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Archive for June, 2017

My cousin is getting married this weekend.  Actually, it’s my cousin’s grandson.    This is the eldest grandson of my mom’s eldest nephew – and my mother and her nephew grew up practically as siblings.  We’re a close knit group. We try and keep our relationships strong and keep our traditions alive.

With the wedding this weekend, the cousins got together and made bombonieres, the favors given to each guest, made of Jordan almonds and foil-wrapped chocolate kisses, all wrapped together in tulle, with a ribbon tying it together.  These are traditions likely woven into our customs from our Greek and Italian neighbors. The almonds are bitter on the inside with sweet coating on the outside. There are five almonds in the package – an indivisible number. So should be their life.  Through the ups and downs, the bitter and sweet – they will face life together, and remain united and as one.  And the number five corresponds to five blessings the guests wish for the new couple – health,  happiness, children, financial success and long life. The chocolate kisses… I think they looked pretty in the mix, and added an extra touch of sweetness! All are gathered together in a circle of tulle, tied with a ribbon that is imprinted with the names of the bride and the groom and either the date of their wedding or a special saying for them.   A nice keepsake of the day.

 

Yesterday, my mom made masapan (Marzipan) for the wedding, another tradition.  “If my mother or my sister were here, they would make it.  As long as I’m able, I’ll make it, so we can carry on the tradition. You girls learn to make it for the next generation.”

As we’ve shared on this blog before, ‘masapan’……marzipan….is that delicious sweet that our mothers lovingly make for engagements, weddings, a brit mila or a Bar (and today even a Bat) Mitzvah.  Basically a homemade almond confection made with ground almonds and sugar, marzipan traces it’s origin to …..well….that depends.  Some say the Persian empire, introduced to Europe by the Turks;  others claim the origin to be Spain.  In any case, it got to us, was a delicacy on our beloved Island of Rhodes, and our grandmothers brought it here with them when they came to these shores.

While some from Eastern Europe talk of marzipan being colored and fashioned into miniature, fruit-like shapes, our variation is kept in it’s white, pure state, made into a simple design.

My mother, Kaye Hasson Israel, uses a recipe shared with her by Rebecca Levy. Here is the recipe and photos. This recipe makes about 125 pieces of masapan.

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6 C almonds
3 C sugar
4 C water
Start with raw almonds.    To blanche, bring a pot of water to a boil. ( enough water to cover the almonds).  When water boils, add almonds and leave them in for 4 to 5 minutes (until skin is loose).
Rinse in a colander with cold water.  Remove the skins from the almonds and place almonds into a bowl of cold water ( to prevent discoloration).
Take a clean towel and dry almonds thoroughly.
Put almonds into food processor with blade.
Grind to a fine texture.
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In the meantime,  mix sugar and water and heat over medium/high flame.  Make sure sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil.  This is to make a sticky syrup.  Stir and watch carefully so it does not discolor or burn.

 

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Test for correct stickiness by removing spoon from pot, allow it to cool a bit, placing a drop on your fingers and noting a ‘thread’ of sugar when pressing then pulling apart finger and thumb.

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At this point, lower the heat and add ground almonds.  Thoroughly  blend and constantly stir mixture.   Cook and stir masapan until it reaches a dough-like consistency.(continuously stir over medium heat…..seriously….. continuously stir.  It can easily burn if not consistently stirred.  A good opportunity to develop those arm muscles!!)  ( it will cleanly leave the sides and bottom of the pan when ready).   Remove from heat and allow to thoroughly cool.

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Once cooled, knead on your rolling surface to create a smooth dough.  Pinch off small portions and roll into a long strip.  (Perhaps cut into 10 – 12 portions before rolling).

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Keep a bowl of water handy.  Dampen your rolling surface and hands, as it will make it easier to roll out.  Cut at an angle into diamond shaped pieces.

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Our tradition has been to top with a decorative silver ball ( dragees ). These are for decoration and not to be consumed. (although for this wedding, we topped them with decorative gold balls)

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For engagements, our tradition has been to make a “mano” (hand) fashioned out of masapan, with silver dragees across the ring finger.  This is fashioned on a tray, surrounded by cut pieces of masapan, jordan almonds and often, a gold leafed piece of ‘aruda’ ( the rue plant).

Masapan Mano

Like all our delicacies, masapan takes a bit of practice.  And the results are divine!
Always a blessing to have these special traditional treats made by loving hands for the special occasions in our lives.  And l’dor v’dor.  May we all continue the traditions for our children and our children’s children.
Bendichas manos! As with the love in our hearts, may our hands continue to be blessed!

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