Home bakers often wonder about the difference between marzipan and almond paste. In grocery stores, the two products are usually side by side in the baking aisle. They both contain almonds, sugar, and egg whites. However, it's important to remember that marzipan is a specific type of almond paste, so the two are not always interchangeable in recipes.
Technically, the proportion of almonds is higher in almond paste than in marzipan. This means that marzipan has a sweet, delicate flavor, while almond paste can have a pleasant, deep nuttiness. In a pinch, you can turn almond paste into marzipan with some additional sugar and egg whites. On the other hand, you can't turn marzipan back into almond paste.
Where They Are Used
Marzipan and almond paste are not staples in most North American kitchens or recipes, but both ingredients are quite common in European and Middle Eastern cuisines. In Germany, rose water gives marzipan floral undertones. Since French marzipan comes together with sugar syrup instead of confectioners' sugar, it has a lighter flavor and color than its German counterpart. And unlike both German and French marzipan, British marzipan usually remains uncooked. In other words, countless variations exist around the world—if you're making marzipan at home, feel free to experiment with flavors and techniques.
How They Are Used
Almond paste is traditionally used as a filling in cookies, cakes, tarts, and other desserts. It pairs particularly well with chocolate and certain fruits; you can cook it or leave it raw, depending on the recipe. Almond extract enhances its lovely, distinctive nuttiness. Like fondant, marzipan usually plays a decorative role in the baking process. Bakers drape it over cakes and sculpt it into festive shapes.
Almond Paste Recipe
Use these ingredients to make a tasty almond paste at home:
- 3 cups blanched almonds
- 3 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (plus another tablespoon for dusting countertop)
- 2 large egg whites
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- 1/3 teaspoon salt
- Optional: gel food dye
- Process blanched almonds in a food processor until the almonds become a smooth meal.
- Add sifted confectioner's sugar, egg whites, almond extract, and salt; pulse until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Turn the paste out onto a countertop or board dusted with confectioners' sugar and knead gently into a ball. If you wish to color your almond paste, you can knead in a few drops of gel food dye at this point.
- Wrap the finished almond paste in plastic, then place it in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Your paste will keep in the fridge for one month or in the freezer for three months.
- Bring the almond paste to room temperature before using it.
Once you make almond paste, you can make marzipan:
- 2 cups prepared almond paste
- 4 large egg whites
- 6 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Optional: gel food dye
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, for dusting countertop
- Knead the almond paste against the sides of a large bowl to soften it and then mix in egg whites with your hands until well combined. This will be quite messy.
- Knead in confectioners' sugar 1 cup at a time, taking care to incorporate each cup fully before adding the next.
- Add vanilla extract and knead until the marzipan is very smooth and soft, but not tacky. If the marzipan is sticky, knead in additional tablespoons of confectioners' sugar until you achieve the right consistency. At this point, you can knead in a few drops of gel food coloring to color the marzipan.
- Wrap the finished marzipan tightly in plastic wrap, then place it in an airtight container. It will keep for three months in the refrigerator and six months in the freezer. When you wish to use your marzipan, let it sit at room temperature until it softens, then knead it on a countertop or board dusted with cornstarch until it is pliable and soft.