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Thursday, December 12, 2013 (read 4775 times)

Toledo Marzipan - A Spanish Christmas Classic

by Matthew

A Traditional Spanish Sweet

Mazapán de Toledo is a traditional sweet eaten at Christmas time all over Spain. It is made of fine dough, raw almonds that have been peeled and grounded, and sugar. The almond paste is normally used as a base for many typical Toledo desserts. The first recipe for the dish dates from 1525. Over time, the delicacy began to be associated with Christmas, and was usually only eaten at this time.

Some Facts about Marzipan

A number of theories as to how Mazapán de Toledo was first produced: When the marzipan was first produced, honey was used instead of sugar because of the lack of the latter in Europe at the time – it didn’t arrive in Europe until the sixteenth century. There are conflicting stories of how the sweet was first produced in Spain.

Some believe it comes from Venice in Italy. The word “marcipane” in Italian is a shortened form of “bread of Saint Marcos”, and was a traditional sweet used to celebrate this city’s saint at a time when a shortage of wheat made it difficult to make normal bread. There are some who think the sweet stems from a German baker, who produced the sweet because of a lack of traditional bread in the period of famine in the fourteenth century. Yet the most recognized version of its history is from the eighth century, when Spain was under the rule of the Arabs. It’s said that “marzipan” comes from the Arabic term “mautha-ban”, which means “seated king” – an image that was printed onto the dough of their pastries.

In its current form, the delicacy is made using almonds, powdered sugar, eggs, sugar and sometimes cinnamon and lemon zest. Those ingredients – except the egg – are all mixed together in a bowl, and are left in a fridge to set. The egg is then added after a couple of hours, subsequently heating the entire mixture at about 200C for about two minutes until the paste is golden brown.

It’s typical to fill the paste with optional extras. For example, many use it as an accompaniment to sweet potatoes, fruits, eggs, or even other Spanish sweets. Another specialty is Eel marzipan. This is a traditional dish in which the marzipan paste is coated onto fruit and shaped into an eel. This has been tradition for centuries, and recipes have been passed down for generations.

Toledo – A Day Trip from Madrid

Such is the Mazapán de Toledo’s importance that it has been awarded the status of “geographical indication”, an award given to certain products that enjoy a specially recognized reputation. The regulatory body that hands out such awards dictates that the marzipan with this status must be produced in Toledo (just aboout 45 miles away from Spain's capital Madrid), and at least fifty per cent of the product must be almonds and natural sugar.

Photo by Juan Fernández


Keywords: toledo,marzipan,spanish traditions,christmas sweets,spanish christmas traditions,spanish sweets

Posted In: Spain


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