This is a reinterpretation of two typical Spanish Christmas sweets, marzipan and dried fruit compote, combined in one scrumptious dessert. The mousse recipe comes from a book by famous Spanish pastry chef Paco Torreblanca and for the sauce I used my method of cooking the dried fruit in sweet wine, without sugar added as marzipan already has plenty of it. Also it is a great alternative for those who find marzipan overly sweet or heavy… this is a lighter way to eat it.
Marzipan is one of those culinary treasures that we do not appreciate in full because here in Spain we all grow up with it and that makes it all too familiar for us… and we take it for granted. As Claudia Roden tells us, Spain is the largest commercial producer of marzipan in the world, with the beautiful town of Toledo as the center of this trade. In Toledo there is a marzipan museum, where this delicacy is described as the ancient symbol of harmony between Arabs, Jews and Christians in the city during the Middle Ages. In Toledo marzipan is made by grinding equal weights of blanched almonds and sugar until the almond oil that is released turns the mixture into a smooth paste. This paste is modeled with traditional molds and baked in the oven until it browns on top. I will say that the Germans (I have relatives in Germany) also have popular varieties of marzipan, with the peculiarity that their marzipan always carries a tiny ratio of bitter almonds, unlike the common Spanish marzipan. I assure you that bitter almonds give it a very interesting twist.
This mousse caught my attention because it seemed a very different way to taste something so ubiquitous and familiar to Spaniards as marzipan.
For the mousse:
- 400g milk
- 500ml whipping cream
- 250g marzipan
- 8 sheets of gelatin
For the compote:
- 100g dried apricots
- 100g seedless raisins
- Sweet wine, preferably Muscat
- Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water as per the package instructions.
- Heat the milk to 50°C approx., cut marzipan into pieces and add to the milk. Beat well in a blender or electric mixer until completely dissolved. The mixture must be fine and without very noticeable chunks.
- Add the drained gelatin sheets to the mixture and stir well to dissolve. Leave to cool to about 30°C.
- When the warm milk and marzipan mixture is tempered, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Add the liquid to the whipped cream in four or five batches and mix gently each time, being careful not to deflate the cream too much.
- When everything is homogenized, pour the mousse into whatever molds you want to use. Pastry rings are great for these matters, especially if we want to make small portions, but it is also possible to use a rectangular loaf dish and cut the mousse into slices. The mousse can also be poured into a round mold to use it as a layer in a cake. To easily unmold the mousse first cool it in the refrigerator and then freeze it in the freezer, better overnight. I place the pastry rings on a baking paper placed on a tray. If you use another type of mold, it’s better to line it with plastic wrap to easily unmold the mousse.
- The compote-sauce is prepared by cooking the dried fruit covered with the wine. Cook until the fruits are softened and the wine has thickened to your taste and turned into a beautiful syrup. I cut the fruit in small pieces for a more homogeneous look. Let cool. You can make this several days before use, for it is better to leave it to rest so that the flavors mingle.
- The day you want to serve the mousse, take it out of the freezer at least 2 hours in advance and transfer it to the fridge. Serve it on a beautiful dish and then top with the compote. This mousse, besides being a different way of eating marzipan (not exactly lighter…), can take advantage of all the marzipan leftovers after the Christmas celebrations.
There you have a very elegant dessert made with most traditional ingredients… this is going to turn into a classic at my household, I am sure. I hope you enjoy it in the upcoming Christmas.