Saturday, November 13, 2004

Mazarins (Almond Paste Cups)

How I embarked on my love affair with almond paste...*sigh*.
We had a couple from Denmark as neighbors. Their helper was very chummy with ours, Mariet. I was very chummy with Mariet, who incidentally was a great cook and also unhealthily overweight. The Danish couple went home for a visit and came back with several boxes of pastries, one of which somehow found their way into Mariet's possession. One bite,"bad for me," and she gave me the rest of the box and the rest story.
Almond paste is a perfumey concoction of ground almonds, sugar and liquid glucose (it is the basis for marzipan). I instantly fell in love and since that first taste have been trying to make something close, a buttery chewy macaroon-like pastry.
Every Christmas I made these walnut cups to give away. Then I found "Beatrice Ojakangas' Great Holiday Baking Book" at my discount bookstore and tried her recipe for Mazarins. Since the procedure was something I was already familiar with I decided to try, and, whoa! there it was, our neighbors' "gift" in full replication.

Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter generously 24-cup mini muffin pan.
Make the pastry: in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer or a spatula, cream 1/2 cup room temperature butter and 1/3 cup sugar until smooth. Add 1 egg yolk, mixing well. Stir in 1 &1/3 cups flour until the dough is stiff and smooth. Form into a long log,about 14 inches, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the filling: In a medium sized bowl, mix 1/2 cup butter, room temp. and 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. Grate or crumble 8 ozs. of almond paste (I like Odense brand, which I get from Trader Joe's for much less than the supermarket) into the bowl and mix until smooth. (A stick blender is also useful to make the batter smooth). Beat in 3 large eggs one at a time, then stir in 1/4 cup all purpose flour.

(I've found that using a measuring scale when making huge batches, helps in apportioning the dough evenly.)

Cut the dough into 24 equal sized discs and divide into the mini muffin pans, using a dowel rolling pin as guide (use cling film to avoid sticking, if necessary). Ensure evenness of the dough by turning the rolling pin or pressing with your thumb.

Spoon the filling into the pastry-lined muffin tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool in the tin for exactly 5 minutes, then using the sharp edge of a long thin pointy knife, pry each pastry loose from the tin into a rack. Cool completely.

Mazarins may be money in the bank! Thaw at room temp. till ready.
I also use a walnut and brown sugar filling and a chocolate nut meringue for variation. I imagine a savory version with unsweetened dough and countless cheesy meaty fillings for canapes would work as well... Just an idea to share for holiday parties coming up.