December is coming “close” already! The shops are already selling christmas decorations and most important: food.
A little bit of history first:
In the Netherlands we have a holiday similar to christmas in the United States. It’s called Sinterklaas. If you would translate Sinterklaas, you’d end up with the name “Santa Claus”. Sinterklaas, Saint Nicholas, was a saint in Spain. Saint Nicholas gave others presents on his birthday, and that’s what our holiday is about. Children believe in Saint Nicholas. He comes to the Netherlands a week before the date he actually died (December 5th), and if you put your shoe near the door and sing a special song to him, he, or one of his helpers (Zwarte Pieten: Black Peters) will put a small present in the shoe. This can be candy or a small toy. Some children also put a carrot in their shoe before they go to bed, because Saint Nicholas also has a horse.
About a week before the date he died Saint Nicholas arrives in the Netherlands. In almost every city with a port he will arrive, at the same date most of the time. Many children believe that there are “help saints”, but some believe he travels all over the place to get to see everyone. This arrival is a big party. Every year a lot of “zwarte pieten” help Saint Nicholas with the arrival. They dance and sing with the children and give them candy. And then, on the night of his birthday the children will all get the presents they wanted so bad. This is “delivered” in a jute bag. Children wait all night at the door for the Saint and his helpers to come deliver their presents, and then, when they just went to the toilet the bag is delivered.
What a coincidence.
Marzipan, “pepernoten”, “kruidnoten”, chocolate letters and speculoos are a few of the things the Dutch eat during this holiday. I always find it fun to learn about other cultures and to cook things the Dutch originally don’t know. Marzipan isn’t originally Dutch, but it belongs to one of our holidays. In here it is quite expensive to buy because the almonds used are expensive in the Netherlands. If you are Dutch too, you can try taking a look at a Turkish supermarket. Maybe other countries have them too. In a normal supermarket in here about 100 grams of almonds costs €3, and in the Turkish supermarket you can get 300 grams for around €2,50.
Now I’ll finally give you the recipe you’ve been waiting for:
250 gram powdered sugar
200 gram ground almonds
a half teaspoon of lemon juice
Get all the ingredients together. Seperate the egg white from the egg yolk. You do this by washing the egg first. Break it in two pieces and keep it above a bowl. Now gently let the egg yolk slide from one half to another. Be carefull you don’t break it. The egg white will leak out this way. Once all the egg white is in the bowl, you can throw the egg away.
Get a big bowl. Add the almonds, the egg-white, the powdered sugar and the ½ teaspoon of lemon juice to it. If you want to colour it, then wait. Knead it, making sure it is all mixed. Don’t knead it too long. If you do that, it will start to “sweat” (probably because of your magic hands ;-)) and you won’t be able to use it lateron anymore. Form the paste to a thick roll now and put aluminium foil or plastic wrap around it. I found plastic wrap the easiest to work with.
Now comes the hard part: not doing anything. Make sure your marzipan is all covered and put it in the fridge for 24 hours. After you got it out you can colour it if you want to. When you are done it’s best to keep it outside of the fridge, in a dark and cool place. If you keep it in a closed container or a plastic bag it’ll stay edible for 7 months.