Friday, 3 April 2009

Almond Passions

For reasons unknown, the one product that I associate with Easter more than any other is Marzipan. The golden yellow colour, the sweet almond smell and the soft texture of this wonderful paste, make it a dream to work with and a pleasure to eat. With a bit of imagination, some food colourings and a few kitchen tools, you can mould and shape it to create amazing edible decorations for your cakes and bakes. Rolled into little balls and dipped in melted chocolate, it makes for a great snack. Grated finely and folded through eggy cake batter, it gives an amazing richness and aroma to the baked cake.

I could give pages more examples on how versatile this product is, but the one use that marzipan is perhaps best known for is to cover cakes, something that has been practised by artisan bakers for many years. The main reason for this is to stop air from reaching the cake, and therefore protect it from drying out and going bad. As an added bonus, it also gives your finished cake a delicious, sweet, almond taste.

As I am still in the throws of my Easter baking mania, I decided to bake a chocolate-almond cake for the boys at my husband's workshop yesterday. This cake is usually baked in round tins and then filled, iced and covered with a cocoa buttercream. However, knowing that the cake would be transported in a plastic container in a backpack on a motorcycle, I thought it best to bake it in a rectangular pan so that it could be cut up into individual little cakes. So, after creaming the butter and sugar, adding the eggs, ground almonds and golden syrup and folding in the sifted flour and cocoa powder, I spooned the mixture into my silicone brownie pan. Once baked, I turned out the beautifully risen cake to cool on a wire rack, before trimming the edges and cutting it into squares. Lastly, to make sure that it exuded Easter goodness and charm, I decided to wrap each little cake in bright yellow marzipan blanket.

Obviously I had to try one of the squares myself, to make sure that they pass quality control, before packaging them up. I am glad to say that they passed with flying colours.

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