Sunday, July 15, 2012

Marzipan Modeling Memories: Sweet Teeth at School

Not seckel, but SPECKLED with vanilla bean and filled with fruit!
Trying to think back to my earliest experience with Marzipan, I can remember being young school-age and sitting at the kitchen table with my Mom.  I suspect that her recipe may have been the Betty Crocker adaptation, especially after digging out my 1974 cookbook and seeing this:


I didn't know then that these were just a sugar cookie dough with some almond extract, but it left a lasting impression about modeling fruits that just leaves playdough in the dust.  I never realized that sitting in my great-grandfather's basement with modeling clay being taught how to sculpt roses and swans would resurface in such a real way.

Fast forward, oh, maybe 30 years or so.  I was thinking about designs for my wedding cake, shopping local bakeries and inquiring if they could do a cake with Marzipan fruit as edible decoration.  I was turned down at every door.  When I got to the source of who was doing it really well much less at all, it led me to the door of Wendy Kromer-Schell.  The rest of that journey I have documented HERE in a prior post honoring Wendy and her skills with wedding cake design.  As shown in that post, I went a different route from Marzipan on my wedding cake, leaving the door to that confection curiously ajar...

Another five years later, in following Wendy on Facebook, she posted a glorious photo of some Marzipan she had made.  They were just so beautifully done, and I knew that they would taste great from her hands.  I commented about wanting to try making strawberries at home, and she mentioned she may be putting a class together.  I shamefully hinted to my husband.  He went undercover and called Wendy, making sure I'd be in that class, and surprised me with it as part of my 40th birthday gift.  Hero!

I took the class.  I know I passed because I got a certificate that says so.  I know I had fun because Wendy agreed to sign my apron pocket.

Pinch me!
I know that I could have sat there well into the night with the music playing and the graceful guidance of our instructor helping us push each piece closer to refined.  It was a lot more difficult to model than I had expected.  Details are so important.  Mother Nature makes it look so very easy.  Come to think of it, so does Wendy.  But she is truly a gifted teacher, approachable. professional, and passionate.  She wants you to achieve your best.  Here are a few examples of my work:

Fruit Filled Apricot
Lovely Lemon
Fruit Filled Fig
Fruit Filled Pumpkin
Beginnings of a bunch of Queen Anne Cherries

Leaves & Bitty Mushroom

As shown in this last image, starting with a cone and sculpting each petal individually to form a rose is delicate work.  Even before coloring I find myself most proud of this piece. 

The basic Marzipan recipe is not complicated, using equal parts almond paste and confectioner's sugar, adding just the right ratio of corn syrup.  But, using very high quality paste is critical, as this is nut based.  Nuts like to go rancid if not treated right.  Hard to believe that you'd have the nerve to eat these beauties, but they are absolutely delicious "candy" - if you plan to go to the expense to purchase the right ingredients and sculpt something this lovely, do it right!

I don't feel right sharing Wendy's recipe for her fruit filling here, as it was a reward to obtain it in her class setting, but I will say that combining figs, nuts, chocolate and brandy among many other things makes these Marzipan an extra special surprise to nibble on. 

We used gel food colors as well as petal dusts to create the life-like coloring and shading.  If you like to paint and can appreciate the delicate shading each and every apple picked from a tree have, this is your medium!  It's truly an art form!

Lastly, I have to thank my sister for choosing to attend this class along with me.  There was quite a bit of childish giggling and sisterly excitement.  Although she claims she's "not the baker" she produced some of the most beautiful results and she really had a knack for it. Thanks to Wendy sharing her talent with others, my sister and I will share years of memories as we collaborate Marzipan projects.  Thanks to my sister, we also have an incredibly telling photo of me with Wendy in front of our work area, wherein I show that enthusiasm trumps acting professionally. 

Wendy Kromer-Schell has future classes coming up in various sweet mediums: cookie decorating and intense cake decoration included.  If you're a serious baker or confectioner, it's worth a look to make a trip to beautiful downtown Sandusky, Ohio.  Lakefront, quaint, and on the upswing, there would be plenty of places for dinner and lots of places to stay overnight.  Check out her page HERE or follow her on her WKCafe Facebook Page.

How often do you get the chance to learn from The Best?

1 comment:

  1. How fabulous, Heather! Each piece is a mini masterpiece! And what a sweetheart your husband is!


Play nice in the sandbox, please!