Marchpane (marzipan) appears as an accompaniment to many dishes in Markham’s time, and is mentioned in his banquetting menus. Marchpane was a flat disk of almond paste decorated with other sweets. Like the wafers, it includes rosewater (an ingredient we probably would not think of adding today), so it will have that delightful rose flavor I love. I altered the recipe a bit to account for a food processor or blender since my wrists are not capable of pounding things out with a mortar and pestle!
Here’s Markham’s original recipe (from pg 116 in Best):
To make the best marchpane, take the best Jordan almonds and blanch them in warm water, then put them into a stone mortar, and with a wooden pestle beat them to a pap, then take of the finest refined sugar well searced, and with it, and damask rose-water, beat it to a good stiff paste, allowing almost to every Jordan almond three spoonful of sugar; then when it is brought thus to a paste, lay it upon a fair table, and, strewing searced sugar under it, mould it like leaven; then with a rolling pin roll it forth, and lay it upon wafers washed with rose-water; then pinch it about the sides, and put it into what form you please; then strew searced sugar all over it; which done, wash it over with rose-water and sugar mixed together, for that will make the ice; then adorn it with comfits, gilding, or whatsoever devices you please, and so set it into a hot stove, and there back it crispy, and so serve it forth. Some use to mix with the paste cinnamon and ginger finely searced, but I refer that to your particular taste.
Michael Best’s endnotes provide some insight that might be helpful. For the proportion of sugar to almonds, Markham suggests 3 spoonfuls of sugar per almond, but Best says other authors suggest a 2:1 ratio of sugar to almonds, which is a bit easier for someone trying to make the recipe. I am using slivered, blanched almonds to avoid ruining my food processor, so I changed the ratio a bit to account for this.
It’s important to note that the recipe requires wafers to put the paste on before baking, so make sure to prepare some beforehand. I found that I only needed a 1:1 ratio of sugar to almonds before it started getting crumbly. That made it a little harder to work with, but the results were mostly successful. The main problems centered around my inability to shape the marzipan as much as I wanted to (into the nice molded, decorated disc it wants to be) because my wafers kept cracking. So, it’s not beautiful, but it is quite tasty! Next time, I might try pressing it into a decorative pan and making it that way. Here’s the recipe:
1/2 c. blanched, slivered almonds
1/2 c. granulated sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp rosewater, plus extra for topping
1. Place almonds in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add rosewater, pulse once or twice, then add the sugar (if it’s too crumbly, try adding a tiny bit more rosewater.)
2. Turn the mixture out onto a cutting board or counter dusted with sugar, and roll or pat out.
3. Place the mixture on a wafer cookie that’s been lightly brushed with rosewater, being careful not to break the cookie (it helps to put the cookie on the baking sheet beforehand to avoid transferring it).
4. Brush marzipan with rosewater, then sprinkle with sugar.
5. Place in a 500 degree oven and bake for about 5 minutes (long enough to harden the marzipan a bit, but not enough to burn the cookies or melt the sugar).