Visions of marzipan danced in my head
by LUCIE R. WILLSIE, Associate Editor
Dec 09, 2012 | 446 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sugar plums I would have an easier time finding, I’m sure.

Rows and rows and rows of Toblerone, Brachs, Godiva, Hershey, Nestle, Kraft, Mars — right here in our city — rows and rows and rows at Walgreens, Walmart, Kmart, Target, T.J.Maxx, Rite Aid, CVS ... Let’s see, where else did I go? I even went to Books-A-Million and nothin’— nada. Zip. Zero.

Not a single marzipan to be found.

I just can’t believe that with all the hundreds of miles — at least it feels like that many — that I have traveled and walked recently in my search, and I can’t find even one.

I found one — several actually — about a month ago, at Aldi’s, but now they are all gone.

If I had only known then what I know now.

If I had only known that it would be impossible — impossible, I say — to find one anywhere I have looked in Southeast Tennessee.

I can’t even find it online, except for about $100! Really. Online at Walmart I can buy 20 bars of marzipan for $94, plus tax and shipping! How crazy is that?

I might be hallucinating about the price I just mentioned, but I don’t think so. I checked three times just to make sure — and then asked a friend to look at the site as well.

Yep, they were still $100!

These simple, inexpensive, little confections could never cost so much. I mean, it’s absolutely ludicrous that someone would actually try to sell them for that amount of money. It’s just not possible. Yet alone that someone might actually BUY THEM for that much!

But yep, supposedly Walmart sells it, but I didn’t see them when I looked in the store itself.

Even at Aldi’s, the label on the shelf itself is now gone, yet alone the candies themselves. Trust me. I’ve been back four times already, hoping Aldi’s would get it back in stock, but nothing but disappointment I found.

I am now calling “Uncle.” I have now officially given up the search, which is difficult for an obsessive compulsive, only child like me — especially a German one.

I’ve given up because I am convinced there doesn’t seem to be any place in the entire Southeast region of Tennessee that has marzipan for sale.

How can that be?

And, to add insult to injury, when I asked people in the stores if and/or where they had marzipan, I got the weirdest looks, and the strangest translations of the word marzipan, like, for example, “arts and crafts” this one woman asked. How did she get “arts and crafts” out of marzipan, I can’t figure.

“What?” was the universal reaction I repeatedly got from sales clerks across this region.

“What? What’s that?” is the second.

And the third, “Never heard of it. Must not be a Southern thing.”

Yep, I actually heard people say that.

A small little stocking stuffer idea — you see, my cousin Karin loves marzipan — has turned into this mega quest of gigantic proportions.

Marzipan is an almond and sugar paste that is used to make candy, but also used to ice cakes and can be made into many shapes. It’s a mixture of almond paste, powdered sugar and either water, corn syrup, glucose, fondant or egg whites. When mixed, the paste is easily rolled or shaped or cut.

Oh, here’s another idea.

I may just have to resort to making this sweet concoction from my childhood by hand myself.

I found this recipe on the Internet. It said it was easy to make. Let’s see.

First, assemble the following: 2 cups of granulated sugar; 1/8 teaspoons of cream of tartar ... although I’ve seen this one in recipes before, I still don’t know what it is. Hang on a sec, while I Google ... OK. It’s potassium hydrogen tartrate. That explains it. Oh no, that doesn’t explain it at all! Well, let me read further. Cream of tartar is a fine white powder of some sort. Has something to do with the fermenting of wine and/or grapes. Still not sure what it is, so I am moving on now.

It really tastes good, despite what it sounds like here. Trust me. I was raised on it. It’s a German thing. I love it. It’s really tasty.

Oh, oh. I just did a little bit more Googling, and my research has stumbled across the history of marzipan. And, marzipan apparently didn’t originate in Germany, but in Italy. But it has been popular for more than 500 years. I was right about its popularity, anyway. It used to be reserved for the nobility.

But if it is so popular, why the heck can’t I find even one stick of it south of the Mason Dixon? Huh?

Anyway, the history also continues with a German competing for the right to claim he “invented” marzipan. Leave it to a German. I will digress for a moment. I remember this saying about Germans, “You can always tell a German ... you just can’t tell ‘em much.” So, that’s why I thought it was a German thing, I guess. A German decided to claim it!

I can say this. I’m German; at least, by half.

Anyway, back to the recipe I found. I also need four cups of ground almonds (or almond meal), two egg whites, and powdered sugar for dusting.

First, sprinkle powdered sugar on a baking sheet. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Then, put the sugar and 2/3 cup water in a large heavy saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the cream of tartar and bring to a boil and cover, boiling for about three minutes. Uncover the saucepan and boil until the temperature reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Put the bottom of the saucepan in the cold water, stirring the sugar mixture constantly until it becomes thick and creamy. Then stir in the ground almonds and the egg whites, put it back over low heat and stir for two more minutes until the mixture is thick. Spoon the marzipan onto your prepared work surface, and turn it with a metal spatula until it cools down enough to touch. Coat your hands in powdered sugar and begin to knead the marzipan, working it until it is smooth and pliant.

Done! But way too much work!

You know, that $94-plus is looking like a bargain, all of a sudden.

But then again, my German stubbornness kicked in again. I just didn’t want to give up ... and Eureka, I found it!

I found a site that sold just two bars of marzipan — two for my cousin ... or maybe one for my cousin and one for me. Considering how hard I had to work to find this delectable confection, I think I deserve a reward. Don’t you?

But these two little bars weren’t cheap either. They were $15 for two ... sans postage!

Despite all this Sturm und Drang, I am anxiously looking forward to devouring this tasty confection from my childhood.

You may want to try it yourself. I’m sure you’ll like it. Nope ... wait. I think you’ll love it!

If you can find it, that is!