Tag Archives: molds


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).

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Wafers are a very thin cookie, originally developed for the end of wealthy feasts to aid digestion (a good historical post about wafers can be found here). I didn’t find a modern equivalent of the recipe, although there are similar wafer cookies that stem from Eastern European and Nordic traditions. Another stumbling block for wafer making by the modern cook is the fact that wafer irons are somewhat hard to come by. This one is the most reasonably priced Nordic iron I’ve found, and it also is a stovetop model, which will make it easier to use (another bonus: purchasing it from that site helps to support the Danish Windmill museum in Elk Horn, Iowa). It’s technically a Nordic Krumkake pan, but is the most affordable ($50) solution: antique wafer irons that are truer to those used by women in Markham’s time will run in the hundreds (and possibly more). These were similar to modern krumkake irons, but had a long wooden and metal handle for holding them near the fire to cook.

Markham’s recipe for wafers (on pg 117 of Best):
“To make the best wafers, take the finest wheat flour you can get, and mix it with cream, the yolks of eggs, rose-water, sugar, and cinnamon til it be a little thicker than pancake batter; and then, warming your wafer irons on a charcoal fire, anoint them first with sweet butter, and then lay your batter and press it, and bake it white or brown at your pleasure.”

I was surprised at how easy they are to make–I’m bringing the fruits of my labors to my calligraphy class tomorrow so I can get some more opinions on them! The recipe below makes ~15 cookies. Make sure to preheat your iron on medium-low heat for a few minutes before adding any batter!

1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup rosewater (available in Middle Eastern markets or Asian food stores if not at the supermarket)
1 cup cream

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
2. Grease your iron with a little butter, and add one rounded tablespoon of batter to the center.
3. Close the iron and hold closed tightly for about 30 seconds to press the pattern on the iron into the cake.
4. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes or until golden brown, turning the iron over once to ensure both sides are cooked.

That’s it! I let them cool on a plate or rack before transferring the cooled wafers to another plate (this keeps them from getting soggy).

White and brown wafers (brown ones are just cooked a little longer).

krumkake iron



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Try and Try Again

If you remember from last week, I tried two times to make Paste of Genoa (pg 116 in Best) using apples. I suspect part of the reason for my failure lies in the fact that our produce today is different from what it used to be: I am still trying to find good sources that will explain how vegetables and fruits looked in the 17th century, but from what I’ve read in other sources it seems that apples were much smaller. Today, I am trying this paste (again) using Red Bartlett pears, which seemed to be the most firm variety available at the Co-op. Here’s a reminder of the recipe:

To make a paste of genoa, or any other paste.

To make paste of Genoa, you shall take quinces after they have been boiled soft, and beat them in a mortar with refined sugar, cinnamon, and ginger finely searced, and damask rose-water  till it come to a stiff paste; and then roll it forth and print it, and so bake it in a stove; and in this sort you may make paste of pears, apples, wardens, plums of all kinds, cherries, barberries, or what other fruit you please.

I am also implementing what I learned from the last attempts in the hopes that it will produce the paste-y texture I seek!

The Cooking Process

I boiled the pears until they were just soft enough to be mashed, hoping this would keep any excess water from them. I then strained them, put them back into the pan, and mashed them. Last time, I let the apples sit in the strainer for about 5 minutes while I used the back of a spoon to press any excess moisture from them. This time, I did that several times to make sure I get all the water out that I could. I measured out equal weights of sugar and fruit pulp and combined them, but ran into the same problem I ran into with the apple paste, where the sugar would start dissolving right away (see photo below).

Pear soup, even after adding 2 cups of sugar.

Pear soup, even after adding 2 cups of sugar.

I thought I would have to scrap this recipe, until it occurred to me that I could have just put all this fruit in the food processor from the beginning, and that would make a much finer fruit pulp than I would be able to do by hand with a plastic potato masher. I put the sugary pears into the food processor, then strained them again (bringing me down to about 1/4-1/3 cup of pear pulp). I added more sugar along with the ginger, cinnamon, and rose water, and it seemed like it *might* be turning into paste. Sugar still dissolved, but it dissolved less, and I was able to get it into the mold well enough.

The last time I did this, I tried to bake the paste very slowly, and discovered that all it did was make a sugary soup in my oven which was very unpleasant to clean. To avoid a repeat performance, I baked it in the mold (it was still a little too soft to just shape in the mold and then bake) on high to see if that would help. The answer is: no, it does not. Still got the same bubbly soup. It confirms my suspicions that the pears and apples we find commonly today are just not close enough to reproduce this recipe. You’ll notice that Historic Food’s Quince Recipe page has these decorative pastes made from quinces, so it may be that I would need to use those. The quince paste is also very thin, and I was unable to get either the pear or apple pastes to be wafer-thin in my pan. After three tries, I think it’s safe to say that fruit pastes and I are not going to meeting again anytime soon, so I’ll be moving on in the coming weeks to try other recipes. Sorry Markham.

