Today is day 23 of Andy Tauer's Advent Calendar. I'm honored to host a giveaway of a very special bottle of Andy's creation Le Cologne du Maghreb- an all natural, all botanical eau de cologne. It's a real prize- a 50 ml of a scent that can't be purchased anywhere. And, of course, it smells wonderful- rich citrus like you rarely encounter nowadays over a light wood/incense base. This is Andy's gift (details at the bottom), and here is mine:
December celebrations in my family have always been about more than just Hanukkah. Not that the Festival Of Light on all its deep-fried goodness is anything minor, but my dad's birthday is the 17th of December, my late grandfather's was the 22nd (he would have been 98 this year) and my parents' wedding anniversary is the 28th. This means December has really been one big countdown. With food.
One of the treats that always appears on the table is homemade marzipan. I believe my mom has refined and improved an old family recipe. Her marzipan is delectable, flavorful and ridiculously easy to make. I still remember when I was very young that my mother used a manual food mill to grind the almonds, but that was over 30 years ago. A food processor simplifies preparations- grind, mix and roll into cute little balls. It takes very few ingredients, just make sure not to compromise on quality and freshness. The basic principle is equal parts almonds and sugar, some seasoning and a binding ingredient (the egg white). Quantities can be easily adjusted as is the seasoning. My mother uses vanilla-laced (store vanilla pods in your sugar for a couple of weeks). Or add a few drops of the best vanilla extract to the mixture. This last adjustment is not mother-approved (I'll hear about this in tomorrow's phone call), but it works in a pinch.
9 oz (250gr) raw unblanched almonds
9 oz (250 gr) sugar
an egg white (probably a little less- depending on the mixture)
zest of a medium lemon, finely grated
a few drops of almond extract
1. Blanch the almond in boiling water- let soak for 1 minute, rinse in cold water and pat to remove skins. Dry. No shortcuts on this- never buy blanched almonds because they are seriously lacking in taste, aroma and texture.
2. Process the blanched almonds and sugar into a very fine and uniform meal.
3. Add egg white one spoonful at a time and mix by hand to dough-like consistency.
4. Mix in extracts and lemon zest.
5. Roll into balls, about 3/4-inch round. Place each ball in a paper candy cup, store in an airtight container and refrigerate until serving.
Yes, that's it.
And now to Andy's giveaway- to be entered please leave a comment and tell us about a favorite holiday treat or a scent memory.
Art by Craig Stephens