I came across a recipe which calls for half a cup of almond paste . What is almond paste and how does one make it ?

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12 Comments

Shuna L. July 20, 2014
A half a cup of almond paste is such a small amount that I might just grind some almonds with a little sugar, a dash of honey and one eency weeny droplet of pure almond extract. Add an egg to that and you have frangipane.

In Europe, as in the USA, all Marzipan is almond paste, but not all almond paste is marzipan. Marzipan is graded by how fine the nut is ground and its proportion to invert sugar (glucose/honey/trimoline etc.). Marzipan is used for a number of decorating and filling purposes, and pastry chefs need to know its percentages of sugar and oil from nuts.

This is probably more answer than you need, but there you go - a lot of information so you can make the best decision for your baked good today and those of the future not yet born of your hand and oven yet.
 
Susan W. July 19, 2014
Lol Amysarah. I wish we did have an edit
button. I didn't like my explanation of the difference in my post...I just sighed and pored myself some tea. ;0)
 
Maedl July 19, 2014
Almond paste is also called marzipan. You want the plain, un-molded marzipan--not the marzipan that is colored and shaped like fruit. Read the contents before you buy--cheap versions use kernels of apricots and other stone fruits as well as high fructose corn syrup and other cheap sweeteners.
 
Susan W. July 19, 2014
In the US, they are not the same. Marzipan is similar to a fondant and used for decorating etc. Almond paste has different quantities of almonds and it's used as a flavoring or filling. From what I have read, they are the same thing in the UK.
 
amysarah July 19, 2014
Yes, in the US, they're not quite the same. Marzipan has a higher proportion of sugar than almond paste - Odense is a common brand (where I live) - the description after the plain almond paste & marzipan on their website explains: http://www.odense.com/
 
amysarah July 19, 2014
Ugh, messed up the link. We need an edit button! http://www.odense.com/
 
amysarah July 19, 2014
Okay, I give up. You get the point ;)
 
Shuna L. July 20, 2014
Apricot kernels are used to make almond extract. I've never seen a cheap marzipan made with apricot kernels, but if I did - I would grab as much as I could, unless, of course, it also had HFCS... But I think that would be odd since there are very few companies that own the machinery to process stone fruit stones.
 
Maedl July 20, 2014
Shuna, apricot kernels are used in cheap marzipan in Europe, which is then used in commercial baked goods--the kind of junk that you find in the discount grocery stores like Lidl or Aldi's. HFCS is almost always one of the ingredients.

They use the apricot pits because they are cheaper than almonds and also because they contain trace amounts of cyanide, which results in a strong, almond flavor. Bitter almonds, also once used to make marzipan, also contain cyanide, and give a much more pronounced flavor than sweet almonds. The cyanide is neutralized by baking, so the bitter almonds become edible. The problem is that you can't tell the difference between sweet and bitter almonds by appearance or scent.

I don't think you can buy bitter almonds in the US--at least legally. Apricot pits are available, but they are a reputed miracle drug, so there is a fair amount of money laundering behind their sales.

Last year a friend and I decided to make Dresdner stollen from an old recipe (her grandmother's) that called for bitter almonds. I was in charge of buying the almonds (I'm in southern Germany). I had to go to several pharmacies before I could find them. I could only buy a small amount, which turned out to be half of what we needed, and then I had to sign a registry saying that I had purchased the almonds.

After going through all that, I became very curious about how poisonous these almonds actually were and contacted researchers at several universities who were working on similar subjects. They all agreed that heat neutralized the poison, but they also all said the exact time and temperature needed was not known.
 
Maedl July 20, 2014
Interesting that there is a distinction between marzipan and almond paste in the US--that difference doesn't exist in Germany. As far as I can tell, marzipan is marzipan. Niederegger, made in Lübeck, seems to use the least amount of sugar, which is always a positive point for me. It is also fairly easy to find small producers, some of whom use honey, not sugar. I'm lucky--I am able to buy a fantastic marzipan from a cloister not too far from where I live.
 
danielle July 19, 2014
You can usually find it at your local grocery store. It comes in a small can and can usually be found in the baking isle near the canned pie filling.
 
Susan W. July 19, 2014
It's literally a paste made from almonds and sweetener. You can buy it or make your own. There is a recipe on this site which you can find by using the search function at the top of this page or there are many on the internet. It looks very easy to make and less expensive.
 
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