by Jane Rodmell for All The Best Fine Foods, a ‘Certified Good Food Fighter

Marzipan animals and Christmas figures made by Toronto artist Tracy Davidson

Among all the treats associated with the holiday season, one of my favourites is marzipan. I mean the real stuff… a delicious, supple paste made with finely crushed almonds, just enough sugar or honey and flavoured with natural essences and rosewater.

Marzipan is a classic confection used today in pastries and sweets, sometimes coated in dark chocolate and often made into traditional shapes of animals and fruits to enjoy and give as gifts at celebrations and festivals. It has its origins in ancient Egypt or perhaps the Far East and later the custom spread throughout Europe. (The word may come from ‘marci pan’ or ‘Marco panis’, Latin for ‘the bread of Saint Mark’, who has long been associated with bread).  In the Middle Ages there was a grain shortage in Europe and the bakers in the German city of Lübeck made a bread with almond meal. Still today the city has a proud tradition of making the finest quality marzipan in the world and marzipan forms a luscious rich centre in many family recipes for Stollen, the traditional Christmas bread of Germany.

At All The Best you’ll find lots of treats to fill your marzipan cravings… the classic chocolate- covered marzipan made by Niederegger, charming, whimsical marzipan animals and holiday shapes created by Toronto artist, Tracy Davidson and, of course, All The Best Christmas Stollen.

A Christmas Stollen

Christmas Stollen

This dense, yeast bread lavishly strewn with almonds and candied fruit is delicious served, thinly sliced on the diagonal, with coffee or afternoon tea, or as part of your holiday sweet selection.

¾ cup (175 ml) milk

1 cup (250 ml) unsalted butter

¾ cup (175 ml) sugar

1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt

1-ounce (30g) active dry yeast (4 packages)

½ cup (125ml) warm water

¾ cup (175 ml) currants

1/2 cup (125 ml) rum

2/3 cup (150 ml) candied orange peel, finely diced

2/3 cup (150 ml) candied citron, finely diced

2/3 cup (150 ml) blanched slivered almonds, chopped

2 tsp (10 ml) grated lemon zest

71/2-8 cups (approx 2 L) sifted all-purpose flour

1 lb (450g) marzipan, divided in 2, each portion formed into a roll approx 15-inches (375 cm) long


3 tbsp (45 ml) melted butter

4 tbsp confectioners’ sugar

In a small saucepan, heat milk to scalding; remove from the heat and stir in butter, sugar and salt. Set aside to cool until lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast over warm water and let stand for about 5 minutes until mixture begins to froth. In a small bowl, cover currants with rum and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine candied fruits, lemon zest and almonds. Toss to coat with a cup (250 ml) of the flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine lukewarm milk mixture, yeast and 1 cup (250 ml) flour and blend quickly. Blend in about 4 cups (1 L) flour, a cup (250 ml) at a time, about 3 minutes. Add flour-dusted candied fruits and nuts and rum-soaked currants. Work in about 1-1/2- to 2 cups (375 to 500 ml) of the remaining flour, about 2 minutes. (You may need to turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in enough flour by hand to form a stiff, but manageable, dough.) Place dough in a lightly buttered bowl, cover and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until roughly doubled in bulk, 3-4 hours.

Divide dough into 2 equal portions. On a lightly floured surface, knead each portionbriefly and roll into a 15 x 8-inch (375 x 20 cm) oval. Press a thin rolling pin along the length of each oval at about the centre to form a crease. Place a roll of marzipan along the length of each oval of dough. Fold the dough over the marzipan, moisten the underside edge of the top portion and press into the bottom portion to seal. Place loaves onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, at least 6-inches (15 cm) apart. Set aside loosely covered, until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C).

Place baking sheet in lower third of the oven and bake the stollen, for 40 to 45 minutes, until nicely browned and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Remove stollen to a wire rack, brush at once with melted butter and sift confectioners’ sugar generously over the loaves. Cool completely.

To store stollen, wrap first in wax paper, then seal in foil and a heavy-duty plastic bag. Set aside in a cool place for several weeks for flavours to mature. For longer storage, store in the freezer.

Makes 2 15-inch (approx 37 cm) loaves

Drop by All The Best this weekend to meet our baker, Barry Spackman, and to taste our Christmas Stollen….and don’t forget to pick up your ‘Glucksschwien’ (your lucky marzipan pig) to bring you good luck throughout 2011.

Happy Holidays and all the best,