 g Cashewnuts
- 750 g Sugar Powdered
- 4 Egg Whites
- 45 milliliter Rose Water For Grinding
- 90 milliliter Rose Water To add while heating mixture.
- 3 drops Almond Essence
- Sprinkle a thali or thala (flatboard) with powder sugar and keep aside.
- Grind the cashewnuts to a paste with 45 ml rose water.
- Beat the egg whites to a stiff froth.
- Put the cashewnut paste into a vessel along with the remaining rose water, ground sugar, almond essence and egg whites.
- On a very low flame, stir till it reaches a wax like consistency. (Be careful not to burn the mixture. This will take 30 to 45 minutes depending on the heat.)
- Once the mixture is quite dry, pour it into a thala aka thali and knead till easily pliable. Separate the mixture into 3 or 4 balls, add a few drops of colour to each ball, mould the colored balls and set aside.
- Sprinkle the moulds with some powdered sugar.
- Mould the marzipan into tiny balls and place into moulds till they form the required shapes. Then turn the mould over and hit it on the back to get the pieces out. We make approximately 150 to 160 pieces. If you don't have moulds, form into fruits shapes with hands, but this will take more time.
- Place the ready pieces on the flatboard and leave out to dry overnight.
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Nutrition (Per Serving)
Disclaimer: Nutrition Information per serving is estimated by a third party software based on the ingredients used, and is for informational purposes only. It will vary from product to product, based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients. Please consult the package labels of the ingredients you use, or chat with your dietician for specific details.
Next time we’ll do the recipe for the almond marzipan. 😉 Which one do you prefer to make? Almond or cashewnut mass pav?
Who Sells Traditional East Indian Christmas Sweets? I’ve been getting emails asking if I take orders. We don’t do that anymore. So we’ve made a list of East Indian sweet makers who take orders in different parts of the globe. Click here to go to the list!