Christmas 2014 - ONE: Marzipan Fruits
Is it too early for this sort of post? I've made no plans, written no lists or sourced any ingredients for the forthcoming celebrations but I am mentally prepared and know exactly where to find my notes and menus from many previous years. I've helped (interfered) and cheekily taken over much of the Christmas food duties from my very talented wife over time. Working in the cooler winter kitchen can be so rewarding; I reckon it's worth starting to share what I've found it possible to achieve in case I can inspire anyone to add something to their own repertoire (with enough time to try it).
Here's something which I won't be able to escape in the next few weeks... family and friends expect to see my marzipan fruits on offer in our festive home and hope for at least a small bag to take away after a visit.
I've always loved these sweet, nutty temptations but commercial offerings are so darned expensive. Meanness became a good reason to explore ways of producing them at home! I started using the two varieties of supermarket marzipan, natural and yellow, and have continued to do so. In early years I painted liquid food colouring onto the hand-shaped fruits. I stick to that but have started to knead colouring into each type to create a more appropriate centre after biting (for those who don't just pop the thing in whole!)
The liquid colour does make for a looser mix and I really am tempted to use paste colours this year. I've never used moulds, relying on my podgy fingers to roll, press and pinch, and the occasional touch from a cocktail stick or spoon handle seems to provide enough mildly convincing detail.
The fruits are then given a paint job with the same liquid colour. I've varied the palette over the years but if you simply add a highlight here and there it's quite enough. Bear in mind that people will politely compliment you on your efforts before making them disappear as quickly as possible!
At various stages my work can be found 'resting' on trays covered with greaseproof paper. This is needed to allow a bit of drying out time - between kneading, shaping, colouring and painting. I'll be drying out too after Christmas but I'll probably dispense with the tray and greaseproof for that one!
All that's needed now is a reasonably classy Christmas card box and a gaudy paper napkin... and a safe place to hide some reserve stocks to replenish supplies. Before they are eaten, these provide lovely jewels of colour around the house.
Go on, show your mean streak... give these a go!