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Friday, February 20, 2015

Culinary School - Session 75: Marzipan Fruit and Pastillage Rocking Horse

Culinary School: Session 75 (02.18.15)

Marzipan Fruit and Pastillage Rocking Horse

The Department of Redundancies Department...

The idea of an entire unit (actually, a couple of units... this is just part one of two) dedicated to Sugar may seem like overkill in a Pastry Arts Program. After all, this is a class that has baked through nearly 600 pounds of Sugar to date.

And yet, here we are... as if hoping receive a public letter of ethical outrage from the American Diabetes Association... Sugar!

These weeks of specialization are warranted. Unlike the other ingredient staples in Pastry, Sugar has some amazing unique properties. 

Marzipan, Pastillage, Pressed Sugar, Poured Sugar, Rock Sugar, Net Sugar, Straw Sugar, Pulled Sugar, Blown Sugar... countless techniques used to transform millions of sugar crystals in unexpected ways.

Most of these techniques are used for decorative purposes. So while all of the Sugar creations to come are technically edible, you would probably rather not take a bite. Frankly, it would be like chomping down on sweet glass, bloody gums and all.

Form over function: it's not my favorite idea. In the end, Pastry is food. I don't order dessert just to look at it for a few minutes before paying the check. But if it's possible to build a display case for all of those edible creations using Sugar, then why not?

Assorted Marzipan Fruit

- Ingredients Running Tally -

This is the Sugar Unit, after all. Look for that Sugar number to grow and grow over the coming week.

Ingredients used to date (02.18.15):
  • Flour: 24,190g
  • Eggs: 15,350g (307x)
  • Sugar: 19,145g
  • Butter: 15,440g
  • Milk/Cream: 15,780g
  • Chocolate: 2,925g (since 01.12.15)

    - The Recipes and Techniques -


    Marzipan and Marzipan Fruit

    Marzipan is a mixture of crushed almonds or almond paste, powdered sugar, and corn syrup. The ingredients combine into a dough-like product that can be rolled or molded to create everything from layers of a cake to decorative figurines.

    Because of the high sugar content, Marzipan dries quickly. This means molded figurines will fully set in just a couple of days. It also means that Marzipan starts to dry and harden while you work with it. Special measures must be taken to protect the product from the air.

    Marzipan can be colored, either by kneading food-safe dyes into the dough before it is molded or by airbrushing fully dried figurines. 

    A common sight around the holidays, and particularly omnipresent in many European countries, fruit figurines are among the most popular uses for Marzipan.

    Focus Technique:
    Working with Marzipan: Marzipan is very pliable and easy to manipulate. It can be completely transformed by hand with a few simple tools. 

    Most figurines are formed starting with a simple shape (e.g. a ball or cylinder) that is gently molded using the palms of one's hands and a skewer. A light touch is necessary given the dough's Play-Doh like consistency; clumsy fingers can leave indentations or destroy detail work. If the dough is overworked or becomes too warm, the oils in the almond paste may begin to separate from the sugars.

    Storing Marzipan: Marzipan must be kept wrapped air tight in plastic. If there were ever a time to go crazy with the plastic wrap, it would be now. Any areas that are left exposed to the air will become dry and crusty and must be thrown away.

    Marzipan Orange

    Marzipan Apple

    Marzipan Peach

    Marzipan Pear

    Marzipan Strawberry

    Marzipan Fig

    Marzipan Cherries

    Marzipan Star Fruit

    Pastillage Rocking Horses

    Marzipan Peas


    Pastillage and Pastillage Rocking Horse

    Pastillage is another simple sugar dough: a mixture of powdered sugar, corn starch, vinegar and gelatin. Like Marzipan, it is very pliable and can be easily rolled or molded for many purposes (Fresh Pastillage is actually somewhat more elastic that Marzipan, given the gelatin content).

    Unlike Marzipan, Pastillage retains its bright white color as there are no impurities from almonds to create an off-white hue. Pastillage can also be dyed or painted, making it ideal for colorful creations. 

    With no oil content, Pastillage dries much faster than Marzipan. This means you must work extremely quickly with the dough as it becomes brittle in just minutes.

    The Rocking Horse Project is the staple introduction to Pastillage in the Pastry Arts Syllabus. It is an opportunity to make fresh Pastillage, roll out the dough, cut figures and assemble a free-standing structure... all while experiencing first hand how quickly the dough dries and how brittle and fragile it becomes. 

    Focus Technique:
    Planning Ahead: When it comes to Pastillage, two things are key. First, only work with as much dough as you can roll and cut in a few minutes. Keep extra dough wrapped air tight and roll it as you need it and no sooner.

    When it comes to individual pieces, make extra. Dried Pastillage is extremely brittle. You never know if a piece will crack as it dries. Having back-ups is just good planning. 

    Pastillage Rocking Horse Template

    Pastillage Rocking Horses

    Next - Session 76: Nougatine, Marzipan Airbrushing and Pastillage Rocking Horse (cont.)

    Previous - Session 74: SoufflĂ©s and Quenelle Test

    Take a look at the full syllabus

    Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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