Kitchen scale

Weighing out fruit pulp on the kitchen scale.


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Apple Paste

One of the recipes in Markham’s book is for ‘Paste of Genoa.’ The recipe is found on pg 116 of Michael Best’s edited version of the text:

To make a paste of genoa, or any other paste.

To make paste of Genoa, you shall take quinces after they have been boiled soft, and beat them in a mortar with refined sugar, cinnamon, and ginger finely searced, and damask rose-water  till it come to a stiff paste; and then roll it forth and print it, and so bake it in a stove; and in this sort you may make paste of pears, apples, wardens, plums of all kinds, cherries, barberries, or what other fruit you please.

To see some beautiful examples of what these pastes look like, spend some time on Historic Food. Unfortunately, I am having a really tough time sourcing quinces, although I finally found a place that sells them here. It’s good news for the quince marmalade I want to make in the future! Quinces are related to pears, and so I considered using pears in this recipe to try to emulate the texture, etc. I may do that at some point, but I decided instead to use apples (which Markham also says will work in this recipe) because our local orchards produce some great varieties that I’m looking to add into more of the food I prepare.

If you looked at the Historic Food site, you will see that these pastes were put in molds before baking to create elaborate shapes. I actually have a pan I got at a second hand store that will be absolutely perfect for this, and I am really excited to use it.


Apple paste pan

My copper pan, complete with camel


The process of creating the paste itself is one that I feel warrants a couple side notes. First of all, it suggests beating the boiled apples in a mortar with the remaining ingredients. Unfortunately, my mortar and pestle are rather small, which means that I will either have to work in 5 or 6 very small batches, or I will have to improvise using a larger bowl. I do have some bowls that will work, so perhaps I can use my small pestle with them. Best’s endnotes also bear mentioning here–the first says that Markham’s writing, as well as that of his contemporary, Hugh Platt, recommend using 1/2 pound of sugar for each pound of ‘quince pap.’ Platt’s book, The Ladies Companion, gives a much better description of the technique than Markham: “Set your [paste spread on a] pie plate in a warm oven or stove (upon two billets of wood for to keep it from the bottom of the oven) all night; then on the morrow turn it, and so do it every day until it be dry.” (Best, 266, quoting from Platt, pg 46). To try and emulate this in a modern oven, I’ll set it to the lowest setting (‘warm’ or about 200 degrees). Then I can leave it on today while I’m up so that I can keep an eye on it and make adjustments as needed before letting it continue to dry tonight while I sleep.  More updates to come as the day continues!


So the first step is to boil the apples. Since Markham gives no special instructions about boiling them with sugar or anything, I just chucked them in a pot with some water. I’m using Rome apples because they are cultivated more for cooking than for eating raw (although they are delicious raw as well!) from Apple Cart Orchard in Vinton, IA. I am using five medium-sized apples (not the giant ones in the supermarket), chopped and boiled.

In order to get the correct amount of sugar, I had to use a 2:1 ratio of apples to sugar. This time, my kitchen scale is out and usable! I had about 720 grams (~1.5 lbs) of cooked apples, so I figured I would need to use about 3/4 lb. of sugar to mash with the fruit. Unfortunately, my estimate was wrong (very wrong indeed). I think the big secret with this recipe, were I to make it again, is to not only strain the apples but to mash them and strain the mashed apples before adding the sugar. I made the mistake of adding the 2 1/4 c sugar prior to straining, only to discover that it looked like applesauce. After straining that mixture, I kept adding more and more sugar to make this elusive ‘paste’ Markham was aiming for (I added another 3 1/4 cups) but I actually ran out of sugar before I got to a paste that could be rolled out. The recipe might not be salvageable (we’ll see), but I’m cooking it in the oven at 200 right now to see if I can slowly dehydrate it, and perhaps end up with the same end product that just takes longer to make!

The flavorings I added were definitely on the mark, though, so if nothing else I will have an *incredibly* sweet and delicious mixture. As per Markham’s recipe, I added rosewater (1/8 c), cinnamon (1 tsp), and freshly grated ginger (1 tsp). You can buy rosewater at specialty markets, or you can make it by infusing water with roses by gently simmering. The flavor is deep and complex, which is one of my favorite parts of using these kinds of spices and waters. I left it in the oven for several hours, only to discover that it (not surprisingly) was not going to dehydrate to the paste I needed it to be. So, now I have a pie filling, and I’m en route to the store to get more apples to make it a second time!


So I made the paste a second time! I’ve decided that the problem might be the fruit I’m using: even after squishing all the water out of the apples after mashing them, I still couldn’t get a paste once I added the sugar. So, now I have two batches of pie filling! I’ll have to give it a shot with pears later on.

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