History of Marzipan- An International Favorite

The German name has largely ousted the original English name marchpane with the same apparent derivation: “March bread.” Marzapane is marzipandocumented earlier in Italian than in any other language, and the sense “bread” for pan is Romance. The origin could be from the Latin term “martius panis”, which means bread of march. However, the ultimate etymology is unclear; for example, the Italian word derives from the Latin words “Massa” (itself from Greek Μάζα “Maza”) meaning pastry and “Panem” meaning bread, this can be particularly seen in the Provençal massapan, the Portuguese maçapão (where ‘ç’ is an alternative form for the phoneme ‘ss’) and old Spanish mazapan – the change from ‘ss’ to ‘z’ in Latin words was common in old Spanish and the ‘r’ appeared later.

What is Marzipan?

Marzipan is a confection consisting primarily of sugar and almond meal. It derives its characteristic flavor from bitter almonds, which constitute up to 12% of the total almond content by weight. Some marzipan is also flavored with rosewater. Persipan is a similar, yet less expensive product, for which the almonds are replaced by apricot or peach kernels. In Goa (formerly Portuguese India) almonds are replaced by cashews. Many confectionery products sold as marzipan are made from less expensive materials, such as Soy paste and almond essence. German marzipan is made by grinding whole almonds with sugar and partially drying the paste, and French marzipan is made by combining ground almonds with sugar syrup. Spanish marzipan is made without bitter almonds.

The History

There are proposed two lines for its origin; they are not necessarily contradictory but can be complementary, as there have always been Mediterranean trade and cooking influences. In both cases, there is a reason to believe that there is a clear Arabic influence for historical reasons (both regions were under Muslim control). Other sources establish the origin of marzipan in China, from where the recipe moved on to the Middle East and then to Europe through Al-Andalus.READ MORE

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