New Years Eve was fun with a lot of good food, laughs and sparkly champagne. And seven children running around, mysteriously being able to stay a wake way past midnight.
As I wrote in the previous post, I had made a Kransekage tower as a gift to the party hosts. This is a traditional Danish and Norwegian pastry made of marzipan and/or almond paste. It’s very simple to make from scratch and by doing so you know exactly what’s in it. Also you are most likely getting a better product with a higher almond content than the marzipan you buy at the store.
Marzipan or almond paste, what is the difference? There are a lot of different recipes out there and some are hard to tell what is what. I guess this is also a cultural question. In Denmark it seems marzipan and almond paste is the same thing. In Sweden, we have both and the difference lies in how the two are being used. Stating the obvious, both contain almond and sugar, and some kind of binder like syrup, water or egg whites. Marzipan is described as containing more sugar than almond paste, which should contain half sugar, half almonds to be qualified as “true” almond paste. Here in Sweden marzipan is used in confections or to cover cakes in the same way as sugar paste. Almond paste however is used as a filling in pastries and cakes.
When I make marzipan to cover cakes I usually use almond flour, raw sugar and icing sugar. Then I add some kind of moisturizer like water or cream to make it pliable and rollable. My almond paste recipe is more rustic but, oh so simple. Unblanched almonds are soaked in water and then mixed with the equal amount of raw sugar into a paste. Sometimes I prefer it a little bit more coarse and sometimes more fine. The important thing is to keep it simple and only add the ingredients necessary. Stay tuned for this recipe.
The Kransekage recipe is made in three steps. First, you make what is called raw marzipan. Secondly, you make the almond paste dough by adding egg whites and icing sugar. Thirdly, it’s time to assemble.
The marzipan is made with a boiled sugar syrup instead of adding sugar and cold water separately, which I’ve done before. I guess the heat helps the almonds from releasing the oil quicker and are more easily mixed into a paste.
The fist step can be used whenever you need marzipan. When you are covering a cake you just adjust the amount of moisture a long with icing sugar (or raw sugar mixed into a powder) to make it rollable.
This recipe can be used for building a traditional tower with 9 rings measuring from 8 cm to 24 cm (one of each). You can also make little cookies instead and the dough yields approximately 30 cookies each cut in 4 cm long pieces.
Unfortunately, I manage to delete the photos of the cookies, so until I’ve made another batch, you’ll have to go with your imagination. And…use preferably organic ingredients.
Step 1: Marzipan (530 gram/18.7 oz.)
105 gram / 3.7 oz raw granulated sugar
175 gram / 6.2 oz. water
350 gram / 12.3 oz. almond flour
- In a pot, add raw sugar and water and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and let it cool slightly.
- Place almond flour in a large bowl and start adding the syrup in additions, giving the mixture a good stir after each addition. You might not need the whole batch of syrup. When the marzipan is ready you’ll have a slightly sticky dough.
- Wrap the marzipan and let it rest for a while before proceeding, or over night in the fridge if you are using it in another recipe.
Step 2: Kransekage dough
530 gram / 18.7 oz. raw marzipan, at room temperature
160 gram / 5.6 oz. icing sugar
40 gram / 1.4 oz. egg white
- In a bowl, mix the raw marzipan with the icing sugar. Add a little egg white, mix and add some more egg white until the dough is smooth.
- Wrap the dough and chill it preferably over night.
- Heat the oven to 190 C/374 F. Divide the cold dough into two equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 60–65 cm/23–25″ long rope. To make the tower, you’ll need one piece of each measurement starting on 24 cm/9″ down to 8 cm/3″, and one small ball to place on top of the tower. Carefully pinch each piece (except the ball) to give it a triangular shape, like a house roof. Lay it down on the sides and lightly press to make each side as flat as possible. Make a ring of each dough piece and seal the ends by pinching them into each other. Place each ring and ball on a parchment covered baking tray.
- To make cookies, roll the dough into two 60 cm ropes and cut 4 cm long cookies. Pinch the top of each cookie into a triangular shape like explained above. Place the cookies on parchment covered baking trays.
- Bake the rings and cookies for 8–15 minutes, or until lightly golden (check the bottom of the cookies to prevent the cookies for getting overbaked).
- Let the rings or cookies cool completely. Wrap them up and put in the freezer for a couple of hours.
Step 3: Assemble the tower
75 gram / 2.6 oz. icing sugar
30 gram / 1 oz. egg whites
30–50g / 1–1.7 oz. dark chocolate, melted
- Remove the cookies and rings from the freezer and let them defrost.
- Mix the icing sugar with egg white and whipp it stiff.
- Place the royal icing in a piping bag fitted with a fine round decorating tip (like Wilton no 1).
- Decorate each ring or cookie with the traditional zig-zag pattern, see video below. Let the icing set completely before assembling them into a tower.
- Place the largest ring (24 cm/9″) on the cake stand or plate you want to serve on. Carefully brush some of the melted chocolate on the bottom of the second largest ring (22 cm/8.5″) and press it gently down onto the first ring. Make sure you don’t press to hard to break the icing. Proceed with the rest of the rings until the Kransekage tower is complete. Serve as a whole and let the guests break pieces from the tower. A good sprakly dessert, not overly sweet, wine is a perfect companion. Bon appétit.